THE Limerick footballers suffered a heart-breaking 0-19 to 0-12, extra-time, loss to Kildare in Round 3 of the All Ireland SFC Qualifiers in O’Moore Park on Saturday.
As the stopwatch ticked into the 72nd minute Limerick football was within seconds of perhaps its greatest achievement.
Some have tipped Kildare to lift the Sam Maguire next September and Maurice Horan’s underdogs had played them off the field in O’Moore Park in Portlaoise. But after leading for 53 minutes Limerick were to be cruelly denied in the dying seconds when wing back Emmet Bolton was the Lillywhite saviour with a dramatic late equalising point.
It was without doubt the finest 70-minute performance ever from a Limerick senior football side.
In extra-time Limerick just couldn’t give any more.
For 70 minutes they ran Kildare into the ground, making light of the much vaunted training regime of Kieran McGeeney’s Leinster man. But it was not just perspiration and inspiration that brought Limerick within seconds of the shock of the championship – the football was superb.
What a pity the live television cameras were not present to capture what was a truly magnificent end to end contest, full of intense football played at a blistering pace.
Limerick won the toss and opted to play with the strong wind in the opening half.
From the off, Limerick set up with an extra defender with Padraig Browne offering a shield in front of the full back line. That left Morgan O’Flaherty as a spare man at the other end and in fairness to Limerick they managed to steer clear of the trap of funneling ball after ball down on top of him. Instead direct running with superb support ball and intelligent diagonal balls saw Limerick profit.
In front of a huge Kildare crown in the official attendance of 11,345 Eoghan O’Flaherty opened the scoring for Kildare after seven minutes and although Ian Ryan replied with a free Alan Smith had the favorites 0-2 to 0-1 up after 12-minutes.
But they were not to be ahead again until extra-time.
Ian Ryan was the scoring star of the opening half and two points from play and three frees had Limerick 0-5 to 0-3 ahead with 20 minutes played.
Limerick’s work rate had to be seen to be believed and despite the high octane game plan they finished the half on the up with Stephen Kelly and Damien Quaid points giving them a 0-7 to 0-4 interval lead.
They had to face into the wind in the second half and could live to regret seven first half wides, compared to five for Kildare.
As expected Kildare came flying from the blocks on the restart but two early points were then canceled out by Ryan (free) and Ger Collins as Limerick refused to roll over.
However an Eoghan O’Connor point in the ninth minute of the half was to be the last score from play for Limerick in the 70-minutes.
Indeed Brian Scanlon’s long range free in the 15th minute of the half was to be the final score from Limerick and it was ultimately that inability to score in the last 20 minutes that cost a famous win.
Perhaps all would have been different if Limerick could have found a goal and the closest they came was 10-minutes into the second half but John Riordan effort was from the tightest of angles and blazed across the goal and wide.
But when Scanlon came from his goal to land his free it put Limerick 0-11 to 0-8 clear with 20 minutes to play.
Three minutes after scoring, Scanlon rose above his crossbar to deny Padraig O’Neill a point and Kildare frustrations were increasing.
With 10 minutes to play the lead was down to a single point.
But Kildare couldn’t find an easy route through the Limerick side that was still running strong despite the mammoth work rate throughout.
There were changes to score at the other end and it was from one such opportunity that Kildare counter attacked for Bolton to equalise.
Should Limerick have kicked possession dead? Should they have fouled the ball out the field? All ifs, buts and maybes but in fairness they did hundreds of things brilliantly over the course of the 70-minutes and all did not hinge on one score.
Victory had been snatched from Limerick and it was always going to be difficult in extra time. Roared on by the crowd Kildare finally got the wind in their sails in extra time. They won the toss and played with the wind and were 0-17 to 0-11 ahead entering the second extra period.
Limerick were out on their feet exhausted, a real opportunity gone a abegging.
SCORERS – Limerick: Ian Ryan 0-7 (5frees), Stephen Kelly, Damien Quaid, Ger Collins, Eoghan O’Connor, Brian Scanlon (free) 0-1 each. Kildare: James Kavanagh, Mikey Conway (2frees) 0-3 each, Eoghan O’Flaherty (1free), Johnny Doyle (2frees), Seanie Johnston 0-2 each, Alan Smith, Robert Kelly, Michael Foley, Emmet Bolton, Padraig O’Neill, Morgan O’Flaherty, Eoin Doyle 0-1 each.
LIMERICK – Brian Scanlon; Andrew Lane, Stephen Lucey, Johnny McCarthy, John Riordan, Lorcan O’Dwyer, Pa Ranahan; Jim O’Donovan, Seanie Buckley; Eoghan O’Connor, Stephen Kelly, Paudie Browne; Ger Collins, Seamus O’Carroll, Ian Ryan. Subs: Damien Quaid for Lane (inj - 20mins), Ian Corbett for O’Carroll (50 mins), Bobby O’Brien for O’Donovan (53mins), James O’Meara for Kelly (60 mins), John Cooke for Collins (68mins), Mike Sheehan for O’Dywer (e-t), Derry O’Connor for O’Connor (e-t), Darragh Treacy for Buckley (h-t, e-t), Eoghan O’Connor for O’Meara (h-t, e-t), Stephen Kelly for Riordan (13mins, e-t).
KILDARE – Shane Connolly; Ollie Lyons, Peter Kelly, Hugh McGrillen; Emmet Bolton, Morgan O’Flaherty, Eoin Doyle; Michael Foley, Robert Kelly; Eoghan O’Flaherty, Mikey Conway, Johnny Doyle; Alan Smith, Tomas O’Connor, James Kavanagh. Subs: Seanie Johnston for Eoghan O’Flaherty (47mins), Padraig O’Neill for Robert Kelly (47mins), Padraig Fogarty for O’Connor (55mins), Eamonn Callaghan for Smith (66mins), Gary White for Bolton (3mins, e-t), Aindriu MacLochlainn for Lyons inj (3mins, e-t), Eoghan O’Flaherty for Morgan O’Flaherty (9mins, e-t).
REFEREE – Barry Cassidy (Derry).