First-half goals from Brian Donovan and Cillian Fahy powered Limerick to a well-deserved seven-point Allianz League Division 3 victory over Longford.
But the win didn't come without a scare for Billy Lee's men, as Longford – boosted by the half-time introduction of Darragh Doherty – brought the game to within two points as the game reached stoppage time in the second half.
Limerick withheld the late Longford comeback as Robbie Bourke settled the nerves in reply to Doherty’s fisted goal, before James Naughton rounded off a Limerick counter-attack for his side’s fourth goal.
After a cautious start to the game from Longford, it was the hosts who got off to a flying start and were four points ahead by the third minute following a superb opening point from Fahy and a well-worked goal from the Limerick midfielder.
Fahy had raised the green flag after just three minutes and really showed composure to find the net. The Dromcollogher Broadford midfielder was put through on goal after an intelligent Pádraig De Brún pass split the Longford defence and his low drive found the back of the net.
Limerick cruised into a five-point lead after seven minutes, with Longford’s first score coming in the ninth minute when Oran Kenny slotted over a close-range advanced mark.
The visitors got their first score from play in the 15th minute when Barry O’Farrell found himself in space on the right-hand side before coolly handpassing over the bar.
With ten minutes to go before half-time, Limerick got their second goal. It was Donovan who found the net – the Monaleen centre-forward linking up well with De Brún and the lively Peter Nash before finding the net to open up a six-point lead.
The result looked sealed in the 31st minute when Donovan found himself through on goal yet again, before blasting home for his second and Limerick’s third goal of the evening.
All of Limerick’s first half tally of 3-05 came from play, while Longford struggled in front of goal and managed just four points from play.
After the restart, Longford were much improved and credit to Billy O’Loughlin’s visiting side, they managed to narrow the deficit to six midway through the half – boosted by the scoring efforts of two of the six players introduced from the bench.
A superb low Donal O’Sullivan save – 15 minutes from time – denied Oran Kenny a certain opportunity to find the back of the net – a goal which would have brought his side back to within three points.
Limerick managed just two second-half points until second-half injury-time – a Josh Ryan free and a Naughton point – as Longford outscored the hosts in the third quarter with both sides finishing the second half on 1-04 apiece.
A Darragh Doherty palmed goal – one minute into stoppage time – gave the hosts a real scare, narrowing the deficit to just two points.
However, Limerick upped the tempo in the dying moments and a last-minute Naughton goal salvaged the win for the home side.
Limerick face a difficult trip to Antrim next Saturday, while Longford will hope to get back to winning ways when they host Louth on Sunday.
Limerick: Donal O’Sullivan; Jim Liston, Sean O’Dea, Michael Donovan; Cian Sheehan, Iain Corbett, Robert Childs; Darragh Treacy, Cillian Fahy (1-03); Pádraig De Brún (0-01), Brian Donovan (2-01), James Naughton (1-01); Peter Nash, Josh Ryan (0-01, 0-01f), Hugh Bourke (0-01).
Subs: Paul Maher for Donovan (17), Adrian Enright for De Brún (42), Robbie Bourke (0-01) for Ryan (61), Tony McCarthy for Childs (61), Diarmuid Kelly for Nash (63).
Longford: Paddy Collum; Patrick Fox, Andrew Farrell, Barry O’Farrell (0-01); James Moran, Michael Quinn, Iarla O’Sullivan; Darren Gallagher (0-02, 0-02f), Ryan Moffett; Peter Lynn, Aaron Farrell, Dessie Reynolds; Joseph Hagan (0-02), Jayson Matthews (0-02), Oran Kenny (0-01, 0-01m).
Subs: Robbie Smyth (0-01) for Farrell (ht), Darragh Doherty (1-02, 0-01f) for Lynn (ht), Keelin McGann for Hagan (53), Tadgh McNevin for Gallagher (53), Ross McNerney for Kenny (61), Cian Dooner for Smyth (66).