By John Reddington Limerick Leader Sport


Limerick’s national football league campaign ended in Newcastle West on Sunday when an Antrim goal straight from the second-half throw-in gave the visitors a lead which they held to the final whistle. It might have had a major bearing on the table as their players huddled around around the tweet machine after the game only to see their Division Four promotion hopes dashed by a disallowed Carlow goal.

Laois’ victory meant that their head-to-head with Antrim was consigned to the dustbin as was Limerick’s twice-postponed outstanding fixture against Wicklow. Both managers were incensed by Croke Park’s refusal to play out the schedule of games and questioned where the Association’s priorities now lay.

“If the game doesn’t go ahead, it makes the league farcical,” was how Antrim’s Lenny Harbinson saw it. “Money is certainly ruling the GAA at the moment and we’re beginning to fall away from our ethos,” said Limerick’s Billy Lee. “Smaller counties are making more efforts to be competitive than they did thirty years ago and, if that’s lost in the middle of what’s going on,
it’s not right.”

With another two inter-county debutants bringing the number of players who saw league action to thirty-two, Limerick showed the better composure before the interval as they tied down Antrim’s movements forward and showed a sharpness on the break that allowed them to build up a lead. However, with their destiny in their own hands, the Glensmen had their ducks in a row when they re-emerged and outscored their opponents 1-5 to 0-1 in the third quarter to put the result beyond Limerick’s reach.

Antrim failed to score off their early attacks before a heavy shower appeared and Limerick penetrated the score zone. Danny Neville got them off the mark at the end of a solo run and, after the kickout was marked, Peter Nash found Jamie Lee who split the posts.

The Ulstermen continued to rack up the wides as Lee’s speculative shot delivered his second score before Paddy McBride’s effort from out on the right finally broke the ice. However, their approach play struggled to maintain its pace when coming up against the defence, giving Limerick the chance to counter on the breakdown but they too started missing the target.

CJ McGourty’s free narrowed the gap but his second was well off before McBride converted the third to equalise. Raiding down on the left, Ryan Murray then gave the Glensmen the lead but it lasted just a minute as Jamie Lee struck off Killian Ryan’s pass and Danny Neville followed up by beating his marker out to the ball to point on the turn.

The Limerick attacks were also slowing down coming up to the break but Davy Lyons found space at the end of a protracted movement going nowhere to extend their lead. It was enough to provoke Matthew Fitzpatrick’s response off a raid down the right but, after Colum McSweeney was black-carded and McGourty missed the resulting free, Killian Ryan struck with the last kick of the first half to leave the hosts leading 0-7 to 0-5.

Sixteen seconds after the restart, the Glensmen were back in front as McBride drew the defence off the throw-in and offloaded to Fitzpatrick who drilled low and hard to the left corner. Niall Delargy followed up and, when Murray put a clear goal between the sides, Antrim looked as if they’d left their earlier lethargy in the dressing-room.

A Neville free steadied Limerick and he had the chance to put his side back in front but was blocked by Chris Kerr. Antrim made the most of their escape as Murray and sub Ruairí McCann both struck on the run and Mark Sweeney finished off a quick break from their own end line.

Neville replied off a mazy run and Murray hit back before Lyons got his second off Josh Ryan’s pass and was then substituted. Murray sent over a disputed free brought in for dissent, Peter Nash responded but Limerick failed to come any closer as Antrim passed the ball around for fun to run down the clock.

Ricky Johnston broke a long lazy move for an injury time point but Josh Ryan caused a last minute flutter when breaking a high delivery for a spectacular scissors kick which Kerr deflected over the crossbar.

SCORERS, ANTRIM: Ryan Murray 0-5 (1 free), Matthew Fitzpatrick 1-1, Paddy McBride 0-2 (1 free), CJ McGourty (free), Niall Delargy, Ruairí McCann, Mark Sweeney, Ricky Johnston 0-1 each; LIMERICK: Danny Neville 0-5 (1 free), Jamie Lee (1 free), Davy Lyons 0-2 each, Cillian Fahy, Peter Nash, Josh Ryan 0-1 each.

ANTRIM: Chris Kerr; Peter Healy, Patrick Gallagher, Niall Delargy; Kevin O’Boyle, Mark Sweeney, James Laverty; Ricky Johnston, Paddy McAleer; Matthew Fitzpatrick, Ódhrán Eastwood, Paddy McBride; CJ McGourty, Colm Duffin, Ryan Murray. SUBS: Kristian Healy for Patrick Gallagher (half-time), Ruairi McCann for CJ McGourty (half-time), Michael McCarry for Ódhrán Eastwood (53 minutes), Declan Lynch for James Laverty (59 minutes), Pat Branagan for Paddy McBride (66

LIMERICK: Donal O’Sullivan; Garett Noonan, Seán O’Dea, Ray O’Flaherty; Colm McSweeney, Cillian Fahy, Jim Liston; Darragh Treacy, Tommy Griffin; Peter Nash, Killian Ryan, Davy Lyons; Danny Neville, Pa Begley, Jamie Lee. SUBS: Shane Doherty for Colum McSweeney (black card, 35 minutes), Eoin Joy for Killian Ryan (42 minutes), Pádraig Scanlon for Jamie Lee (42 minutes), Josh Ryan for Pa Begley (54 minutes), Seán McSweeney for Davy Lyons (59 minutes), Oran Collins for Jim Liston (63 minutes).

REFEREE: Alan Kissane (Waterford)

MAN OF THE MATCH: With four points from play as well as a free and foiled from regaining Limerick’s lead by an outstanding save, Danny Neville showed a sharpness up front that led his side to a half-time lead and kept them in contact even when they zapped by Antrim’s blitz after the break.