Antrim 0-9 Limerick 2-6: They came, they saw, they conquered — that was Limerick footballers who tasted victory, at Corrigan Park in Belfast on Saturday, for the first time since April 2015, when they carved out a league win over Louth, in Drogheda.
Limerick fully deserved their win over Antrim and a place in the hat for the All-Ireland football qualifying Round 2B draw, this morning.
“We wanted to prove to ourselves that something was possible. We came up here expecting a tough, close battle. Antrim didn’t lose all year, here at Corrigan Park, and they won promotion but we are now in the second round,” enthused Limerick manager John Brudair.
“It was said that Clare had some goal chances against us that they didn’t take but, I believe, we had better goal chances and we didn’t take them. We wanted to be in the next round of the Munster Championship against Kerry, not in the first round of the qualifiers. Anyhow, we are in the second round of the qualifiers, now,” he stressed.
This was an interesting game, played with a brisk wind in Antrim’s favour during the first half but, after eight minutes, Limerick led by 2-1 to 0-2.
The Saffrons, during the opening two minutes, looked as if they meant business. They raced off the starting blocks with a pointed free by Ryan Murray, after 45 seconds, and another point by team captain Kevin Niblock. Flattery to deceive as that was the last time they were ahead.
Sean McSweeney set Limerick on their way with a converted free, on three minutes, and visitor goals followed in the sixth and eighth minutes from Ian Ryan and McSweeney. The second from the penalty spot as the St Kieran’s man player tucked the ball into the bottom corner of the net, to Chris Kerr’s left, after Darragh Treacy had been hauled down.
Eleven minutes elapsed between Antrim’s second and third points with Matthew Fitzpatrick hitting the third and five minutes later Patrick McBride snatched another. McBride, with darting runs, did trouble the Limerick defence but, generally, the winners’ rearguard was a match, and more, for Antrim’s scoring efforts.
Ryan added to Limerick’s lead with a point but his his netbound effort, in the 26th minute, was pushed around the post. Antrim ended the half attacking but their efforts only yielded a further point by Sean Burke, who had started for the injured Tomás McCann.
Limerick led by 2-2 to 0-6 at the break. Antrim had chances to hit back but both shots were wayward and Stevie Cahill increased the visitors’ lead. Keeper Donal O’Sullivan leapt to the Limerick rescue with a super save from McBride, one of three brilliant stops by the medical student in the second half.
Antrim dominated periods in the second half but only scored three points, all from placed balls, as the winners were able to contain them, and McSweeney polished off the Saffrons with a pointed free.
“Those were magnificent saves by Donal (O’Sullivan),” praised manager Brudair, “Ian Ryan had a great game, too, although he was somewhat starved of possession in the second half. The kind of character that Johnny McCarthy, Seanie Buckley, and others show rubs off on the younger lads.”
C Kerr; K O’Boyle, R Johnson, P Gallagher; J Laverty, J Crozier, M Sweeney; S McVeigh, M McCann; P McBride (0-2), M Fitzpatrick (0-1), K Niblock (0-2, 1 free); R Murray (0-2, 1 free), N McKeever, S Burke (0-1).
M Johnson for McVeigh (20), D McAleese for Laverty (31), P McAleer for R Johnson (Halftime), C Murray for Gallagher (Halftime), T McCann (01 free) for McKeever (55).
D Sullivan; J McCarthy, P Browne, S Cahill (0-1); B Fanning, S O’Shea, P Ranahan; D Treacy, T Childs; G Noonan, P Nash, S Buckley; S McSweeney (1-3, 1-0 pen, 0-3 frees), I Ryan (1-2, 1 free), H Bourke.
E Hogan for Bourke (54), P Hannon for Nash (62), I Corbett for Childs (66).
S Hurson (Tyrone).
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