LIMERICK are Division Four National Football League champions for the second time in four years.
Back in 2010 Limerick beat Waterford with late scores and this Saturday evening it was again late scores from the Treaty men that lifted the title in Croke Park.
From start to finish this final was played at a hectic pace.
But for the opening quarter it was Limerick that were playing second fiddle as Offaly raced into a 1-4 to 0-1 lead after 12-minutes and it was Limerick that had the wind.
But Limerick restructured and got to gribs with the Offaly attack and once Limerick came to life they dominated in style.
Offaly were held to just seven points in the reminaing hour of football, while Limerick kicked 0-15.
In total 10-different Limerick players got on the scoresheet on a day when they also kicked 10-wides and took plenty other wrong options in front of goal.
And, all this was done without the services of Johnny McCarthy, Andy Lane and Ger Collins, who was absent from the named team due to injury.
The final victory is tempered somewhat by late injuries to John Galvin (hamstring) and Ian Ryan (ankle ligaments) which puts both in a race against time to be fit for the Munster championship against Cork on May 25.
Nonetheless Limerick made the most of just a fourth ever visit to GAA Headquarters.
In the opening half a Seani Buckley point had responded to Ken Casey’s opening score of the game.
But then Limerick were run ragged and a goal from full back Ross Brady helped The Faithful County into a six point lead.
With Stephen Lavin now in a sweeper role Limerick began to win ball in the middle third and four Ian Ryan frees steadied the ship 1-5 to 0-5 with 25-minutes played.
Offaly were held scoreless for the final 15-minutes of the half and points from play from Ryan, Iain Corbett and Lavin had the sides level for the second time at half time – 1-5 to 0-8.
Although Stephen Lucey opened the second half scoring, Limerick were again somewhat unsettled in the early minutes and Offaly went 1-8 to 0-9 ahead after 8-minutes.
Points from Tom Lee and John Riordan had the game level for the fourth time before two Brian Connor points put Offaly 1-10 to 0-11 clear with the game entering the final 15-minutes.
Then came Limerick’s first sub Derry O’Connor.
Within 10-seconds he kicked one of the scores of the game and that signalled the late Limerick charge.
Offaly hit back with a 58th minute free to go 1-11 to 0-12 ahead but that was their final score.
Lavin’s second and then O’Connor again tied up the game with five to play and extra time looked likely.
But Limerick pushed on and Eoghan O’Connor grabbed the lead for only the second time in the game and then a Seamus O’Carroll sealed the win with an injury time ’45.
SCORERS – Limerick: Ian Ryan 0-5 (4frees), Stephen Lavin, Derry O’Connor 0-2 each, Seanie Buckley, Iain Corbett, Stephen Lucey, Tom Lee, John Riordan, Eoghan O’Connor, Seamus O’Carroll (’45) 0-1 each. Offaly: Niall McNamee, Ken Casey (1free) 0-4 each, Ross Brady 1-0, Brian Connor 0-2, Brian Darby 0-1.
LIMERICK – Donal O’Sullivan; Lorcan O’Dwyer, Mark O’Riordan, Paudie Browne; Stephen Lavin, Stephen Lucey, Pa Ranahan; Bobby O’Brien, John Galvin; John Riordan, Tom Lee, Seanie Buckley, Eoghan O’Connor, Iain Corbett, Ian Ryan. Subs: Derry O’Connor for Tom Lee (56mins), Mike Sheehan for Stephen Lucey (57mins), Seamus O’Carroll for John Galvin, inj (66mins), Darragh Treacy for Ian Ryan, inj (68mins).
OFFALY – Alan Mulhall; Paul McConway, Ross Brady, Brian Darby; Enda Carroll, Sean Pender, Michael Brazil; Alan McNamee, Richie Dalton; Graham Guilfoyle, Brian Connor, Anton Sullivan; Niall Darby, Niall McNamaee, Ken Casey. Subs: Joe Maher for Alan McNamee (55mins), Willie Mulhall for Anton Sullivan (67mins).
REFEREE – Ciaran Branagan (Down).