JUST as winning becomes a habit, so too does losing. And right now Limerickâ€™s senior footballers are struggling to rid themselves of their lengthening losing run in Division 3 of the Allianz National League.
This was a tie the Limerick players and management team are sure to have plenty of regrets about when they resume training this week.
After a desperately slow start which saw the Shannonsiders fall seven points in arrears at the end of the first quarter, Limerick rallied strongly.
Without ever appearing totally convincing, Limerick had picked up their performance level considerably in the second period and had edged in front by a point at Newcastle West as the clocked ticked into injury time.
Cool heads and a degree of composure were called for and a first victory of the campaign would surely be Limerickâ€™s.
But a lapse in concentration in defence allowed Offalyâ€™s eager full-forward Niall McNamee to race inside the cover. McNamaee found the unmarked Ken Casey on the edge of the square and the corner forward rattled the net from close range.
Suddenly Limerick were trailing by two points and staring a third successive defeat in the League firmly in the face.
Ian Ryan did provide some hope for the Limerick supporters in a sparse attendance when he pointed a 72nd minute free.
However, the match-clinching score arrived in the third minute of stoppage time when Offalyâ€™s Ciaran McManus expertly pointed free from all of 45 metres sailed over the crossbar.
Although there was time for Stephen Kellyâ€™s blast for a goal following a quickly taken 20 metre free to clear the crossbar, Offaly had done enough to claim the two precious points on offer on a mild spring day.
Much to ponder for the Limerick players and management team then with two quick-fire rounds of the League to come, at home to Cavan on March 13 and Louth seven days later.
Unless Limerick can get points on the board quickly, the Shannonsidersâ€™ and their new management team could well become embroiled in a relegation battle. Such a scenario would be far from ideal preparation for the provincial championship.
In Limerickâ€™s defence, the team lined out without the services of a number of first team regulars, including the likes of Stephen Lucey, Stephen Lavin, Padraig Browne, Andrew Lane and Jim Donovan, who had been included in the side when it was named earlier in the week. However, very few counties are fielding sides which resemble their championship starting line-ups at this early stage of the season.
Offaly, with one win to their credit prior to the trip to West Limerick, began impressively.
After the sides traded early points, a flurry of four unanswered points helped the visitors into a useful 0-5 to 0-1 lead after 15 minutes.
Within a minute, Offaly had stormed seven points to the good when they struck for the gameâ€™s opening goal. Ciaran McManus dispossessed Limerick netminder Brian Scanlon and an alert John Reynolds gratefully flicked the ball to the net.
Trailing by eight points and being outplayed in all sectors of the pitch, Limerick were facing an uphill battle to get back into the game.
However, the home side rallied well and a 22nd minute goal from the fist of handball playing full-forward Seamus Oâ€™Carroll and points from Ger Collins and Oâ€™Carroll helped Limerick reduce their deficit to two, 1-4 to 1-6, at the interval.
Limerick began the second half brightly, thanks in no small way to the tenacity and sheer hard work of the likes of Johnny McCarthy, Shane Gallagher, Mark Oâ€™Riordan and Pa Ranahan.
The introduction of Eoghan Oâ€™Connor at half-time sparked the attack to life after the Limerickâ€™s forwards had managed just one point in the entire opening quarter of the game.
Points from substitute Oâ€™Connor and the lively Ger Collins brought the sides level within two minutes of the resumption.
The sides were level on three occasions in the third quarter, with Limerick goalkeeper Brian Scanlon kicking three points from placed balls over the 70 minutes. When substitute Oâ€™Connor kicked Limerick in front in the 63rd minute a first win of the campaign for Limerick looked possible. However, Caseyâ€™s goal changed the complexion of the game once more.
With the improving weather and lengthening hours of daylight, thoughts are already starting to turn to the business end of the League for many inter-county sides.
Limerick will be anxious to ensure their main priority is not fighting a relegation battle in the coming weeks.
Some difficult tests lie ahead for the Shannonsiders through march and April.