Flat Faithful handed 'a big reality check'
Limerick 1-24 Offaly 0-10
They came to see for themselves whether it was for real.
Early-season wins don't often generate as much excitement as Offaly's victory in Croke Park last weekend but that's where hurling in the county is at. They are desperate for signs of recovery.
The visit of Limerick was always going to be a better indicator of where Kevin Martin and his team are at than Pat Gilroy's selection, more than half of whom were making their League bows.
And for 20 minutes or so, there was reason for majority of the 4,640 in attendance to believe that Offaly could swim at the deep end again.
They were combative and busy and hunted in packs. They traded blows with Limerick for the first quarter and trailed by a point when Damien Egan blazed a penalty wide on 17 minutes. They were still level on the 20 minute mark but from there the visitors outscored them by 0-7 to 0-2 on the run-in to the break.
It felt like Limerick were getting the measure of things, and some fine long-range point-scoring helped tease out Offaly's previously stubborn defence as John Kiely's men took a 0-12 to 0-7 lead in at the interval.
At half-time, Offaly called for Shane Dooley, who was making his 101st appearance for the county in League and Championship, but the visitors picked up from where they left off in the first half.
Things got worse for Offaly when Dermot Short picked up a needless second yellow card on 45 minutes with his side already seven points in arrears.
From there, it was only a matter of how much for Limerick.
"It is a big reality check, and I have to say it was all across the team except for maybe a few players," Offaly manager Kevin Martin reflected after seeing his side hit 15 wides.
"I just can't put my finger on it at the minute. We were probably just too hyped up from last week. I will have to sit down and watch the DVD and reassess the whole thing.
"We knew we were going to have certain setbacks during the year. We knew we weren't just going to come in and storm everyone; it doesn't happen like that, so it is back to the drawing board.
"People around the county were up on a high after last week. It does filter down to the players; it can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing. It was obviously a bad thing for us today.
"It is the first week in February and they are still doing fitness running, but still we have a lot of stuff to work on. We were seven points down when Dermot was sent off and we were still trying to make inroads but once he got sent off, it was curtains."
Limerick boss John Kiely was pleased with his side, who boasted ten different scorers.
"I'm very happy with the performance, it was very physical for the first 20, 25 minutes and the game was in the melting pot at that stage," he said.
"But I think we managed to impose ourselves on the game in that 10 or 15-minute period before half time, we got five points of a gap and that was key to it. We were able to keep them at arm's length and then pushed on in the finish."
"I was at the game in Croke Park last week, I thought they played exceptionally well. But we just didn't allow them to impose themselves on the game today like they did last week. We dictated terms and that was it."
Martin gets back to work this week ahead of Offaly's visit to Galway to face the All-Ireland champions. Staying up remains his priority.
"We said we wanted to keep our status," he said. "If we win couple of games in it we get into the qualifying stages and that's a bonus.
"We are playing the All Ireland champions in two weeks' time. We have a hard week ahead of us, we are training this week and it is our last week of really hard running.
Galway will be a big battle in Salthill, we are not going to be expected to win that one.
"And then we have Laois and Antrim and we'll have to win one of those games."
SCORERS - Limerick: A Gillane 1-8 (0-6fs), G Hegarty, D O'Donovan (1f), P Browne 0-3 each, D Byrnes 0-2, O O'Reilly, D Reidy, T Morrissey, C Lynch, S Flanagan 0-1 each. Offaly: D Egan 0-6 (4fs), T Geraghty, C Gath, S Kinsella, D Currams 0-1 each.
Limerick - N Quaid 8; S Finn 7, S Hickey 7, R English 7; D Byrnes 8, D Morrissey 7, P O'Loughlin 7; P Browne 8, C Lynch 7; T Morrissey 7, D O'Donovan 7, B O'Connell 7; A Gillane 8, S Flanagan 7, G Hegarty 8. Subs: B Murphy 7 for O'Donovan (53), D Reidy 7 for Morrissey (58), O O'Reilly for Hegarty, A LaTouche Cosgrove for Lynch (both 63), L Lyons for Gillane (67)
Offaly - C Slevin 7; T Spain 6, S Gardiner 6, B Conneely 6; D O'Toole 7, P Camon 6, D Shortt 6; D King 6, S Kinsella 6; D Egan 7, C Egan 6, D Currams 6; T Geraghty 6, C Mahon 6, O Kelly 7. Subs: S Dooley 6 for Geraghty (h-t), C Kiely 6 for King (45), P Rigney 6 for Mahon (57), C Gath for Kelly, C Cleary for C Egan (both 61)
Ref - S Cleere (Kilkenny).
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