Tricky victory on road a major shot in the arm for Treaty men
Limerick 2-6 Antrim 0-9
Nearly an hour had passed before the Antrim management of Frank Fitzsimmons and Gearoid Adams finished their dug-out dissection of their loss to Limerick and returned to the almost empty dressing rooms of Corrigan Park in Belfast.
Whatever way they looked at it their side were second best and had exited the Championship with a whimper. If they had arrived at that conclusion as their team wandered away one by one, we'll never know, as they declined a couple of invitations to speak with the press, but away from their home comforts Limerick left with a character-building victory.
The fact that Antrim turned down Limerick's offer to bring the game to Croke Park in a double-header with the Christy Ring Cup final hinted that the hosts fancied their chances with a home draw. But once Ian Ryan and Sean McSweeney had goaled for Limerick in the first eight minutes they must have wished they'd opened for the county's hurlers in Dublin.
But had they taken that route the wonderful St John's GAA club would have missed out on the chance to host a Championship game, and the club's members rolled out the welcome mat for the few dozen Limerick supporters who made the trip.
For Limerick, this win was a real shot in the arm. After Ryan's strike and McSweeney's penalty they led by 2-2 to 0-6 at the interval, with the strong wind at their backs on the resumption. A couple of classy saves from O'Sullivan kept them alive, while three frees and their only point from play after the break, from Stephen Cahill, ensured they earned their first win of the year.
"After the Clare game we could have packed our bags and said that was the end of our season - especially with the few withdrawals from the squad. But it has been brilliant for the last week, lads have really knuckled down and their attitude has been absolutely brilliant," said Limerick manager John Brudair.
"I'm delighted they have gotten the result. Their season could have panned out so differently if the first couple of League games had gone our way, but they didn't.
"It would have been very easy to hide and run away, but we haven't hid, and we came up north to a club field and the lads have taken a good result."
Scorers - Limerick: S McSweeney 1-3 (1-0 pen, 3f), I Ryan 1-2 (1f), S Cahill 0-1. Antrim: R Murray (2f), K Niblock (1f), P McBride 0-2 each; M Fitzpatrick, T McCann (f), S Burke, 0-1.
Limerick - D O'Sullivan 9; P Browne 7, S Cahill 9, S O'Dea 7; B Fanning 7, J McCarthy 8, P Ranahan 8; D Treacy 7, S Buckley 8; G Noonan 8, P Nash 7, T Childs 8; S McSweeney 9, I Ryan (c) 9, H Bourke 7. Subs: E Hogan 7 for Bourke (50), P Hannon 6 for Nash (63), I Corbett 6 for Childs (66).
Antrim - C Kerr 6; K O'Boyle 7, J Crozier 6, R Johnson 6; P McBride 7, P Gallagher 6, M Sweeney 6; S McVeigh 5, M McCann 7; J Laverty 7, M Fitzpatrick 6, K Niblock (c) 7; R Murray 8, N McKeever 6, S Burke 7. Subs: M Johnson 8 for McVeigh (20), D McAleese 7 for Laverty (30), C Murray 7 for Gallagher (h-t), P McAleer 6 for R Johnson (h-t), T McCann 7 for McKeever (56), J Carron 6 for Burke (66).
Ref - S Hurson (Tyrone).