Relegated Limerick sign off on league campaign with narrow defeat to Offaly:

By John Redington Limerick Leader Sport

“AT LEAST we performed for the full 70 minutes, the biggest plus we’ve had from a disappointing campaign,” was manager Jimmy Lee’s one ray of comfort as Limerick ended their National League Division Three campaign with a 0-12 to 1-10 defeat to Offaly at Glenisk O’Connor Park, Tullamore on Sunday.

With seven defeats out of seven, Limerick have crashed to their second successive relegation. A typical end-of-campaign demotion dogfight on Sunday saw more action on the margins than in the game itself as a jittery Offaly overcame nerves, a pair of red cards and 14 wides to preserve their Division 3 status by the narrowest of margins.

The result didn’t matter to the losers as their fate had already been sealed by defeat away to Wicklow the week before but, for once, they stuck with the task right up to the end of 88 minutes of occasional acts of brilliance, long periods of caution, a few defensive howlers and no shortage of bruising challenges.

That they almost whipped the result from under the noses of their fancied opponents may turn out to be the moment Limerick discovered a collective identity at the end of of a league campaign best forgotten as they head into the serious business of the summer.

That said, however, this was a game the Leinster side should have wrapped up long before busy referee John Gilmartin eventually blew the long whistle. Whenever they soaked up Limerick pressure and shot themselves ahead, they immediately reverted back into containment mode and it was only when they were reduced to 13 at the end that they used their possession with conviction.

With the breeze behind them, Limerick got off to an early start as Bob Childs pointed on the turn but the home side were quick to respond through Dylan Hyland. However, the visitors continued to dominate possession as Offaly packed back behind the ball and James Naughton’s pointed free and a monster Cathal Downes effort from play put them two in front.

Play slowed down after that as Offaly began to rack up the wides, despite Jack Bryant striking back and, after an exchange of points between Naughton’s free and John Furlong, another Naughton free and Downes gave some substance to Limerick’s advantage.

Going into the five added minutes, the Faithful lifted a gear, were unfortunate to see a Bryant goal effort footblocked on the line and their only reward was Hyland’s point on the stroke of half-time that narrowed Limerick’s lead to 0-6 to 0-4 at the break.

Limerick attacked on the restart only to concede Keith O’Neill’s breakaway point and, as their fruitless spell of attacking wound down, Hyland struck again from distance to equalise. This was followed by Josh Ryan being dispossessed off his own short kickout and Cathal Flynn tapping the ball into the undefended goal.

Peter Nash’s immediate reply stopped Offaly building on their lead and, as the ceded the initiative in the middle third, Shane Costello and another Naugton free had the sides level again.

Another two long range points by Anton Sullivan and Hyland from quick breakaways had the Midlanders back in control as play entered the final quarter and, after Downes pulled one back, Hyland and Nathan Poland, from a mark, eased the margin out to three as Limerick were reduced to fourteen with Bob Childs’s black card.

By this stage, play was becoming increasingly scrappy and niggly and, after Barry Coleman cut the margin after surging up from deep and Paul Maher blocked Furlong’s goal effort at the other end from a defensive turnover with a last-ditch tackle, there was more action going on off the ball than on it as the watch wandered into 13 minutes of added time.

Hyland was then sent off for a second yellow. Diarmaid Kelly converted a free to leave just a point between the sides. Another altercation saw Nigel Dunne also depart for an early shower, but Limerick were unable to press home their two-man advantage as the hosts, finally responding to the urgency of their position, missed two easy chances to add some comfort to their lead.

SCORERS: OFFALY: Dylan Hyland 0-5, Cathal Flynn 1-0, Jack Bryant (free), John Furlong, Keith O’Neill, Anton Sullivan, Nathan Poland (mark) 0-1 each; LIMERICK: James Naughton 0-4 (4 frees), Cathal Downes 0-3, Bob Childs, Peter Nash, Shane Costello, Barry Coleman, Diarmaid Kelly (free) 0-1 each.

OFFALY: Ian Duffy; Jack McEvoy, Declan Hogan, Lee Pearson; Cormac Egan, David Dempsey, John Furlong; Eoin Carroll, Peter Cunningham; Dylan Hyland, Ruairí McNamee, Jordan Hayes; Cathal Flynn, Keith O’Neill, Jack Bryant. SUBS: Anton Sullivan for Ruairí McNamee (40 minutes), Nigel Dunne for Jack Bryant (46 minutes), Nathan Poland for Jordan Hayes (50 minutes), Jack O’Brien for Lee Pearson (62 minutes), Kevin McDermott for Anton Sullivan (injured, 67 minutes)

LIMERICK: Josh Ryan; Darren O’Doherty, Seán O’Dea, Brian O’Sullivan; Barry Coleman, Iain Corbett, Paul Maher; Tommy Childs, Cillian Fahy; Bob Childs, Cathal Downes; James Naughton; Jamie Baynham, Danny Neville, Bryan Nix. SUBS: Peter Nash for Jamie Baynham (35+2 minutes), Shane Costello for Iain Corbett (injured, half-time), Diarmaid Kelly for Bryan Nix (59 minutes),

REFEREE: John Gilmartin (Sligo).