Offaly 2-17 Limerick 3-13
The security of the manager’s position certainly seemed to be a weight off the shoulders of the Limerick players as they produced their best performance of the season in this narrow loss to Offaly in Tullamore.
Justin McCarthy certainly had cause to be pleased with the endeavours of his side. Indeed, he might even have been a little disappointed as they spurned a glorious goal opportunity in the dying minutes that would have snatched a famous victory.
There was certainly cause for optimism as they trailed by just three points at the break, 1-9 to 1-6, despite having played into a stiff wind.
The visitors recovered from a very shaky start that included the concession of a second-minute goal to hold the lead with less than four minutes of normal time remaining.
But Offaly regained their composure to fire over four points. Shane Dooley, who finished with 10 points to his credit, started that flurry with a wonderful score under a lot of pressure and followed up with points from a free and a 65. Joe Bergin also hit the target to give his side some breathing space going in at the break.
It looked like they would have plenty in hand when Ger Healion took a flick from Bergin in his stride before kicking to the roof of the Limerick net after just 105 seconds.
Paudie McNamara slotted two frees for Limerick but Daniel Currams responded with a brace from play to seemingly emphasise Offaly’s superiority in touch, strength and speed.
When Graeme Mulcahy ran onto Richard McKeogh’s delivery to strike a ground shot to the net from a tight angle in the 23rd minute, Limerick were suddenly two points up and though Offaly turned that around, they must have been in good heart at the break.
That mood improved further when the pacy Thomas O’Brien latched onto a breaking ball from a delivery by the outstanding Nicky Quaid to shoot to the net in the 37th minute. But when Healion’s powerful shot deflected off a Limerick defender to the roof of the net 16 minutes later, it looked like Offaly would finally pull away.
They were seven points ahead when McKeogh restored Limerick’s hopes with a 60th minute goal, as he touched on McNamara’s 65 to the net. After Dooley slotted a free, points from Brian O’Sullivan, Quaid, McNamara and Peter Russell left just the minimum between the sides.
McKeogh had a glorious opportunity to snatch the honours when racing behind the Offaly defence but his mis-hit ground shot on the stretch went the wrong side of the post.
Offaly: B Mullins; D Franks, D Kenny, M Verney; D Hayden, P Cleary, D Morkan; R Hanniffy, J Rigney; D Currams 0-2, J Brady, B Carroll 0-1; S Dooley 0-10 (5fs, 1 65), J Bergin 0-3(1 pen), G Healion 2-1. Subs: C Mahon for Verney inj(39); D Molloy for J Brady (46); G Oakley for Currams (65); K Brady for Hayden (70)
Limerick: T Flynn; D Lynch, D Kenny, S O’Neill; L O’Dwyer, A Brennan 0-1, N Quaid 0-1; B O’Sullivan 0-2, P Browne 0-1; P McNamara 0-5(fs), D Madden, T O’Brien 1-2; G Mulcahy 1-0, A Owens, R McKeogh 1-0. Subs: C Hayes for Kenny blood (1-2); S Ó Riordán for O’Dwyer (10); P Russell 0-1 for Owens (46); S Herlihy for O’Brien (55); K O’Rourke for Madden (63)
Referee: M Haverty (Galway)