Limerick swept to the top of the Allianz Hurling League Division 1B table this afternoon after they comprehensively outplayed Offaly in a surprisingly one-sided contest at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park in Tullamore.
The Treaty men put the tie to bed by the midway point of the second half when Aaron Gillane fired home the only goal of the game.
Kevin Martin’s side put in a committed, physical performance but they never found the fluency or the rhythm that put Dublin to the sword at Croke Park a week ago, and struggled to make any inroads up front.
Scoring chances were hard to come by, and even when they arrived, a final tally of 15 wides and two stunning saves from Nicky Quaid equated to a conversion rate of less than 40% - something that Martin will be keen to work on in advance of his team’s trip to Salthill in a fortnight’s time.
However Limerick deserve immense credit for their showing and it was easy to see why manager John Kiely expressed his satisfaction with the performance after the contest. They competed well in the battles for loose possession and looked capable of scoring from all sorts of angles, starting from early on when Cian Lynch sent over a stunning point from under the stand.
At that stage, the tie was very competitive. Offaly trailed by the odd point in nine when
Shane Kinsella was pulled down by Paddy O’Loughlin as he charged in on goal after 17 minutes. Damien Egan’s penalty sailed a yard wide of the top corner however, and while Tommy Geraghty soon levelled for the home sides, Limerick took over for the remainder of the contest.
Nicky Quaid’s restarts were superb as he picked out players in space all across the middle third of the field, while Diarmuid Byrnes and Paul Browne were hugely influential as they drove forward from deep positions to pick off five points between them over the course of the tie.
Up front Aaron Gillane was accurate from dead balls while Tom Morrissey and Darragh O’Donovan also posed a threat from the half forward line.
An 0-12 to 0-7 interval lead was soon pushed out by Limerick adding five of the next seven scores after the break, while any ideas Offaly might have entertained of a comeback were dealt a further blow when wing back Dermot Shortt was shown a second yellow card for a third man tackle early in the second half.
Shane Dooley’s introduction failed to fire up the home side as he added three wides to a tally that was mounting fast, and Limerick further emphasised their dominance when they struck the game’s only goal by the three-quarter mark, Aaron Gillane slipping the ball to the net after Barry Murphy won a high ball and drove at the full back line to create an overlap.
Offaly: Conor Slevin; Tom Spain, Sean Gardiner, Ben Conneely; David O’Toole, Pat Camon, Dermot Shortt; Shane Kinsella (0-01), David King; Damien Egan (0-6, 0-04 frees), Colin Egan, Dan Currams (0-01); Oisín Kelly, Conor Mahon, Tommy Geraghty (0-01).
Subs: Shane Dooley for Geraghty (HT), Cillian Kiely for King (46), Paddy Rigney for Mahon (57), Colm Gath (0-01) for Kelly (61), Ciarán Cleary for C Egan (61)
Limerick: Nicky Quaid; Sean Finn, Seamus Hickey, Richie English; Diarmuid Byrnes (0-02), Dan Morrissey, Paddy O’Loughlin; Paul Browne (0-03), Cian Lynch (0-01); Tom Morrissey (0-02), Darragh O’Donovan (0-03, 0-01 free), Barry O’Connell; Gearóid Hegarty (0-02), Seamus Flanagan (0-01), Aaron Gillane (1-08, 0-07 frees).
Subs: Barry Murphy for O’Connell (53), David Reidy (0-01) for T Morrissey (57), Oisín O’Reilly (0-01) for Hegarty (63), Andrew LaTouche Cosgrove for Lynch (63), Lorcan Lyons for Gillane (67)
Ref: Sean Cleere (Kilkenny)