THE Limerick senior footballers made a losing start to 2015 in this Sunday’s McGrath Cup quarter-final tie against UCC, 4-16 to 3-9.
Limerick were 3-7 to 0-8 ahead entering the final quarter but then the Cork students found another gear to advance to a semi-final meeting with fellow Third Level College, IT Tralee in the early season provincial competition.
Played in Mick Neville Park in Rathkeale this Sunday, Limerick lined out with eight of the side that started in the Munster SFC last Summer.
However, there were three first time starters in Robert Browne and Cillian Fahy in defence and James Naughton in attack. A further three players made their first Limerick senior inter-county appearance as second half subs; Denis O’Dea, Jason Mullins and Tony McCarthy.
Overall the Cork side were deserving winners and aside from the opening minutes of the second period the Billy Morgan managed side set the tempo.
Limerick must now go down the challenge game route to prepare for the February 1 opening round game in Newcastle West against Sligo in Division Three of the National Football League.
Back into contention for that tie will be college-tied Gearoid Hegarty, Darragh Treacy, Donal O’Sullivan and Peter Nash, while manager John Brudair will also be hoping that his injury list shortens with Ian Ryan, Stephen Lucey, Killian Phair and Jamie Lee all ruled out at present.
However, more alarming is that regulars Pa Ranahan, Mark O’Riordan, Eoin Hanrahan and Ger Collins are yet to confirm their plans for 2015.
With a keenly contested league on the horizon, the strength in depth of the panel could certainly be tested.
In this McGrath Cup tie, all didn’t look good for Limerick after 15-minutes when trailing 1-5 to no score and playing with the wind.
Wing back Tomas Clancy had the UCC goal in the sixth minute.
Finally Limerick were on the scoresheet in the 22nd minute when debutante James Naughton kicked the first of his six frees - all from the ground.
Captain Seanie Buckley dragged Limerick back into the game with a 23rd minute goal to leave it 1-2 to 1-5.
But an Adrian Spillane goal had UCC 2-6 to 1-4 ahead at the break with Naughton frees accounting for all the Limerick points in the half.
Limerick bossed the opening minutes of the second half to lead 3-7 to 2-8 with just over 20-minutes remaining.
Buckley’s second goal came in the fourth minute from the penalty spot, while in the 10th minute of the half he again weaved through the defence to blast low to the corner.
Alas Limerick couldn’t build on the lead and UCC kicked an unanswered 1-8 to turn the game back in their favour.
Thomas Hickey got both of their second half goals.
Limerick only scored twice in the final 23-minutes from Iain Corbett and Naughton (free).
SCORERS: Limerick: Seanie Buckley 3-0 (1pen), James Naughton 0-6 (6frees), Sean O’Dea, Micheal Brosnan and Iain Corbett 0-1 each. UCC: Thomas Hickey 2-5 (0-4frees), Adrian Spillane 1-1, Tomas Clancy 1-0, Conor Horgan 0-3, David Harrington and Conor Cox (1free) 0-2 each, Conor Dorman, Eanna O’Connchuir and Gary O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: Brian Scanlon (Gerald Griffins); Colm Moran (Monaleen), Johnny McCarthy (St Kierans), Robert Browne (Fr Caseys); Iain Corbett (Newcastle West), Cillian Fahy (Dromcollogher-Broadford), Sean O’Dea (Kilteely-Dromkeen); Tom Lee (Ballylanders), Seanie Buckley (Dromcollogher-Broadford); Cian Sheehan (Newcastle West), Garrett Noonan (Dromcollogher-Broadford), John Riordan (Fr Caseys); Danny Neville (Ballysteen), Mícheal Brosnan (Dromcollogher-Broadford, James Naughton (St Senans). Subs: Jason Mullins (St Patricks) for John Riordan (h-t), Tony McCarthy (Kildimo-Pallaskenry) for Colm Moran (53mins), David Ward (Fr Caseys) for Danny Neville (64mins), Denis O’Dea (Kilteely-Dromkeen) for Garrett Noonan (66mins).
UCC (Cork unless stated): Micheal Martin; Jamie Davis, Padraig O’Connor (Kerry), David Culhane (Kerry); Conor Dorman, Sean White, Tomas Clancy; Sean Kiely, Gary O’Sullivan; Adrian Spillane (Kerry), Eanna O’Connchuir (Kerry), Shaun Keane (Kerry); Thomas Hickey (Kerry), Conor Horgan, David Harrington. Subs: Jack McGuire (Kerry) for Padraig O’Connor, b/c (34mins), Conor Cox (Kerry) for Adrian Spillane (42mins), Fintan O’Connor for Shaun Keane (60mins), Kevin Davis for Eanna O’Connchuir (70mins).
REFEREE: Sean Lonergan (Tipperary).