Sunday 26 January 2020

Downes lands crucial blow to topple Dublin

Limerick 1-21 Dublin 1-19

Dublin’s David O’Callaghan under pressure from Gavin O’Mahony. Photo: Ray McManus / Sportsfile
Dublin’s David O’Callaghan under pressure from Gavin O’Mahony. Photo: Ray McManus / Sportsfile
Eamonn Dillion, Dublin, in action against Gavin O'Mahony, left, and Wayne McNamara, Limerick Photo: Ray McManus / Sportsfile
James Madden, Dublin, in action against Tom Morrisey, Limerick Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE newsdesk

Limerick might have needed this more than Dublin and much of the match had that demeanour. Having surrendered their latest attempt to escape the second tier of the league two weeks ago, in a disappointing loss to Clare, this secured a morale-boosting victory, 12 months after they succumbed feebly at the same juncture in the league to Dublin in Croke Park.

This was Dublin's first loss at Parnell Park in five years and that record speaks for itself. Yet the game they are trying to play now would seem to have outgrown the venue's use, perhaps being more suited to open space. Their goal only came deep into injury-time and put a false gloss on the exchanges, when David Treacy bundled the ball into the net. Their close passing was often disrupted and their short puck-outs led them into trouble and turned over ball to Limerick.

They're young and last night they left out Mark Schutte who caused Limerick serious problems last year. They started James Madden at wing in his first match and they have not been afraid to take risks during their campaign but Limerick were marginally better and more tuned. They hit a high number of wides but the critical stage of the match veered their way when Treacy missed a second half penalty and two minutes later Kevin Downes goaled from a cheap turnover.

Having trailed by four points at half-time, 0-9 to 0-13, Dublin responded well, scoring the fist three points of the second half and when Eamon Dillon was held back by Richie McCarthy in the 52nd minute they were presented with a penalty and the chance to go ahead, not having led since the ninth minute. Treacy's penalty was stopped by Nicky Quaid. Two minutes later the Dublin backs coughed up the ball to James Ryan and he fed Downes, totally unmarked, who finished low to the net.

Last year Limerick's league quarter-final loss to Dublin, when many of the their marquee players didn't hurl, proved a harbinger of things to come; there followed a desultory summer. Now they head on to a league semi-final against the winners of today's match between Waterford and Wexford, with a fighting chance of a place in the final. Whatever happens their mood had lifted enormously in a couple of weeks.

They set out their stall early in the match. Ronan Lynch played as a sweeper and Dublin played into his hands with some headless deliveries. For a time Limerick didn't use their possession well either - with Oisin Gough, free at the other end when Shane Dowling moved out to wing forward, picking up a lot of loose ball. Dillon looked dangerous and scored a magnificent first half point, while Niall McMorrow finished with four points from play, but Limerick's defence wasn't over-burdened and cut out the goal threat.

Even after Downes' goal, which put Limerick five points clear, Dublin came sniffing. Dillon scored a point in quick response and another from Darragh O'Connell gave the home crowd real hope. Limerick responded well, with subs John Fitzgibbon and Paudie O'Brien hitting crucial scores to keep them clear. Diarmaid Byrnes scored three quality scores from distance and Gavin O'Mahony picked off two, though it was a night where collectivism reigned over the individual. Their final tally of 1-21 is impressive even in today's climate. The downside was their wides tally - I counted 12 - but it leaves them with room to improve and a spring in their step. That'll more than do for now.

Scorers - Limerick: S Dowling 0-6 (4f; 1 '65); K Downes 1-2; D Byrnes 0-3; T Morrissey, B Nash, G O'Mahony 0-2, P Browne, R Lynch (f), J Fitzgibbon, P O'Brien 0-1. Dublin: D Treacy 1-8 (0-8f), N McMorrow 0-4; E Dillon 0-3, D O'Connell 0-2, F McGibb, D O'Callaghan 0-1.
Limerick: N Quaid; S O'Brien, R McCarthy, R English; D Byrnes, W McNamara, G O' Mahony; P Browne, J Ryan; R Lynch, B Nash, T Morrissey; G Mulcahy; K Downes, S Dowling. Subs: P O'Brien for McNamara (51); G Hegarty for Mulcahy (53); J Fitzgibbon for Dowling (59); C Lynch for Morrissey (65).
Dublin: C Dooley; E O'Donnell, C O'Callaghan, O Gough; J Madden, L Rushe, C Crummey; D O'Connell, J McCaffrey; S McGrath, N McMorrow, D Treacy; D O'Callaghan, F McGibb, E Dillon. Subs: D Plunkett for McGrath (32); M Schutte for McGibb (48); S Barrett for Madden (59); B Quinn for McCaffrey (66); O O'Rourke for O'Callaghan (67).
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly).

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