Limerick's hopes of earning promotion from Division Four of the National Football League received a major boost on Sunday when a five-goal extravaganza crushed Wicklow in Rathkeale's Mick Neville Park. (Final score Limerick 5-10 to 1-14)
Unlike their previous ties where a single score could have changed the outcome, this fourth success out of four was already decided by the quarter mark when their high-pressure game raced them into a twelve-point lead as they ripped through the visitor's defence.
While the intensity dropped after that and they had to endure some nervous moments when two black cards reduced them to thirteen, they still blanked any meaningful response as they reduced most of Wicklow's scoring to frees while the winners' entire tally came from play.
With Antrim dropping one point and Sligo two, Limerick's closest challengers Wexford now trail them on their own at a two-point distance.
Even more satisfying for manager Billy Lee as he faces into his next task away to Antrim was the spread of contributions from the twenty players who made an appearance.
While regular starters like Iain Corbett, Tommie Childs, Cillian Fahy and Danny Neville continued their seasons' form, huge displays from the likes of Tommy Griffin, Mike Donovan and Hugh Bourke showed that his patience in developing his squad is now bearing fruit.
Limerick missed a few chances to get off the mark as Mark Kenny pointed for Wicklow. However, they found their rhythm when Danny Neville and Pádraig Scanlon followed up on Cillan Fahy equaliser before Seanie Furlong converted a free off the visitors' second attack.
Adrian Enright replied, Fahy sent back the kickout to feed Mike Donovan who blasted to the net and the ball came back again in an instant for Scanlon to point.
Rory Finn's strike broke the sequence before Hugh Bourke and Dean Healy scores but a second disastrous minute then rained on Wicklow when Tommy Griffin fed Neville off a quick free to round Mark Jackson before tapping over the line.
A short kickout was then turned over by Bob Childs who raced into space and finished to the unguarded net.
When Enright stretched the lead to twelve, it looked all done and dusted but Limerick's intensity eased, the Garden County got the chance to press forward and, while they were screened out of scoring opportunities, sloppy turnovers on the clearance led to three Wicklow frees which Furlong, Jackson and Furlong converted.
Five minutes into added time, the hosts put a breakaway together which Bourke finished for a half-time lead of 3-8 to 0-7.
Hopes of a comeback were socked within two minutes of the restart when Iain Corbett collected off Tommie Childs's run run to dance past Jackson for the fourth goal and another two could have followed immediately afterwards had Jackson not denied Fahy and Neville.
Wicklow's response was confined to frees, one from Furlong and two from Jackson, but they failed to find the target from play when Neville and Donovan were champing in the sin bin.
With numbers leveled up, Fahy replied, prompting the visitors to find their range through Darren Haden and Finn.
But the clock was ticking and, after Séamus O'Carroll's bullet past Jackson of Bourke's run put the result beyond doubt, Gearóid Murphy's low hopper beyond Donal O'Sullivan's reach no longer mattered.
Eoin Darcy followed up with a free before subs Josh Ryan and Paddy O'Rourke swapped added time points.
SCORERS, LIMERICK: Danny Neville 1-1, Mike Donovan, Bob Childs, Iain Corbett, Séamus O'Carroll 1-0 each, Cillian Fahy, Adrian Enright, Pádraig Scanlon, Hugh Bourke 0-2 each, Josh Ryan 0-1;
WICKLOW: Seanie Furlong 0-4 (4 frees), Mark Jackson 0-3 (3 frees), Gearóid Murphy 1-0, Riory Finn 0-2, Mark Kenny, Dean Healy, Darren hayden, Eoin Darcy (free), Paddy O'Rourke 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: Donal O'Sullivan; Paul Maher, Brian Fanning, Mike Donovan; Tony McCarthy, Iain Corbett, Bob Childs; Tommy Griffin, Tommie Childs; Adrian Enright, Cillian Fahy, Pádraig de Brún; Hugh Bourke, Danny Neville, Pádraig Scanlon. SUBS: James Naughton for Padraig de Brún (57 minutes), Séamus O'Carroll for Pádraig Scanlon (60 minutes), Josh Ryan for Tommy Griffin (61 minutes), Davy Lyons for Adrian Enright (70 minutes), Dave Connolly for Paul Maher (72 minutes).
WICKLOW: Mark Jackson; Andy Maher, Jamie Snell, Jack Hamilton; Paddy O'Keane, Daniel Keane, Thomas Kearns; Pádraig O'Toole, Rory Finn; Dean Healy, Mark Kenny, Darren Hayden; Conor Byrne, Chris O'Brien, Seanie Furlong. SUBS: Oisín Manning for Jack Hamilton (injured, 27 minutes), Eoin Darcy for Conor Byrne (injured, 35+2 minutes), Fintan O'Shea for Thomas Kearns (half-time), Gearóid Murphy for Chris O'Brien (half-time), Paddy O'Rourke for Daniel Keane (53 minutes)
REFEREE: Brendan Griffin (Kerry).
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