GALWAY 1-18 LIMERICK 2-14 All-Ireland SHC qualifier THE LIMERICK hurlers, specialists in one-point defeats in the championship, added another one to their collection at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday evening when they were pipped by Galway in the All-Ireland qualifiers.
Limerick, who haven't beaten a major hurling power in the championship since 2000, again fell just short on an evening when they shot 15 costly wides and their free-takers, veteran TJ Ryan and newcomer Pat Kirby, lost their nerve.
Ryan, who had shown unerring accuracy this season, was thrice off target from scoreable frees in the first half, much to the dismay of home fans in the 10,000 crowd.
Kirby was then given the responsibility and suffered the same fate in a tense last 10 minutes after Limerick had clawed their way back from seven points down to draw level at 1-16 to 2-13.
Then after Galway's top marksman Ger Farragher had sent over the crucial match winning point in the 68th minute, young Kirby was off target from a 65.
In injury-time, and on the instructions of manager Joe McKenna, he floated a sideline free into the square. Donie Ryan tried to force his way through but was whistled up by the over-fussy referee, Brian Gavin.
Ryan's antics led Galway captain Liam Donoghue to comment that the Garryspillane man "must have thought he was playing up the road at Thomond Park."
"He probably had another penalty in mind as he tried to barge his way through (Ryan had already won a penalty after 38 minutes) but the referee was wise to it and gave a free out instead."
Galway manager Conor Hayes suggested they probably relaxed after 15 minutes when, inspired by a cheeky goal from Damien Hayes, they led by 1-6 to 0-2.
"Yes, it was closer in the second half, but serious analysis will show that we held a definite edge. We won most of the one to ones, and even in our wobbly periods we managed to stay ahead on the scoreboard.
"We made a bad start to the second period when we conceded 2-1 inside a few minutes, but it was then that our character came through.
"We pulled ahead again with points from Ger Farragher and Dave Tierney and though under pressure, we did not look like losing the game."
Limerick boss Joe McKenna was encouraged by their comeback which saw them fight their way back after trailing by 1-9 to 0-6 at half-time. "We moved our half forwards around a bit afterwards and it worked for a while. We are still in the All-Ireland quarter-finals and we will take encouragement from our comeback."
SCORERS - Galway: G Farragher 0-8 (6f), D Hayes 1-3, R Murray 0-2, T Óg Regan, O Canning, D Tierney, F Healy, A Kearns 0-1 each. Limerick: TJ Ryan 1-2 (1-1f), P Kirby 0-6 (5f), D Ryan 1-0, N Moran 0-2, P O'Grady 0-2, P Tobin, O Moran 0-1 each.
LIMERICK - T Houlihan; M Clifford, S Lucey, M Foley; P O'Dwyer, B Geary, P Lawlor; P O'Grady, D O'Grady; A O'Shaughnessy, O Moran, N Moran; D Ryan, TJ Ryan, P Kirby. Subs: K Tobin for Clifford, P Tobin for O'Shaughnessy, J O'Brien for K Tobin, C Fitzgerald for N Moran. Yellow cards: N Moran 32, K Tobin 39, B Geary 67, M Foley 70
GALWAY - J Donoghue; D Joyce, S Kavanagh, C Coen; D Collins, D Hardiman, O Canning; T Óg Regan, F Healy; R Murray, D Forde, D Tierney; G Farragher, K Hayes, D Hayes. Subs: A Kearns for K Hayes. Yellow cards: C Coen 7, D Joyce 30
REF - B Gavin (Offaly)