Two counties who could end up scrapping for Division 3 survival locked horns yesterday knowing that every point in a competitive division could prove crucial if the controversial GAA proposal is voted in at Annual Congress.
Limerick and Tipp need to remain in the third tier this year to avoid dropping into the Division 4 backwaters — and potentially the prospect of a B championship.
Kearns, the new Tipp supremo who enjoyed a successful spell with Limerick, insisted: “I don’t agree with a B championship and I don’t think there will be a B championship. I don’t think there should be a B championship with only Division 4 teams playing each other. To dilute it to a B championship for Division 4 teams is wrong.” Limerick manager John Brudair was in full agreement, stating: “It’s not nice, I’m sure there are better ways.
“It’s kind of saying, ‘we’ll work away with 24 teams and leave the other eight work away.’ We know the rules there and we have to make sure we’re not in that position come the end of the year.”
On the balance of play yesterday, both men will have been happy with an opening day point. Tipp should have been further ahead than four points at half-time, 1-6 to 0-5, but needed a late goal from Josh Keane to haul them back into contention.
Former minor star Keane, excellent and hard working throughout, netted in the 68th minute to complete a flowing move.
Conor Sweeney’s free handed Tipp the lead but there was still time for Limerick talisman Ian Ryan to kick his ninth score of the game, and his eighth free, to level matters in stoppage time.
Honours even and Kearns wasn’t quite sure if it was a point gained or lost.
“Hard to call, isn’t it? Going by the first half, it was a point lost but with seven or eight minutes to go, a point gained. We went in four points up but it should have been eight or nine. The wind got stronger, they started to run at us and put us under a fair bit of pressure and got some good points going down the stretch.”
Four of Limerick’s first-half points were Ryan frees, the other a Stephen Cahill effort from play before he was black-carded. Peter Acheson struck for Tipp’s goal and it was no more than the Premier County deserved as their gameplan worked a treat, defending in numbers and breaking quickly. But the game turned Limerick’s way in the second half and sub Peter Nash handed them the lead for the first time with eight minutes remaining.
Gearoid Hegarty took advantage of an error from the otherwise excellent Colm O’Shaughnessy to fist an effort that, if it had dropped into the net, would not have counted. But as the ball bounced back into play, Nash pounced from close range. Conor Sweeney’s free kept Tipp right in there but points from Ryan and Seanie Buckley had Limerick 1-11 to 1-8 clear with just minutes left.
Keane took a pass from Jimmy Feehan to slot home an equalising goal before the teams traded late points.
I Ryan 0-9 (8f), P Nash 1-0, S Buckley 0-2, S Cahill 0-1.
P Acheson 1-1, C Sweeney 0-4 (2f), J Keane 1-0, P Austin (1f) & A Maloney 0-2 each.
B Scanlon; J McCarthy, P Browne, S Cahill; S O’Dea, B Fanning, I Corbett; G Hegarty, D Tracey; D Neville, P Ranahan, S Buckley; S McSweeney, S Kelly, I Ryan.
M O’Donovan for Cahill, P Nash for McSweeney (25), D O’Sullivan for Scanlon (h.t.), T Lee for Kelly (49), J Naughton for Tracey (62).
C Kenrick; C McDonald, A Campbell, C O’Shaughnessy; J Feehan, R Kiely, J O’Callaghan; A Maloney, M Dunne; B Fox, P Acheson, J Keane; N O’Donovan, C Sweeney, P Austin.
K O’Halloran for O’Callaghan (46), B Hewitt for Maloney (61), D Butler for O’Donovan (68), D Leahy for Dunne (70+2).
B Cawley (Kildare)