Limerick footballers relegated to Division 4 after league defeat to Wicklow:

By John Redington Limerick Leader Sport

“We corrected a few things over the break, but we left ourselves too much to do after a poor first half,” was manager Jimmy Lee’s summing up of Limerick’s Division Three National Football League 0-9 to 0-8 defeat to Wicklow in Aughrim on Saturday where their sixth loss out of six condemns to their second successive relegation.

Although Limerick rallied after the break and were pressing for the equalising point right at the end, it also had much to do with the home team’s nerves as they tried to defend a four-point advantage at the turnover.

Not unexpectedly for a head-to-head between the two sides locked at the bottom of the table, avoiding defeat occupied both teams’ thoughts and that led to long periods of possession that struggled to create the opening.

When the Garden County finally abandoned their caution during the second quarter, they built up a five point lead on the back of a dominant midfield which looked as it might be enough to survive on a miserably wet afternoon for football.

Limerick’s woes were mainly down to their finishing with just three points coming from play as Josh Ryan, lining out as goalkeeper on his return after eighteen months out with a serious leg injury, ended up as the team’s top scorer with four long range frees, The game also saw Danny Neville make his first appearance in the green shirt in three years on his return from Dubai.

That the visitors were still in with a shout right at the end was also down to Wicklow sending one final-quarter shot at the undefended goals skimmg just over the crossbar and a second crashing back off it as quick kick-outs left the free-taking Ryan struggling to get back to his goal line in time. Both escapes added to Wicklow nerves and the rash of frees conceded that followed gave Limerick the impetus to renew their late attacks.

Play opened to long cautious moves by both sides before Wicklow’s midfield gained the upper hand as Kevin Quinn’s free got them off the mark and, while they struggled to add to it during the first quarter, their patient play finally opened the holes Dean Healy and Gavin Fogarty to move the margin to three.

Limerick finally made it tto the scoreboard when Ryan sent over a 55 metre free but the lack of urgency in their movement prevented them from opening up enough space for the finish. Continuing to struggle midfield, the Leinstermen moved further ahead through Matt Nolan and Quinn’s free and, even the loss of Healy to a black card after he had sent over another had little effect until Ryan potted another monster free to pull the deficit facing the visitors to 0-6 to 0-2 at the break.

Limerick pressed forward on the restart as the Garden County conceded territory and packed back to protect their lead and strikes from Cillian Fahy and Bob Childs had the gap back to two going into the final quarter. However, as the pace of the buildup dropped in the heavy conditions, the home team pounced on the break and were unlucky to see Quinn’s shot skim over the crossbar of the undefended goals.

When Christopher O’Brien added another with eleven regulation minutes to go, Limerick rallied again to two frees for Ryan to punish but they blessed when, after sending over the second, he was still racing back to his posts as the quick kickout found Healy whose shot at the open goalmouth came back off the crossbar. A last effort at a nervous Wicklow defence saw James Naughton’s free and Bryan Nix’s pot from distance reduce the gap in injury time to a single point but ttime ran out before the visitors could find the equalising score.

SCORERS, WICKLOW: Kevin Quinn 0-3 (2 frees), Dean Healy 0-2, Gavin Fogarty, Matt Nolan, Christopher O’Brien, Oisín McGraynor 0-1 each; LIMERICK: Josh Ryan 0-4 (4 frees), Cillian Fahy, Bob Childs, James Naughton (free), Bryan Nix 0-1 each.

WICKLOW: Shane Doyle; Tom Moran, Malachy Stone, Eoin Murtagh; Matt Nolan, Patrick O’Keane, Gavin Fogarty; Dean Healy, Craig Maguire; Darragh Fee, Christopher O’Brien, Cathal Baker; Johnny Carlin, Kevin Quinn, John Paul Nolan. SUBS: Oisín McGraynor for Johnny Carlin (61 minutes), Gearóid Murphy for John Paul Nolan (67 minutes), Jack Kirwan for Craig Maguire (68 minutes), Killian McDonald for Gavin Fogarty (69 minutes), Conor Fee for Christopher O’Brien (72 minutes).

LIMERICK: Josh Ryan; Darren O’Doherty, Seán O’Dea, Colm McSweeney; Barry Coleman, Cillian Fahy, Iain Corbett; Tommy Childs, Cathal Downes, Paul Maher; Jamie Baynham, James Naughton, Peter Nash. SUBS: Danny Neville for Tadhg Ó Siochrú (half-time), Bryan Nix for Jamie Baynham (half-time). Brian O’Sullivan for Colm McSweeney (injured, half-time), Eoin Hurley for Peter Nash (57 minutes), Shane Costello for Paul Maher (70 minutes).

REFEREE: Pat Clarke (Cavan).