A moment of madness from Antrim centre-forward Karl Stewart cost his team dearly in yesterday evening's All-Ireland SH qualifier at Parnell Park.
Stewart had won a free that would most likely have put his team 0-8 to 0-7 ahead after 27 minutes when Brian Geary hauled him back, but a second after the whistle had blown Stewart retaliated by stamping on the Limerick centre-back. Referee James McGrath had no option but to send him to the line, and Antrim's hopes of pulling off a shock went with their red-carded centre-forward.
It was a real shame because up until that point the Saffrons had really put it up to Limerick, who seemed rattled by Antrim's physicality and workrate.
Antrim scored the first two points of the match and midway through the half had opened up a 0-6 to 03 lead with the pick of their points coming from the excellent Neil McManus at midfield. As the half progressed Limerick started to find their rhythm, and a necklace of three points from Declan Hannon (two frees) drew them level before Stewart had his head-stagger and handed the initiative to Limerick.
They weren't long making the most of it. Hannon popped over another free and then sent Niall Moran clear with a cleverly timed hand-pass. His half-forward colleague made the most of the gift by lancing the ball past Antrim 'keeper Chris O'Connell. Limerick added two more points before the break from Sean Tobin and Donal O'Grady with just a single riposte from Antrim's star-man McManus to leave the half-time score reading 1-10 to 0-8 in favour of the Treaty County.
You expected Limerick to coast away comfortably in the second half, but, credit to Antrim, they stuck to the task grittily and points from Darren Hamill, Conor McCann and McManus (f) brought them to within a goal -- 1-11 to 0-11.
When they needed to though, Limerick found another gear. Points from Mark O'Riordan, Brian Geary ('65) and Niall Moran halted Antrim's momentum, and then David Breen killed them off when he tore through the heart of their defence and smashed the ball to the roof of the net.
The rest of the match was a procession for Limerick as Richie McCarthy smashed home a third goal and a spread of players added five more points before the end.
Scorers -- Limerick: D Hannon 0-8 (5f), N Moran, R McCarthy both 1-1, D Breen 1-0 S Tobin 0-3, M O'Riordan, J Ryan both 0-2, T Condon, G O'Mahony, D O'Grady, K Downes, B Geary ('65) all 0-1 Antrim: N McManus 0-8 (5f), E McCloskey 0-2, C McCann, D Hamill both 0-1.
Limerick: N Quaid; D Moloney, S Hickey, T Condon; W McNamara, B Geary, G O'Mahony; D O'Grady, M O'Riordan; N Moran, J Ryan, D Hannon; R McCarthy K Downes, S Tobin. Subs: D Breen for K Downes, P O'Brien for D O'Grady (HT), T O'Brien for N Moran, S Walsh for W McNamara, S Lucey for B Geary (62)
Antrim: C O'Connell; A Graffin, C Donnelly, K McGourty; N McAuley, M Herron, S McRory; P Shiels, N McManus; E McCloskey, K Stewart, C McFall; J Scullion, D Hamill, C McCann. Subs: B McFall for J Scullion (46), C Carson for E McCloskey (57), C Herron for S McRory (65)
Referee -- J Owens (Wexford)
Sunday Indo Sport