Ronan Fagan reports from Innovate Wexford Park
ALL-IRELAND HOLDERS Limerick overcame both a strong late Wexford rally and some poor finishing to nail the opening-round Allianz Hurling League Division 1A spoils at a bitterly cold Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday.
The visitors led 1-10 to 2-4 after a strong finish to the first-half. But, following a pedestrian third-quarter, Wexford threatened to salvage something when subs Harry Kehoe and Paul Morris together with Conor McDonald shaved the deficit to 1-14 to 2-10 after 66 minutes.
And the woodwork came to Limerick’s rescue in the closing stages as John Kiely’s men deservedly survived on an afternoon when they could so easily have lived to regret out-shooting Wexford by 14 wides to four.
The 7,000-strong attendance quickly became engaged in matters as the sides traded opening points – Jack O’Connor drawing first-blood for Wexford from a free – before the nets at either end were rattled.
A long clearance by Wexford’s Conor Firman was broken down by Jack O’Connor to leave Cathal Dunbar racing through to blast Wexford ahead 1-1 to 0-1 after seven minutes.
But Limerick responded on ten minutes when the grounded Cian Lynch fed Aaron Gillane to squeeze home the equalising goal from the right edge of the square (1-1 apiece).
Paudie Foley chases Declan Hannon.
Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO
The Shannonsiders purposefully assumed the lead as Gillane (free) and Peter Casey made it 1-3 to 1-1, and Wexford ‘keeper Mark Fanning produced an inspired intervention to deny David Dempsey when the Na Piarsaigh man had the goal at his mercy on 18 minutes.
Wexford regained parity through Jack O’Connor (free) and Conor McDonald, and while Limerick asserted by 1-5 to 1-3 courtesy of Seamus Flanagan and Peter Casey, the home-side transformed matters by 2-3 to 1-5 on 24 minutes when Jack O’Connor forced the home the lead-goal.
Both sides were reduced to 14-men on 27 minutes when Wexford full-back Liam Ryan and Limerick no.14 Seamus Flanagan endured red-cards after a mass scuffle on the sideline.
But despite Limerick having a goal ruled-out, the visitors finished the half strongly to lead 1-10 to 2-4 at half-time as Peter Casey, Aaron Gillane (3) and a line-ball from Colin Ryan fuelled hopes for John Kiely’s men.
A lackluster third-quarter saw Limerick improve their position slightly, forging ahead by 1-14 to 2-7 after 61 minutes.
But Wexford weren’t going down without a fight, and raucous cheers erupted as the locals closed to within 1-14 to 2-10 on 66 minutes courtesy of Harry Kehoe, Paul Morris and Conor McDonald.
A couple of wides hit home hopes though while Limerick regained some comfort as sub Darragh O’Donovan (sideline) and Gearóid Hegarty opened-up a 1-16 to 2-10 lead in added-time.
Wexford then threatened to nab the spoils, but Conor McDonald’s goal-bound drive struck an upright before Liam Óg McGovern’s follow-up attempt was parried at the expense of a ’65 pointed by Jack O’Connor.
Sub Barry Murphy pointed Limerick three points clear moments later as the Shannonsiders, despite some alarmingly poor finishing, marked their return to top-flight league action for the first-time since 2010 with a merited success.
Scorers for Limerick: Aaron Gillane 1-5 (0-3f), Peter Casey 0-3, Colin Ryan (sideline and free), Diarmaid Byrnes (2fs) 0-2 each, Tom Morrissey, Seamus Flanagan, Darragh O’Donovan (sideline), Gearóid Hegarty, Barry Murphy 0-1 each.
Scorers for Wexford: Jack O’Connor 1-5 (0-4f, 0-1 ’65), Cathal Dunbar 1-0, Conor McDonald 0-2, Pádraig Foley, Liam Óg McGovern, Harry Kehoe, Paul Morris 0-1 each.
1 Nickie Quaid (Effin)
of the team
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2 Tom Condon (Knockaderry)
3 Seán Finn (Bruff)
4 Richie English (Doon)
5 Diarmaid Byrnes (Patrickswell)
6 Declan Hannon (Adare)
7 Dan Morrissey (Ahane)
8 Cian Lynch (Patrickswell)
9 Colin Ryan (Pallasgreen)
10 Gearóid Hegarty (St Patrick’s)
11 Tom Morrissey (Ahane)
12 David Dempsey (Na Piarsaigh)
13 Aaron Gillane (Patrickswell)
14 Seamus Flanagan (Feohanagh)
15 Peter Casey (Na Piarsaigh)
22 Barry Murphy (Doon) for Dempsey (54)
24 Darragh O’Donovan (Doon) for Ryan (56)
26 Pat Ryan (Doon) for Casey (64).
1 Mark Fanning (Glynn Barntown)
2 Simon Donohoe (Shelmaliers)
3 Liam Ryan (Rapparees)
4 Conor Firman (St Martin’s)
5 Pádraig Foley (Crossabeg Ballymurn)
6 Matthew O’Hanlon (St James’)
7 Shaun Murphy (Oulart The Ballagh)
8 Diarmuid O’Keeffe (St Anne’s)
9 Kevin Foley (Rapparees)
10 Jack O’Connor (St Martin’s)
11 Aidan Nolan (HWH Bunclody)
12 David Dunne (Davidstown Courtnacuddy)
13 Cathal Dunbar (Naomh Éanna)
14 Conor McDonald (Naomh Éanna)
15 Liam Óg McGovern (St Anne’s)
17 Shane Reck (Oylegate Glenbrien) for Firman (21)
20 Paul Morris (Ferns St Aidan’s) for Dunne (54)
22 Damien Reck (Oylegate Glenbrien) for P Foley (62)
21 Harry Kehoe (Cloughbawn) for Nolan (62).
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).
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