Limerick 1-18 Wexford 1-17
Emotions ran high in O’Moore Park after the final whistle signalled the end of today's hugely dramatic fourth round All-Ireland SF Qualifier.
The Limerick players were ecstatic to have qualified for their first ever All-Ireland quarter-final thanks to a heart-stirring injury-time comeback, but every Wexford person in the stadium was spitting fire.
The source of their ire was referee Derek Fahy, who had allowed Ian Ryan’s last-gasp winning free to stand even though one of his umpires had waved it wide.
Wexford had seemed set for victory when they led by three points as the 70th minute ticked by, but Limerick substitute Eoghan O'Connor drew his team level with a coolly finished goal after winning possession in a crowded square.
In the final minute of injury time Ian Ryan won and converted that winning free, but after the match every Wexford player swore it had drifted wide of the post.
It was a fittingly frantic finish to a match that was played to a great tempo from the very start as both sides moved the ball with pace and tore into every physical exchange with gusto.
Wexford’s forwards were in a constant state of positional flux in the opening minutes and with the Limerick defence confused by their perpetual motion, gaps started appearing.
Limerick goalkeeper Brian Scanlon wasn’t exactly helping his full-back line settle by hitting every kick-out short and putting them immediate pressure by the swarming Wexford attack.
In the opening minutes Wexford kept winning turnover ball deep in Limerick territory, and PJ Banville in particular was keen to make the most of it as he slotted over two nice points to help his team into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after seven minutes.
Limerick needed someone to show some leadership, and Ian Ryan was the first to put up his hand. The St. Senan’s man has a tendency to blow hot and cold, but there’s no doubting his class and he scored two beautiful points to give Limerick some much needed momentum.
From then on the first half was a rip-roaring to and fro struggle with neither team managing to establish any real dominance.
When Wexford hit three points in a row Limerick simply went down the field and emulated them by doing the very same, with forwards Stephen Kelly and Ger Collins really coming into the game with a vengeance.
It was Wexford who finished the half on a high though, as point from the Duracell Bunny midfielder Adrian Morrissey and Ciaran Lyng (f) helped them into a 0-10 to 0-9 lead at the break.
They maintained the momentum into the second half as Red Barry filched a well taken point under pressure, and then Eric Bradley struck for a controversial goal when it looked like he’d fouled the ball by throwing it from one hand to another before blasting it to the net.
Limerick responded to this massive set-back in a very positive fashion. Ian Ryan curled over another super score and then John Cooke and Ger Collins (f) followed it up with another couple of points to reduce the deficit to the minimum again – 1-11 to 0-13.
Wexford seemed to be suddenly in reverse, but few teams are capable of suddenly changing through the gears like they are and they put their foot to floor again to score four points in little more than as many minutes.
The fact that all four points came from four different men – Brian Malone, Red Barry, Adrian Flynn and Ben Brosnan – only made the feat more impressive.
Limerick mightn’t have as much skill as Wexford, but they make up for it in heart, and once again they found their feet again just when it seemed like they were heading for the canvas.
They strung their own necklace of four points together, three of them frees, to move within one, but missed the chance to draw level when Ger Collins kicked another free-kick wide.
Wexford looked to have done enough when Shane Roche and Brosnan clipped over two late points, but once again Limerick proved they just don’t know when they’re beaten as O’Connor and Ryan produced those ever so late heroics.
Wexford: E Bradley 1-0, R Barry, PJ Banville, B Brosnan (2f) all 0-3, A Morrissey, A Flynn, C Lyng (2f) all 0-2, S Roche, B Malone both 0-1
Limerick: I Ryan (1f), S Kelly (3f) both 0-5, G Collins 0-4 (2f), E O’Connor 1-0, J Cooke 0-2 T Lee, S O’Carroll both 0-1
Wexford: Anthony Masterson; J Wadding, G Molloy, B Malone; A Morrissey, D Murphy, A Doyle; D Waters, A Flynn; PJ Banville, C Morris, E Bradley; B Brosnan, C Lyng, R Barry. Subs: P Byrne for A Doyle (33), S Roche for C Morris (53), N Murphy for D Murphy (57), A Doyle for A Morrissey (65), C Carty for R Barry (69)
Limerick: B Scanlon; T Stack, S Gallagher, S Lavin; J Riordan, J McCarthy, P Ranahan; S Buckley, T Lee; S Kelly, J Mullane, M Sheehan; G Collins, S O’Carroll, I Ryan. Subs: J Cooke for J Mullane (22), E O’Connor for M Sheehan (50)J O’Donovan for S O’Carroll (55), J Kelly for J Cooke (64), B Fitzpatrick for J Riordan (67)
Ref: D Fahy - Longford.