Writing was on the wall... and Lilies had mental edge
A NOTE pinned to the inside of the Kildare dressing-room door delivered an uncomplicated mission statement.
"What can I do for the team?" it asked, with the conclusion: "SHOOT, SHOOT, SHOOT" printed in block capitals underneath.
Only one problem. What's to shoot at if the road to goal is gridlocked?
"In fairness to our boys, they showed great character," said Kieran McGeeney in the tunnel afterwards.
"I think it was a great game for us. Mentally it helps going on. We know we're up against it again against Sligo next week, but it's great to have that there in your back pocket, knowing that you can come out of those types of games.
"I think the psychological aspect is greater than any potential tiredness."
McGeeney was neither surprised nor offended by the obduracy of Limerick's system. "They have quality players you have to watch for, (Ger) Collins and Ian Ryan inside, (Eoghan) O'Connor is very tricky. They're strong like.
"I know Clare beat them this year, but they've shown they're even stronger in terms of their mobility. You wonder why they're in Division 4 when they can play football of that calibre.
"You don't play football like that by accident. They've done it over the last four or five years. You have to respect that they work hard, they hit hard and they're good on the ball.
For his opposite number, Maurice Horan, the outcome was nothing less than "gut-wrenching".
Seconds from a story-book success, they simply didn't have the legs for extra-time.
"What can you do?" asked the Mayo man. "We were within 30 seconds of knocking them out and they got an unbelievable score from the corner-flag. We did very well, we have to hold our heads up high. It's just tough luck really.
"But, look, Limerick people have this never-say-die attitude. You see it in other sports too. Just when you think they're down and out for the count, they rise up.
"The lads are physically and mentally shattered in there, trying to come to terms with it. You couldn't ask for any more from them."
Yet, Limerick face back into life in the shadows now, another Division 4 campaign looming like a migraine in the distance.
"How do you build on it?" Horan wondered rhetorically. "It's very hard, but that's the way it is.
"Limerick, in the last few years, have really enjoyed the qualifiers. We've got a new lease of life in them... because we're playing teams we don't know. Our lads were licking their lips when we drew Kildare."
As to his own future, he was non-committal: "My two-year term is up. I haven't thought about it yet."