AND so for the first time since 2002 Limerick footballers have managed to string two wins together in the All-Ireland qualifier series and, as a result, have advanced to the last 12 of the championship.
A much sterner lest lies ahead this Saturday in the guise of beaten Leinster finalists Wexford, but given the poorly state of Limerickâ€™s fortunes following the heavy Munster semi-final defeat to Kerry a little over six weeks ago, the season is still redeemable.
This was a potential banana skin tie. Limerick may have been chalked up at skinny odds of 1/3 to prevail by the bookiesâ€™, but the reality was that the two Munster rivals had recorded two wins each in their last four league and championship meetings.
No question of complacency on Limerickâ€™s part then and the impressive manner in which Maurice Horanâ€™s men set about their task with an insatiable appetite for hard work and determination augured well. With half an hour gone, the home side had built up an impressive five point advantage at 0-9 to 0-4 and Waterford didnâ€™t look capable of mounting a response.
However, the complexion of the game, played out before 2,385 paying customers, changed utterly either side of half time. Five unanswered points from the visitors as Limerick lost their way ensured that by half time, the Deise trailed by just two, 0-7 to 0-9, and within eight minutes of the re-start the sides were level at 0-9 each.
If Limerick had expected the strong breeze to win the game for them, the Shannonsiders were mistaken. The home side was creating chances, but a string of bad wides- 9 in all in the half- led to growing frustration among the home supporters at least.
Credit Limerick, though, for their composed, gritty, industrious showing during the final 20 minutes of the game. The home side outscored their opponents 0-5 to 0-0 during that spell. Waterford prospects were certainly not helped by the sending off of their attacking talisman Gary Hurney with 10 minutes remaining after he appeared to strike out at Limerick midfielder Thomas Lee. Waterford trailed by just two points at this stage.
Match referee Cormac Reilly flashed the red card after consulting with an umpire. The Meath referee, who controversially awarded a last gasp free to Dublin in the final stages of their Leinster semi-final defeat of Kildare, was also the centre of attention mid-way through the opening half of this round three qualifier tie.
The match official signalled for a Waterford penalty having decided that Limerick corner back Tommy Stack had fouled Waterford attacker Paul Whyte from behind as he raced goalwards. Limerick players were clearly unhappy with the decision and after referee Reilly consulted with the umpires, he changed his mind and opted for a throw ball instead. Limerick had been one point to the good at that stage of the game.
While Limerickâ€™s decision to utilise a two-man full forward line of Ian Ryan and Ger Collins worked superbly in the second round win over Offaly, the supply of ball into the inside line on this occasion was sparse.
Collins managed two points, one from play, while despite a hard-working display, in which he was utilised further out the field in the second period; Ryan didnâ€™t manage to get his name on the scoresheet.
In the circumstances, Limerick needed the scores from elsewhere and the tireless Stephen Kelly, Seamus Oâ€™Carroll and John Mullane contributed handsomely.
SCORERS - Limerick: Stephen Kelly 0-7 (0-3 frees), John Mullane, Ger Collins (0-1 free), Seamus Oâ€™Carroll 0-2 each, John Cooke 0-1; Waterford: Paul Whyte (0-4, 0-2 frees, 0-1 â€™65), Patrick Hurney (0-2), Brian Wall (free), Sean Fleming (sideline kick), Gary Hurney (0-1) each.
LIMERICK - Brian Scanlon; Tommy Stack, Shane Gallagher, Stephen Lavin; John Riordan, Johnny McCarthy, Pa Ranahan; Seanie Buckley, Thomas Lee; Stephen Kelly, John Mullane, Mike Sheehan; Ger Collins, Seamus Oâ€™Carroll, Ian Ryan. Subs: Barry Fitzpatrick for Stack (injured, 24 mins), John Cooke for Sheehan (46 mins), Eoghan Oâ€™Connor for Mullane (55 mins), Eoin Hogan for Oâ€™Carroll (67 mins), Paul Kinnerk for Lee (70 + 2 mins).
WATERFORD - Kieran Cotter; Maurice Oâ€™Gorman, Thomas Oâ€™Gorman, Kieran Connery; Tony Grey (Capt), Conor Phelan, Wayne Hennessy; Brian Wall, Michael Ahearne; Paul Whyte, Sean Dempsey, Cillian Oâ€™Keeffe; Sean Fleming, Gary Hurney, Patrick Hurney. Subs: Brian Phelan for Dempsey (31 mins), Conor McGrath for Wall (half-time), Tommy Connors for Patrick Hurney (61 mins), JJ Hutchinson for Fleming (70 +2 mins).
Referee - Cormac Reilly (Meath)