Limerick’s football promotion push is underway following this 0-12 to 1-8 win over Offaly in Division Four of the Allianz League.
Limerick were rewarded for perseverance and digging deep as they determinedly fought back from three points adrift to claim Offaly’s scalp and their second successive victory in Division 4 of the Allianz NFL before 1,200 patrons at O’Connor Park, Tullamore.
Having accounted for Leitrim the previous week, this was a significant triumph for Maurice Horan’s unbeaten charges in terms of their drive for promotion from the basement division.
Facing the breeze and rain, Limerick deployed centre forward John Riordan as an extra defender during the first half and this tactic suffocated the supply to Offaly danger-man Niall McNamee.
Brian Connor’s 10th minute goal, following a delightful McNamee pass, provided Offaly with a 1-1 to 0-2 lead.
Both sides added five more points apiece before half time. Limerick goalkeeper Brian Scanlon expertly converted two long-range frees, while Ian Ryan slotted over two frees closer to the target and corner back Mark O’Riordan popped up with a 30th minute equalising point, 1-4 to 0-7.
Two McNamee points, one after Scanlon misdirected a kick-out that was gathered by Anton Sullivan, gave Offaly a 1-6 to 0-7 interval cushion.
Just as Limerick packed their defence in the opening half, Offaly did likewise deploying Sullivan in a deep role.
Referee Shane Hehir brandished ten yellow cards in all as both teams were focused on containment. And with the spectre of yellow hanging over them Offaly sub Shane Sullivan was called ashore after just 11 minutes on the pitch, while Limerick also withdrew O’Riordan.
Graham Guilfoyle’s 41st minute left a goal separating the sides and with Offaly becoming increasingly defensive, Limerick were patient as they went about trying to carve out scoring opportunities.
The second half was seventeen minutes old when half back Stephen Lavin clipped over Limerick’s first point since the 30th minute and they simply grew in confidence after this.
Eoghan O’Connor and Ryan (free) levelled proceedings for the third occasion, 1-7 to 0-10, by the 58th minute. McNamee missed a free he’d usually convert but when Brian Darby powered forward and set up Connor for his second point it regained the lead for the ‘Faithful County’.
With Limerick dominating the mid-field stakes through Bobby O’Brien and Thomas Lee, they refused to panic.
Ryan, with his fifth point (fourth from a free) levelled it and O’Connor’s excellent 68th minute point ensured that Limerick claimed the spoils against an Offaly side that failed to make their scoring opportunities count.
Offaly did have a late chance to salvage something from the encounter but Sean Pender’s left footed strike flew wide when he might have better advised to fist over for a levelling point.
Overall the Treaty County were much more economical as they amassed just three wides, whereas Offaly manager Emmet McDonnell was left to rue the ten that his side recorded.
OFFALY: Alan Mulhall; Brian Darby, Eoin Rigney, Sean Pender; David Hanlon, Derek Kelly, Graham Guilfoyle (0-1); Alan McNamee, Michael Brazil; Ross Brady, Brian Connor (1-2), Eoin Carroll; Niall McNamee (0-4, 0-3 frees), Bernard Allen, Anton Sullivan (0-1). Subs: Peter Cunningham for E Carroll (31 mins), Shane Sullivan for M Brazil (44mins), Richie Dalton for B Allen (51mins), Paul McConway for S Sullivan (55mins), John Moloney for A McNamee (61mins).
LIMERICK: Brian Scanlon (0-2 frees); Cian Coady, Johnny McCarthy, Mark O’Riordan (0-1); Stephen Lavin (0-1), Paudie Browne, Pa Ranahan; Thomas Lee, Bobby O’Brien; James O’Meara, John O’Riordan (0-1), Derry O’Connor; Eoghan O’Connor (0-2), Ger Collins, Ian Ryan (0-5, 0-4 frees). Subs: Mike Sheehan for C Coady (46mins), Seamus O’Carroll for J O’Meara (48mins), Ian Corbett for D O’Connor (51mins), Lorcan O’Dwyer for M O’Riordan (60mins).
REFEREE: Shane Hehir, Galway.