Limerick 2-6 Antrim 0-9
Goals from Ian Ryan and a Sean McSweeney penalty gave Limerick their first win of the year as they reached Round 2B of the qualifiers after this victory at Corrigan Park in Belfast.
John Brudair’s side had goalkeeper Donal O’Sullivan to thank for three excellent saves, but a poor display from the home side means they were not able to follow up their promotion to Division 3 with a championship win.
Limerick led by 2-2 to 0-6 at the interval and kicked on to the win thanks to points from McSweeney, Ryan and Stephen Cahill.
Antrim used the wind in the opening half well and a free from Ryan Murphy after 40 seconds and a Kevin Niblock score from the right had saw the home side into a two point lead.
Limerick, without a competitive win all season, eventually settled at Corrigan with a free from McSweeney from distance against the wind giving them a lift.
The visitors got a huge boost when Seanie Buckley picked out Ryan at the edge of the square and the St Senan’s man hit the net with a low shot past Chris Kerr after five minutes.
The Antrim net was rattled for a second time just three minutes later, and this time it came from McSweeney’s penalty kick. Midfielder Darragh Treacy was fouled when he managed to get in behind the Antrim cover.
McSweeney kept his nerve to drill the ball into the bottom right corner of the net to push Limerick into a 2-01 to 0-02 advantage.
Those goals gave Limerick a lot of confidence but Antrim responded well.
Matthew Fitzpatrick was the first Antrim man to find his range with a good score from the right in the 13thminute and four minutes later Patrick McBride kicked his side’s fourth point to cut the gap to three points.
Tommy Childs was a late introduction for injured Limerick captain Iain Corbett, and he impressed around the middle and laid on a fine score from the right for Ryan after 18 minutes.
Ryan had a great chance for his second goal nine minutes from time when he got up ahead of substitute Martin Johnson, only for Kerr to deny him with a great save with his feet.
And Antrim then finished the half strongly and McBride and Sean Burke pointed to make it 2-02 to 0-06 at the interval.
Armed with a two-point lead and a strengthening wind at their back, Limerick were bright from the off in the second period and after some solid defensive play, it was corner-back Cahill that extended their lead to three in the 44th minute.
After shooting just six points in 50 minutes Antrim were always going to need a goal to launch a comeback and that chance came to Martin Johnson as he cut in from the right, but Donal O’Sullivan pulled off a super save to keep his goal intact.
The introduction of Tomas McCann gave Antrim a much needed injection of pace up front and he followed a free from Ryan Murray with one of his own to cut the Limerick lead to two points with nine minutes remaining.
Ryan pushed that out to a goal with a free but Antrim twice went close to finding the net in the closing stages but O’Sullivan produced great saves to deny Ryan Murray and Martin Johnson and book their place in the next round.
Limerick: D O’Sullivan; P Browne, S Cahill (0-01), S O’Dea; B Fanning, J McCarthy, P Ranahan; D Treacy, S Buckley; G Noonan, P Nash, T Childs; S McSweeney (1-03, 1-00 pen, 0-03f), I Ryan (1-02), H Bourke.
Subs: E Hogan for Bourke (50 mins), P Hannon for Nash (63 mins), I Corbett for Childs (66 mins).
Antrim: C Kerr; K O’Boyle, J Crozier, R Johnson; P McBride (0-02), P Gallagher, M Sweeney; S McVeigh, M McCann; J Laverty, M Fitzpatrick (0-01), K Niblock (0-02, 1f)); R Murray (0-02f), N McKeever, S Burke (0-01).
Subs: M Johnson for McVeigh (20 mins), D McAleese for Laverty (30 mins), C Murray for Gallagher (h-t), P McAleer for R Johnson (h-t), T McCann for McKeever (56 mins), J Carron for Burke (66 mins).
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone).