Limerick hurlers battle past Antrim challenge

Wayne McNamara, Limerick, in action against Eoghan Campbell, Antrim, during Sunday's Allianz Hurling League Division 1B game in Ballycastle
Limerick’s hurlers got their first win of the 2015 Allianz League Division 1B campaign with a hard-fought 0-23 to 1-12 win over Antrim at Ballycastle on Sunday.

Limerick’s hurlers got their first win of the 2015 Allianz League Division 1B campaign with a hard-fought 0-23 to 1-12 win over Antrim at Ballycastle on Sunday.

It was a game that Limerick never really looked like losing, although it took TJ Ryan’s side until midway through the second half to shake off the dogged home side.

After a nip and tuck first half, the visitors held a one point advantage at the break but the Saffrons stole into the lead just after the restart when Eoghan Campbell fired home the game’s only goal. The home lead was short-lived however, with Tom Condun and Paul Brown levelling again with five minutes.

Limerick got off to the better start and led by 0-2 to no score after four minutes with Brown and Shane Dowling on target. By the 10th minute it was all square at 0-3 apiece, with Paul Shiels landing two sublime points, and when Mattie Donnelly pointed, the home side went into the lead for the first time.

The heavy conditions didn’t make for attractive hurling and referee John Keenan had to throw-in the sliotar on a number of occasions after it became buried in the soft Ballycastle surface. Three unanswered scores had Limerick 0-6 to 0-4 to the good on the 20-minute mark, with Seamus Hickey making a foray upfield to land his side’s sixth point of the day.

In-between the superb Cian Lynch bagged his first point of thE day after James Ryan came out of a ruck with the sliotar and hand-passed to the Patrickswell man to split the posts.

Antrim battled back, restoring parity through Ciaran Johnston and Neal McAuley. There was a moment of controversy when umpires waived Donal O’Grady’s 25th minute effort wide, but referee John Keenan overruled his officials to signal Limerick’s seventh score of the day.

The sides went score for score until the short whistle, with a Shiels free levelling the sides for the sixth time, however Brown’s second of the day on the stroke of half-time gave Limerick a 0-10 to 0-9 lead at half-time.

Within a minute of the restart, Antrim were back in the lead. Ciaran Clarke pulled the ball back to Campbell after a mazy run to the end-line and the Cushendall clubman finished superbly past Nicky Quaid for a 1-9 to 0-10 lead.

The Saffrons held the advantage for just four minutes. Condun, Brown and O’Grady pointed to level matters and Wayne McNamara completed an unanswered run of four points for the visitors.

An injury to Neil McManus forced the Antrim captain off midway through the second half and Limerick made full use of the extra space in the middle third. Limerick began to find more space within the tight confines of the Ballycastle pitch and Condun added a brace to put three points between them.

Limerick also began to boss things at the back. With the Antrim forwards increasingly living on scraps, Richie McCarthy and Seamus Hickey began to dominate the Antrim full forward line, however two efforts from distance from Campbell and Shiels brought Antrim to within a point on the 54th minute.

But that was as good as it got for the Ulstermen who failed to raise another flag for the remainder of the game. Dowling remained accurate from frees, accounting for three of the final five points from placed balls, while Lynch tacked on his third of the day. Sub John Fitzgibbon became the 10th Limerick scorer in injury time.

SCORERS - Limerick: Shane Dowling 0-6 (all frees), David Reidy, Tom Condon, Paul Browne, Cian Lynch 0-3 each. Donal O’Grady 0-2, John Fitzgibbon, Seamus Hickey and James Ryan 0-1 each; Antrim: P Shiels 0-7 (five frees), E Campbell 1-1, S McCrory, C Johnston, C Clarke and M Donnelly 0-1 each

LIMERICK: Nicky Quaid; Stephen Walsh, Richie McCarthy, Seamus Hickey; Tom Condon, Wayne McNamara, Dan Morrissey; James Ryan, Paul Browne; David Reidy, Donal O’Grady, Cian Lynch; Tom Morrissey, Shane Dowling, Adrian Breen. Subs: Seanie Tobin for A Breen (48 mins), Declan Hannon for T Morrissey (59 mins), Conor Allis for T Condon (67 mins), John Fitzgibbon for D O’Grady (69 mins), Seanie O’Brien for P Browne (70 mins)

ANTRIM: C O’Connell; R McCambridge, N McAuley, A Graffin; S McCrory, C McKinlay, M Bradley; N McManus, C Johnston; P Shiels, D McKernan, E Campbell; C Clarke, PJ O’Connell, M Donnelly. Subs: E McCloskey for D McKernan (31 mins), C Carson for M Donnelly (48 mins), O McFadden for N McManus (52 mins), S McAfee for PJ O’Connell (65 mins), D Hamill for C Johnson (65 mins)