Thursday 30 March 2017

Model point finger after dramatic exit

Limerick 1-18 Wexford 1-17

LIMERICK 1-18, WEXFORD 1-17 , ALL-IRELAND SFC QUALIFieR

O'Moore Park has rarely seen drama like this.

The game had slipped into injury-time, Wexford were ahead by three points and seemingly headed for an All-Ireland quarter-final, when Limerick suddenly smuggled a goal to herald what appeared like inevitable extra-time.

Then, Ian Ryan won a free and, after his effort sailed high, it was waved wide by one umpire while the other put up the flag.

After a flock of players surrounded the goal, referee Derek Fahy held a mini-conference with his umpires before the score was finally given. Limerick were somehow through, while Wexford collapsed in devastation.

Over the last eight years, no other team has been as unlucky not to reach an All-Ireland quarter-final as Limerick, and that target looked totally unattainable after Kerry filleted them back in June. Better Limerick teams than this one have faltered over that Round 4 qualifier hurdle, but this team showed what their predecessors had never lacked -- unbelievable heart and commitment.

That sustained them before they finally got the slice of luck that other Limerick sides couldn't buy.

This was an excellent game, which had everything to match the high-wire drama that accompanied it -- brilliant scores, manic intensity and two sets of really honest and courageous players who just went toe-to-toe in a shootout.

The tempo of the match was frantic throughout while the ball was rarely out of play. That was illustrated by the statistics of just 31 frees and nine wides.

There were stages in the second half when Wexford threatened to pull away, but Limerick always kept them within range.

charged

Even after they were reduced to 14 men down the home straight, Limerick refused to lie down and they charged at Wexford like a rhino.

In the end, it was a shame that such an excellent game and memorable day for Limerick football was shrouded in controversy. It also underlined once more the necessity for score technology in the GAA.

"It's an absolute joke," said Wexford goalkeeper Anthony Masterson.

"I don't know if the ball goes over the bar, I can't tell, but umpires are there to do a job. The umpire under the post said it was wide and signalled wide. The umpire on the far side of the goal said it was a point.

"The referee pulls the two of them in together. One of them says wide, blatantly, straight up; the other lad says it was a point. The referee pushed the man (for an answer) who said it was a wide, and he walked away. He only consulted with the man who said it was a point. Once he asked him what it was, your man said it was a point.

"The lad who said it was a wide never batted an eyelid, never argued, never asked a question. He just walked away. And he said to me after the match, 'It is what it is and it's done now'. Is that good enough for the GAA? How many more times are we going to get decisions wrong in the GAA?

"Last year you had Louth. We just give up too much of our lives to have decisions like that rob us in a match. To go out and have a decision like that made in GAA is an absolute disgrace."

For Limerick though, their bravery

was finally rewarded after successive agonising defeats at this stage to Meath and Cork.

"We took Cork to extra-time last year and they went on and won the All-Ireland," said manager Maurice Horan.

"We were a bit stung that people disregarded what we did last year just because of one poor performance against Kerry.

"In relation to experienced players -- Stephen Lavin, Johnny McCarthy, Stephen Kelly -- those players are heroes. This is not a token All-Ireland quarter-final appearance, they've earned it the hard way.

"Sometimes it feels like they're fighting a battle for the attention they deserve. You'd be saying to yourself, 'will they ever get a break?', but they'll savour this one now."

The game opened up with a fireball of scores, with 13 of the first 14 shots at the target yielding points. The sides were deadlocked at 0-6 each after 20 minutes and neither side would let the other out of sight.

Wexford had a penalty claim just on the stroke of half-time when Paddy Byrne was pulled down, but Fahy made the correct decision and Ciaran Lyng slotted the free to leave Wexford ahead at the break by 0-10 to 0-9.

Wexford went up an extra gear in the opening 10 minutes of the second half before Eric Bradley landed what seemed to be a decisive blow.

However, he definitely shifted hands in possession before he shot, though Fahy missed the transgression and Bradley drilled the ball low past 'keeper Brian Scanlon.

The sides continued to trade scores until four successive Limerick points had the deficit back to one again before that momentum was stalled with a Shane Roche point and the sending off of Limerick midfielder Thomas Lee on a straight red card after an off-the-ball incident.

The game looked up for Limerick in injury-time before sub Eoghan O'Connor kicked the ball through a massed defence to the corner of the net.

Then Ryan landed the winner, which led to a mass pitch invasion from their supporters.

At last, Limerick had made an All-Ireland quarter-final. Somehow.

Scorers -- Limerick: I Ryan (1f), S Kelly (3f) 0-5 each, G Collins 0-4 (2f), E O'Connor 1-0, J Cooke 0-2, S O'Carroll, T Lee 0-1 each. Wexford: PJ Banville, B Brosnan (2f), R Barry 0-3 each, E Bradley 1-0, C Lyng (2f), A Flynn, A Morrissey 0-2 each, S Roche, B Malone 0-1 each.

Limerick -- B Scanlon 7; T Stack 7, S Gallagher 8, S Lavin 9; J Riordan 7, J McCarthy 9, P Ranahan 7; S Buckley 8, T Lee 7; S Kelly 9, J Mullane 6, M Sheehan 7; G Collins 8, S O'Carroll 7, I Ryan 9. Subs: J Cooke 7 for Mullane (21), E O'Connor 8 for Sheehan (53), J O'Donovan 7 for O'Carroll (57), J Kelly 6 for Cooke (63), B Fitzpatrick 6 for Riordan (66).

Wexford -- A Masterson 7; J Wadding 7, G Molloy 8, B Malone 8; A Flynn 8, D Murphy 7, A Doyle 6; D Waters 7, A Morrissey 7; PJ Banville 9, C Lyng 7, B Brosnan 7; C Morris 7, E Bradley 7, R Barry 9. Subs: P Byrne 8 for Doyle (32), S Roche 7 for Morris (55), N Murphy 6 for D Murphy (60), A Doyle 6 for Morrissey (64), C Carthy 6 for Barry (68).

Ref -- D Fahy (Longford).

Irish Independent

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