LIMERICK booked an Allianz Hurling League Division 1B final place against Clare following a 3-22 to 0-17 win over Antrim on Sunday. It means Limerick and Clare will meet in the Gaelic Grounds next Saturday at 6pm with promotion to Division 1A the prize for the winners.
The winners will also go forward to league semi-final meeting with Kilkenny. Cork and Tipperary are in the other semi-final.
While John Allen’s side won by 14 points in Casement Park in Belfast yesterday they also needed Clare to defeat Offaly in Tullamore to ensure a Shannonside derby in the final.
And, thanks to a late Cathal Chaplin goal, Davy Fitzgerald’s Clare emerged 2-14 to 0-19 winners.
So just like last season Limerick and Clare will meet in a league decider. The game is to take place over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend and it is understood that GAA officials are to request Croke Park not to schedule the game for next Sunday to avoid a clash with the Heineken Cup clash of Munster and Ulster in Thomond Park.
By virtue of Limerick travelling to Ennis last year for the league final, next weekend’s tie will take place in the Gaelic Grounds – confirmation of the fixture will come from Croke Park this Monday lunch-time.
The winner of the Division 1B final will then progress to the league semi-finals proper where they will face Kilkenny, with Cork playing Tipperary in the other semi-final.
Yesterday, Limerick welcomed back teenager star Shane Dowling into the starting team and he responded with two first half goals to settle the visitors to Antrim.
Both goals came from 21-metre frees and helped Limerick to a 2-12 to 0-8 half time lead.
Captain David Breen, James Ryan and Conor Allis had the sides level 0-4 each by the end of the opening quarter, before Dowling came to life.
His first goal in the 21st minute after Niall Moran was fouled.
Then just seven minutes later the Na Piarsaigh man blasted to the net once more for a 2-10 to 0-6 lead.
But Limerick were now cruising and Allis and Ryan added points for a 2-17 to 0-10 lead just approaching the mid-point of the half.
Just five minutes after his introduction Sean Tobin copperfastened the win with the third goal.
SCORERS – Limerick: Shane Dowling 2-5 (2-0 frees, 0-1 penalty, 0-1 free), Conor Allis 0-8 (three frees, one ’65), Sean Tobin 1-2, David Breen, James Ryan 0-2 each, Stephen Walsh, Niall Moran, Thomas Quaid 0-1 each. Antrim: Shane McNaughton 0-11 (six frees), Michael Herron, Neil McManus, Eddie McCloskey, Barry McFall, PJ O’Connell, Karl McCloskey 0-1 each.
LIMERICK – Nickie Quaid; Stephen Walsh, Richie McCarthy, Tom Condon; Wayne McNamara, Donal O’Grady, Gavin O’Mahony; Paul Browne, James Ryan; Shane Dowling, David Breen, Conor Allis; Graeme Mulcahy, Niall Moran, Thomas Quaid. Subs: Shane O’Neill for Tom Condon (h-t), Sean Tobin for Thomas Quaid (46mins), Kevin Downes for Niall Moran (55mins), Seanie O’Brien for David Breen (59mins).
ANTRIM – DD Quinn; A Graffin, C Donnelly, K McGourty; N McAuley, N McManus, M Gettens; K Stewart, P Shiels; S McCrory, M Herron, E McCloskey; PJ O’Connell, C Carson, S McNaughton.
REFEREE – Alan Kelly (Galway).
Meanwhile, after a hugely disappointing run of losses, Limerick senior footballers produced their best football of the season to earn a share the spoils, 1-10 t 0-13, in a pulsating National League Division 4 tie in Enniskillen yesterday. Sadly, this gutsy display came at a price as John Galvin limped off after 20 minutes with a recurrence of his knee troubles. It was Galvin’s third game back after cruciate surgery.