The Limerick hurlers threw away a six-point lead against Offaly in the Allianz NHL in the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday as a late penalty earned the visitors a draw. It finished Limerick 2-16 Offaly 4-10.
This was a game that Limerick should have won.
True there was a harsh injury-time penalty from Offaly to level the game, but it was a situation that Limerick should never found themselves.
The home side in the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday evening led 2-12 to 1-9 with less than 15 minutes to play in this round four tie in Division 1B of the Allianz Hurling League. But the Ollie Baker-managed Offaly were to score three goals in the final 12 minutes to snatch a draw.
The draw means that Limerick will now have to go to Casement Park next Sunday and get a victory against Antrim if John Allen’s side are to book a league final spot against Clare in the quest for promotion.
“We were disgusted that he gave the penalty but we felt that we created enough chances before that oursleves to have put hte game away and from that point of view we were up six points at one stage and created quite a number of chances and probably for goals that we didn’t take and thats more of a reason for me than whethar it was a penalty or not,” explained Limerick manager John Allen after the draw.
“Overall I’m just disappointed that we didn’t hold onto a six-point lead. While it would be the easy option to blame the late penalty we did create enough chances to win the game.”
Playing against a slight breeze, Limerick had started the brighter with Graeme Mulcahy and David Breen on target after a Conor Allis ’65 had opened the scoring and helped the home side into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after 10 minutes.
But Offaly were soon level and went ahead in the 12th minute when Shane Dooley was first to react when a long ball broke loose.
Limerick were in trouble in the half forward line and changes brought a return to dominance with Niall Maher on target before Limerick found the net in the 29th minute.
Niall Moran finished neatly by batting to the net after Allis had soloed at the heart of the defence and passing to the full forward. But it was Limerick that were to lead at the break with sub Sean Tobin goaling in injury time, 2-6 to 1-7.
David Breen almost added another goal on the restart but James Dempsey saved superbly.
Then up the field went Offaly and Nickie Quaid blocked from Conor Mahon and from Ger Healion but on the second rebound the Limerick defence fouled and the referee Cathal McAllister awarded the first of two penalties.
This time it was a combination of Quaid and Gavin O’Mahony that stopped Dooley’s effort.
Limerick then surged 2-12 to 1-9 clear with 12 minutes to play. But first Mahon goaled and then Healion but still Limerick led 2-15 to 3-10 and Seanie O’Brien appeared to seal the win with a point in injury time.
That was until the late drama and Tom Condon was deemed to have fouled Healion and up stepped Dooley to fire high to the net with the last puck of the game.
SCORERS - Limerick: Sean Tobin 1-2, Niall Moran 1-0, Graeme Mulcahy, Thomas Quaid, Conor Allis (2frees, ’65) 0-3 each, David Breen 0-2, Niall Maher, Paul Browne, Seanie O’Brien 0-1 each. Offaly: Shane Dooley 2-5 (1-0pen, 3frees, lineball, ’65), Ger Healion and Conor Mahon 1-0 each, James Rigney and Brendan Murphy 0-2 each, Diarmaid Horan 0-1.
LIMERICK - Nickie Quaid; Stephen Walsh, Richie McCarthy, Tom Condon; Gavin O’Mahony, Donal O’Grady, Wayne McNamara; James Ryan, Paul Browne; Niall Maher, David Breen, Conor Allis; Graeme Mulcahy, Niall Moran, Thomas Quaid. Subs: Sean Tobin for Niall Maher (28mins), Kevin Downes for Niall Moran (59mins), Seanie O’Brien for David Breen (63mins), Mikey Ryan for Thomas Quaid (72mins).
OFFALY – James Dempsey; Chris McDonald, David Kenny, Stephen Wynne; Derek Morkan, Rory Hannify, David Franks; Diarmuid Horan, James Rigney; Brendan Murphy, Conor Mahon, Joe Bergin; Shane Dooley, Colin Egan, James Mulrooney. Subs: Ger Healion for Colin Egan (h-t), Sean Coughlan for Stephen Wynne (h-t), Thomas Ryan for James Mulrooney (49mins), Sean Ryan for James Rigney (59mins), Eanna Murphy for Rory Hannify (70mins).
REFEREE – Cathal McAllister (Cork).