THE Limerick footballers secured their Division Three Allianz League status this Easter Sunday with a 2-13 to 2-11 victory over Louth in Drogheda.
The victory was Limerick’s third of the seven game league campaign and second in successive to hold off relegation.
The result means that Louth and Wexford drop to the basement division for next season.
After the completion of the round robin series, Limerick will be joined in Division Three of the league in 016 by Kildare, Westmeath, Offaly, Longford, Tipperary, Clare and Sligo.
Two second half goals inspired this win in Drogheda but it was also the first start of the season for ace-attacker Ian Ryan and he returned from injury with a bang and a total of eight points.
After playing against the wind in the opening 35-minutes Limerick led 0-8 to 0-7 at half time.
It was a half that saw Limerick register seven wides, compared to just three for the home side.
It was also a half that saw Limerick lose Darragh Treacy after just seven minutes for a black card offence.
Two superb points from play for Ian Ryan announced his arrival in the opening minutes with the sides dead-locked 0-2 with 10-minutes played.
Iain Corbett surged forward from defence to put Limerick ahead but it was Louth that began to get on top and were a point clear at the mid-point of the half.
Finally 10-minutes without a Limerick score came to an end when Robert Browne and then Peter Nash pointed.
That had Limerick 0-5 to 0-4 clear with 22-minutes played.
Colm Judge then store the show with the next three points for Louth.
As John Brudair’s Limerick have shown in recent games their is huge character in this new-look side and they battled back brilliantly to close the half impressively.
Those late points from two Ryan frees and fine effort from Danny Neville.
Half time scores from around the country showed that the loser of this tie in Drogheda would be relegated and so it turned out, making the second half display all the more important for Limerick.
But it didn’t all go smoothly.
Firstly it was Louth that enjoyed the better start to the half to go 0-9 to 0-8 ahead.
But just five minutes were played when Limerick scored their first goal. Gearoid Hegarty showed great vision to off-load a pass to Peter Nash in the left corner position. Nash then made light of the tight space to weave past a challenge before crashing to the net from close range.
When Ryan pointed a free Limerick were 1-9 to 0-9 clear.
But they didn’t build on the lead and it was Louth that enjoyed much of the possession in the next few minutes and points from O’Connor and Burns had it 1-9 to 0-11 with 22-minutes to play.
Then Limerick made the break for the winning line with the next 1-3.
Ian Ryan pointed two frees before Hegarty fisted over. The U-21 captain could have opted to try for goal but his angle was tight.
But just one minute later, Pa Ranahan made no mistake when he found himself in a similar position. After receiving a slip pass from Ryan he blasted high to the net to put Limerick 2-12 to 0-11 clear.
Just before this Louth were reduced to 14-men when corner back Kevin Toner was shown a red card for a late challenge on Ryan.
So with an extra man and a lead of seven points Limerick looked comfortable in the relegation dogfight with 14-minutes to play.
Alas there were to be plenty nervy moments before the final whistle with Limerick to score just once in the final 17-minutes that were played.
A low drive from Ryan Burns had Louth’s first goal seven minutes from time.
In the final minute Ian Ryan had his eighth point and Limerick’s last score.
Although five points clear an injury time goal from Conor Grimes ensured almost two anxious minutes of keep-ball for Limerick before the elation and relief of the final whistle and league relegation avoided.
SCORERS: Limerick: Ian Ryan 0-8 (6frees), Peter Nash 1-1, Pa Ranahan 1-0, Iain Corbett, Robert Browne, Danny Neville, Gearoid Hegarty 0-1 each. Louth: Ryan Burns 1-4 (0-3frees), Conor Grimes 1-0, Colm Judge 0-3, Derek Crilly 0-2, Derek Maguire, Eoin O’Connor 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: Brian Scanlon; Stephen Cahill, Johnny McCarthy, Robert Browne; Iain Corbett, Padraig Browne, Cillian Fahy; Tom Lee, Gearoid Hegarty; John Riordan, Pa Ranahan, Darragh Treacy; Peter Nash, Seanie Buckley, Ian Ryan. Subs: Danny Neville for Darragh Treacy, b-c (9mins), Cian Sheehan for John Riordan (45mins), Sean O’Dea for Stephen Cahill (66mins), Micheal Brosnan for Peter Nash (67mins), Jamie Lee for Ian Ryan (71mins).
LOUTH: Neil Gallagher; Kevin Toner, Patrick Reilly, Padraig Rath; Anthony Williams, Dessie Finnegan, James Stewart; Bavan Duffy, Eoin O’Connor; Adrian Reid, Derek Crilly, Declan Byrne; Ryan Burns, Colm Judge, Derek Maguire. Subs: Conor Grimes for James Stewart (30mins), Ruairi Moore for Declan Byrne (52mins), Shane O’Hanlon for Derek Crilly (55mins), Daniel O’Connor for Eoin O’Connor (57mins).
REFEREE: Martin McNally