Limerick, full of running and making great use of the ball, were miles ahead in the opening half and Wexford looked like they were dreaming of being back in the sunny south-east. There was a bit of a wind, more diagonal than anything, and Limerick had it in the opening half, but on the resumption Wexford were full of zest and the home side looked as if they had eaten a hearty dinner during the break.
TJ Ryan’s men took a 0-16 to 0-4 lead into the interval and they were worth every bit of it. But Wexford outscored them by 0-6 to 0-1 in the opening 11 minutes of the second half and suddenly it was game on.
But that frisson of excitement soon ended. Tom Morrissey bore down on goal and while Wexford goalkeeper Mark Fanning did well to save, Graeme Mulcahy, just on the field, finished to the net.
“The experience we had off the bench, they got scores. That helps as well,” said Limerick manager Ryan. “The panel is getting stronger and hopefully will get even stronger. We lost Seanie Finn during the week, which was a killer blow to all of us. He had been doing really well and we were all disappointed for him.
“James Ryan got a knock and he’ll be out for a couple of weeks. We have the Na Piarsaigh lads to come back so that’s a positive. There are more positives to come. Today is a stepping stone and the focus will immediately shift to next week.”
This is Limerick’s sixth year out of the top flight. Next Sunday they head to Tralee on an adventure in the second tier which must seem like it will never end.
Their seasoned supporters will not be getting carried away by this opening night win. The lethargy of the third quarter collapse will give them ample reason for calm.
But with more of the U21 All-Ireland winners, not to mention the Na Piarsaigh contingent, to come in, it’s easy to see how their season could take off and the manner in which they sprayed the ball around in the opening half was impressive.
So too was their willingness and ability to go for scores, although Wexford’s resistance in the first half was at challenge match level.
“We didn’t compete at all in the first half,” admitted selector Ger Cush. “It was a very disappointing performance. All over the field we weren’t competing. It wasn’t just one particular line. What was wrong, we don’t know. We came in at half-time and regrouped. We put in a better performance in the second half but there was too much of a gap to make up.”
Wexford will take hope from the way they played after the restart. Andrew Shore shot a couple of good points after switching to centre-forward and four pointed frees from Harry Kehoe set up the prospect of a good finish.
The game needed a Wexford goal but it came at the other end when Graeme Mulcahy finished to the net just after coming on.
Wexford had a chance to cancel it but Kehoe’s 20-metre free was saved by new Limerick captain Nickie Quaid and the margin of victory was all that remained to be decided after that.
We thought the same at the interval after Limerick had opened up such a big lead, with Paul Browne hitting four as Ryan’s men picked off points from all sides, Barry Nash marking his league debut with two fine points.
Declan Hannon sealed victory in the closing minutes.
D Hannon 1-4 (3f), G Mulcahy 1-1, P Browne 0-4, D Byrnes 0-4 (3f), B Nash 0-2, G O’Mahony 0-2, T Morrissey 0-2, J Fitzgibbon 0-1, D Reidy 0-1, C Lynch 0-1, S Tobin 0-1.
H Kehoe 0-6 (6f), A Shore 0-2, L Chin 0-2, I Byrne 0-2 (2f), M O’Hanlon 0-1, L Óg McGovern 0-1, S Murphy 0-1.
N Quaid; T Condon, R McCarthy, R English; D Morrissey, D Byrnes, S Hickey; J Fitzgibbon, P Browne; B Nash, G O’Mahony, D Reidy; T Morrissey, D Hannon, C Lynch.
G Mulchay for Nash (47), D O’Donovan for Fitzgibbon (53), S Tobin for Reidy (61).
M Fanning; A Kenny, M O’Hanlon, J Breen; A Shore, L Ryan, P Foley; L Chin, H Kehoe; C Dunbar, A Nolan, I Byrne; D Dunne, S Tompkins, L Óg McGovern.
S Murphy for Dunbar (27), E Conroy for Foley (h-t), E Moore for Nolan (h-t), P Doran for Byrne (h-t), J O’Connor for Tompkins (58).
D Kirwan (Cork)