Allianz HL D1B: Limerick overpower Antrim
Allianz Hurling League Division 1B
LIMERICK 3-21 ANTRIM 0-13
From David Mohan in Cushendall
Limerick enjoyed a productive trip north as they maintained their perfect record in 1B of the Allianz Hurling League with a comprehensive 17-point win over Antrim at a sun-kissed Cushendall.
The Shannonsiders went through the gears in the second half to pull clear as the game petered out, but Antrim did keep with them for long periods of the opening half.
Indeed, it was the returning Michael Armstrong who opened the scoring for the hosts in the first minute, but after Diarmaid Byrnes levelled the game with a long free, Limerick had their first goal chance and it came from a penalty when Seamus Flanagan was hauled down by Ryan Elliott. Aaron Gillane stepped up, but his effort came back off the crossbar and away to safety.
Nigel Elliott hit a score at the other end, but Limerick began to get on top with their half-back line dominating and it was Byrnes and Gillane who were raising the flags as they moved 0-4 to 0-2 clear.
Conor McCann responded for the Saffrons, but Byrnes, David Reidy and Barry O'Connell pointed for the visitors before a pair of Neil McManus frees moved Antrim to within one on 27 minutes.
Limerick simply upped their game in attack and on 29 minutes the goal that swung the pendulum decisively in their favour arrived when substitute, Oisin O'Reilly cut in from the left and batted to the net.
The scores then started to flow for Limerick as they outscored Antrim six points to two in the remaining minutes of the half to establish a commanding 1-13 to 0-8 advantage at the half.
It took the Treatymen a few minutes to get motoring after the restart, but after Reidy and Graeme Mulcahy pointed, their second goal arrived. This time, O'Reilly turned provider as he blocked Arron Graffin's clearance with the ball finding its way to Gillane who cracked it to the net to make it 2-15 to 0-8 on 44 minutes.
This was effectively game over and while Neil McManus kept the scoreboard ticking over for Antrim, Limerick's scores were much more plentiful and from a variety of sources with Colin Ryan, Paul Browne, Reidy and Gillane all landing points as the game ticked towards 70 minutes.
There was still time for another goal and this time it was Mulcahy who got it as the game moved into injury-time to seal a fine victory as Limerick maintained their promotion push ahead of next week's do-or-die meeting with Galway, while Antrim's fate is now sealed as they will be involved in a relegation playoff regardless of how next week's trip to Offaly materialises.
Scorers for Limerick: Aaron Gillane 1-5 (0-3 frees), David Reidy 0-5 (1 free), Diarmaid Byrnes 0-4 (3 frees), Graeme Mulcahy 1-2, Oisin O'Reilly 1-0, Paul Browne 0-2, Coin Ryan 0-2, Barry O'Connell 0-1
Scorers for Antrim: Neil McManus 0-8 (5 frees), Nigel Elliott 0-2, Michael Armstrong 0-1, Conor McCann 0-1, Eoghan Campbell 0-1
LIMERICK: Barry Hennessy; Tom Condon, Richie McCarthy, Richie English; Diarmaid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, Dan Morrissey; Paul Browne, Colin Ryan; David Reidy, Cian Lynch. Barry O'Connell; Aaron Gillane, Seamus Flanagan, Graeme Mulcahy. Subs: Oisin O'Reilly for Seamus Flanagan (10), Andrew La Touche for Aaron Gillane (56), Paddy O'Loughlin for Richie English (60).
ANTRIM: Ryan Elliott; Arron Graffin, John Dillon, Stephen Rooney; Ryan McCambridge, David Kearney, Joe Maskey; Eoghan Campbell, Conor McKinley; James McNaughton, Michael Armstrong, Neil McManus; Donel McKinley, Conor McCann, Nigel Elliott. Subs: Neal McAuley for Joe Maskey (26), Conor Carson for James McNaughton (HT), Paddy Burke for Ryan McCambridge (47), Dan McCloskey for Donal McKinley (51), Eoin O'Neill for Michael Armstrong (56).
Ref: John O'Brien (Tipperary)