Stewart dismissal decisive in Antrim loss

Antrim 0-12 Limerick 3-22

Antrim 0-12 Limerick 3-22

Limerick might have won this All-Ireland SH qualifier comfortably enough in the end, but until Antrim centre-forward Karl Stewart was sent off needlessly late in the first half the teams were evenly matched.

Stewart had won a free that would most likely have put his team 0-8 to 0-7 ahead after 27 minutes when Brian Geary hauled him back, but a second after the whistle had blown Stewart felt the need to administer his own justice by stamping on the Limerick centre-back.

Referee James McGrath had no option but to send him to the line, and Antrim’s hopes of pulling off a shock went with their red-carded centre-forward.

It was a real shame because up until that point they’d really put it up to Limerick who’d seemed rattled by Antrim’s physicality and honest endeavour.

Antrim scored the first two points of the match and midway through the half had opened up a 0-6 to 03 lead with the pick of their points coming the from the excellent Neil McManus at midfield.

Limerick’s short-passing strategy wasn’t working that well on a tight pitch where space was a premium, so they were struggling to play with anything near the fluidity that saw them storm to victory against Wexford.

As the half progressed they slowly started to find their rhythm, and a necklace of three points from Declan Hannon (2f) drew them level before Stewart had his head-stagger and handed the initiative right to Limerick.

They weren’t long making the most of it. Hannon popped over another free and then sent Niall Moran clear with a nicely timed hand-pass. His half-forward colleague made the most of the gift by lancing the ball past Antrim goalkeeper Chris O’Connell.

Limerick added two more points before the break from Sean Tobin and Donal O’Grady with just a single riposte from Antrim’s star-man McManus to leave the half-time score reading 1-10 to 0-8 in favour of Donal O’Grady’s team.

You expected Limerick to coast away comfortably in the second half, but, credit to Antrim, they stuck to the task grittily and points from Darren Hamill, Conor McCann and McManus (f) brought them within a goal – 1-11 to 0-11.

When they needed to though, Limerick found another gear. Points from Mark O’Riordan, Brian Geary (’65), and Niall Moran halted Antrim’s momentum, and then David Breen killed them off altogether when he tore through the heart of their defence and smashed the ball to the roof of the net.

The rest of the match was a procession for Limerick as Richie McCarthy smashed home a third goal and a spread of players added seven more points before the end to leave Antrim feeling very sorry for themselves by the time the final whistle blew

Scorers:

Limerick: D Hannon 0-8 (5f), N Moran 1-1, R McCarthy both 1-1, D Breen 1-0 S Tobin 0-3, M O’Riordan, J Ryan both 0-2, T Condon, G O’Mahony, D O’Grady, K Downes, B Geary (’65) all 0-1

Antrim: N McManus 0-8 (5f), E McCloskey 0-2, C McCann, D Hamill both 0-1.

Limerick: N Quaid; D Moloney, S Hickey, T Condon; W McNamara, B Geary, G O’Mahony; D O’Grady, M O’Riordan; N Moran, J Ryan, D Hannon; R McCarthy K Downes, S Tobin. Subs: D Breen for K Downes, P O’Brien for D O’Grady (HT), T O’Brien for N Moran, S Walsh for W McNamara, S Lucey for B Geary (62)

Antrim: C O’Connell; A Graffin, C Donnelly, K McGourty; N McAuley, M Herron, S McRory; P Shiels, N McManus; E McCloskey, K Stewart, C McFall; J Scullion, D Hamill, C McCann. Subs: B McFall for J Scullion (46), C Carson for E McCloskey (57), C Herron for S McRory (65)

Ref: J Owens (Wexford)

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