LIMERICK are staring relegation in the face ahead of the final round of games in Division Three of the Allianz Football League.
This two point loss to Westmeath came despite the men in maroon finishing with just 12 players after Pat Flanagan’s charges had three sent to the line in the final 10 minutes.
Limerick must now defeat table toppers Wexford next Sunday and hope that results go their way elsewhere to avoid an immediate drop back to Division Four.
After back-to-backs wins over Cavan and Louth, Limerick were far from impressive in this encounter in Newcastle West. They laboured in possession from start to finish and time after time gave away easy ball. That’s not to mention a total of 13 wides, compared to five for Westmeath.
“That was not good enough at all,” said a disappointed Limerick manager Maurice Hora afterwards. “We only have ourselves to blame – we didn’t play with the same fluency as the last two games. There was no cohesion, we were snapping at chances,” said Horan.
“It’s very demoralising – we are trying to play a certain style but it didn’t work today as they had men behind the ball.”
Horan’s men played against the wind in the opening and only trailed 0-6 to 0-4. But Limerick had kicked eight first half wides.
Only one of the Limerick scores in the opening half came from play and that was Tom Lee’s effort in the 24th minute. All others came from Ger Collins, who kicked the majority of his frees from the ground.
On the change of ends there appeared to be a fresh impetus from Limerick and they were level within five minutes. Ger Collins reopened the scoring with a fine finish after a flowing move involving Johnny McCarthy and Stephen Kelly. Collins added a free but back came Westmeath to open a two point lead once more.
Seanie Buckley replied but Westmeath found another gear and pulled 0-11 to 0-7 clear with 54 minutes played. Limerick now had Stephen Lucey, James Kelly and Eoghan O’Connor introduced and it was the direct style of Kelly that caused problems for the Westmeath defence.
He pointed and then Collins added three frees. Just a Denis Corroon point came in reply and now the scoreboard read 0-12 to 0-11 with 10 minutes to play.
When Brendan Murtagh was sent off for a second yellow card, the momentum appeared with Limerick. Brian Scanlon was brought from goal to take the free after the Murtagh sending-off but his opposite number Gary Connaughton collected the free as he passed over the crossbar and this was to prove crucial.
That second yellow card for Murtagh was one of 14 shown by Tipperary official Brian Tyrell, in what wasn’t by any means a dirty game.
Westmeath led 0-12 to 0-11 when dual player Murtagh was sent to the line and as Limerick went in search of late scores, Pat Flanagan’s men lost two more players.
Two minutes from the end, Paul Greville got his second yellow card and then four minutes into injury-time Dessie Dolan followed his fellow attacker to the line. All sending-offs were for second yellow card offences.
But Limerick couldn’t make use of the extra space as Westmeath retreated everyone into defence to hold onto their lead.
Two points from midfielder Denis Corroon were to prove crucial.
The referee dominated the closing stages, which suited Westmeath. Seven of the yellow cards interupted the final two minutes and a total of five minutes of added time.
All that Limerick could find was one point from John Riordan after a goalmouth scramble.