Round 1B Qualifier: Limerick defeat Antrim
All Ireland Football Round 1B Qualifier
Limerick 2-6 Antrim 0-9
By Declan Rooney at Corrigan Park
Three excellent saves from Limerick goalkeeper Donal O’Sullivan helped John Brudair’s side to their first win in 12 competitive games.
Goals from Ian Ryan and Sean McSweeney against the wind in the opening eight minutes proved crucial for Limerick, who looked the better side throughout.
Limerick led by 2-2 to 0-6 at the interval, but crucially they held Antrim to three frees in the second half and they now can plan for Round 2B in a fortnight’s time.
With a very strong wind at their backs in the first half Antrim got off to an impressive start and a free from Ryan Murphy after 40 seconds and a Kevin Niblock score from the right had saw the home side into a 0-2 to 0-0 lead.
But McSweeney settled his side with a fine free into the teeth of the wind from around the 45 metre line after four minutes.
And Brudair’s side received a huge boost a minute later when Seanie Buckley picked out Ryan at the edge of the square and the St Senan’s man hit the net with a low shot past Chris Kerr.
It only took Limerick another three minute to find the net for a second time from McSweeney’s penalty. Midfielder Darragh Treacy was fouled when he managed to creep in behind the Antrim cover, and McSweeney tucked his kick into the bottom right corner for a 2-1 to 0-2 lead for the Treaty men.
Matthew Fitzpatrick found the range with a good score from the right in the 13th minute – maybe he could have gone for goal – and four minutes later Patrick McBride kicked his side’s fourth point to cut the gap to three points.
Thomas Childs was a late introduction for injured Limerick captain Iain Corbett, and he set up a fine score from the right for Ryan after 18 minutes.
Ryan had a great chance for his second goal nine minutes from time when he got up ahead of substitute Martin Johnson, only for Kerr to deny him with a great save with his feet.
And Antrim then finished the half strongly and McBride and Sean Burke pointed to make it 2-2 to 0-6 at the interval.
Armed with a two-point lead and a strengthening wind at their back, Limerick were bright from the off in the second period and after some solid defensive play, it was corner-back Cahill that extended their lead to three in the 44th minute.
After shooting just six points in 50 minutes Antrim were always going to need a goal to launch a comeback and that chance came to Martin Johnson as he cut in from the right, but Donal O’Sullivan pulled off a super save to keep his goal intact.
The introduction of Tomas McCann gave Antrim a much needed injection of pace up front and he followed a free from Ryan Murray with one of his own to cut the Limerick lead to two points with nine minutes remaining.
A free from Ryan gave Limerick a three-point cushion, but Limerick had O’Sullivan to thank on two occasions in the closing five minutes when he denied Ryan Murray and Martin Johnson with great saves, but despite a late Niblock free Limerick held on for a memorable win.
Scorers for Limerick: S McSweeney 1-3 (1-0 pen, 3fs), I Ryan 1-2 (1f), S Cahill 0-1.
*Scorers for Antrim: *R Murray 0-2 (2f), P McBride 0-2, K Niblock 0-2 (1f), M Fitzpatrick, S Burke, T McCann (1f) 0-1.
Limerick: D O’Sullivan; P Browne, S Cahill, S O’Dea; B Fanning, J McCarthy, P Ranahan; D Treacy, S Buckley; G Noonan, P Nash, T Childs; S McSweeney, I Ryan (c), H Bourke.
Subs: E Hogan for Bourke (50), P Hannon for Nash (63), I Corbett for Childs (66).
Antrim: C Kerr; K O’Boyle, J Crozier, R Johnson; P McBride, P Gallagher, M Sweeney; S McVeigh, M McCann; J Laverty, M Fitzpatrick, K Niblock (c); R Murray, N McKeever, S Burke.
Subs: M Johnson for McVeigh (20), D McAleese for Laverty (30), C Murray for Gallagher (h-t), P McAleer for R Johnson (h-t), T McCann for McKeever (56), J Carron for Burke (66).
Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone).