By Kevin Corrigan
Offaly had to dig deep before claiming two crucial National Football League Division 3 South points in Tullamore today.
Just two points separated the sides at the end of a keenly contested if mediocre game and the result could have gone either way.
Offaly were marginally the better side and deserved to win but it wouldn't have taken much for Limerick to have snatched victory.
It's still a big result for John Maughan's side and with two wins from their two games, they are firmly on course for the semi-finals now.
Limerick were happy to go in level at half time, 0-05 each, even though they had the advantage of the wind. In terms of possession and general play, they were second best but they didn't miss much and two of their half backs, Robert Childs and Gordon Brown got forward for fine points.
Offaly really should have been ahead at half time. Joe Maher hit the woodwork with an 11th minute penalty that had sent Limerick goalkeeper Donal O'Sullivan the wrong way – Limerick full back Brian Fanning was black carded for pulling down Bernard Allen as he zeroed in on goal.
Three times Offaly led by two points but couldn't stretch it further. They were 0-03 to 0-01 ahead after 13 minutes, 0-4 to 0-2 after 23 minutes and 0-5 to 0-3 after 27 minutes. Limerick, however, stuck with it and fine points from Robert Childs and Hugh Bourke had them level at the break.
Limerick took the initiative with a tap in goal from Hugh Bourke three minutes into the second half. That gave them a 1-05 to 0-06 lead and it was in the melting pot from here to the end.
Crucially though, Offaly had edged back in front, 0-11 to 1-07 by the second half water break. The sides were level twice more after this but great points from Ruari McNamee and Cian Farrell gave Offaly a decisive two point lead with normal time almost up.
A Josh Ryan free got it back to a point but then veteran forward Niall McNamee got two excellent points as Offaly got the win they needed.
Offaly subs played a crucial role with Shane Horan, Cian Farrell and Niall McNamee kicking two each off the bench and this was pivotal to their win.
Offaly: Paddy Dunican; Declan Hogan, Eoin Rigney, Nial Darby; Colm Doyle, Johnny Moloney, Jordan Hayes; Peter Cunningham, Eoin Carroll (0-01); Bill Carroll, David Dempsey, Anton Sullivan (0-01); Bernard Allen (0-05), Joe Maher (0-01), Ruari McNamee (0-02).
Subs: James Lalor for Hogan, inj. (23), Shane Horan (0-02) for Bill Carroll (H/T), Cian Farrell (0-02) for Maher (H/T), Niall McNamee (0-02) for Sullivan (54), Carl Stewart for Dempsey (64), Rory Egan for Doyle (64), Ciaran Donnelly for Rigney (64),
Limerick: Donal O'Sullivan; Sean O'Dea, Brian Fanning, Michael Donovan; Tony McCarthy, Robert Childs (0-01), Gordon Brown (0-01); Darragh Treacy, Tommie Childs; Cian Sheehan, Cillian Fahy, Iain Corbett; Brian Donovan, Danny Neville (0-01), Hugh Bourke (1-03, 2f, 1m)
Subs: Paul Maher for McCarthy (H/T), Josh Ryan (0-04, 4f) for Sheehan (H/T), Peter Nash for Donovan (54), Luke Murphy for Brown (60), Gerard Stack for Bourke (68), Adrian Enright for Fahy (68),
Referee: John Gilmartin.