Limerick beat Wicklow in the fourth round of the National Football League on Sunday.
After the loss to Louth in round three, Limerick responded in style with a 1-13 to 1-9 win over Wicklow in Aughrim over the weekend.
Billy Lee’s side led for the majority of the contest to secure a third win in this year’s league as they moved to the top of the table in Division 3.
Up next is Westmeath on March 12 for Lee’s promotion chasers.
Reflecting on the win over Wicklow and its meaning for the season, check out some of the key talking points to emerge from the game below.
Promotion has to be aim now
After their maiden year in Division 3 was heavily interrupted with Covid as the division reverted to two groups of four, this year’s edition was back to normal with Limerick facing seven games. As such, for Billy Lee’s side, retaining status in the division will have been the number one priority.
However, four games in and that stance has surely shifted. Limerick are three from four thus far and will rue the defeat to Louth where they let a large lead slip late on. On the road to notoriously difficult venues in Antrim and Wicklow, Limerick have got the job done while they put Longford to the sword in round one in the TUS Gaelic Grounds.
For far too long, Limerick have lingered in the bottom tiers of the League and while missing out on promotion wont be the end of this current side, failing to do so after such a positive start would feel like a missed opportunity.
Tough tests lay ahead in the form of Westmeath, Laois and Fermanagh but this Limerick team have the ability of winning each which would guarantee top spot and promotion.
Away comforts for Limerick
Winning on the road in the National League is never easy. Prior to the League, Lee had targeted the home encounters as essential for Limerick to preserve their status in the division. But while they have a 50% record at ‘home’ (one of their games was played in UL owing to weather conditions), the side have won both trips on the road.
And those came in Aughrim and Corrigan Park, both lengthy trips to extremely difficult venues. Antrim won both of their games at home in the League last year and beat Fermanagh in the same venue last weekend. Yet, Limerick were able to lead from start to finish there. Similarly, The Shannonsiders followed up last year’s impressive win in Aughrim with another at the weekend.
In the promotion campaign of 2020, Limerick fell just once on the road, that being a trip to Belfast. Apart from that they were successful on the road to Waterford, Carlow and Sligo, where they secured promotion.
Only one game away from home remains, a trip to Portlaoise in a fortnight’s time and should they overcome Westmeath in the meantime, that could be for promotion. A similar feat to 2020 would be most welcome in the Midlands two days after St Patricks day.
Limerick dig deep
It seems to follow that an early goal for this Limerick side is a strong indication of where the result is headed. Against Longford and Antrim, Limerick led from pillar to post after finding the net in the opening minutes. Louth had the early tonic in UL and went onto win the game. But despite a brace of points from the hosts to open the game in Aughrim, Josh Ryan’s goal turned the contest in Limerick’s favour as they maintained the lead from here on in.
In each of those games, Limerick were able to hold off a late comeback, the Louth clash aside where Mickey Harte’s men came from nowhere to steal the result. And this proved no different on Saturday as Lee’s side kept out their hosts.
All this was while Limerick were reduced to 14 and sometimes 13-men. Firstly, Iain Corbett received a black card with Josh Ryan following suit shortly after. Corbett wasn’t long back on the field when Mike Donovan was sent off. Lee’s side also lost a couple to injury but even down numbers, Limerick held firm.
Forwards continue to hit the target
One thing that has been very noticeable form this Limerick side is their ability to take scores whenever the opportunity presents itself. And it is the forwards that are leading in that regard which will be most pleasing to Billy Lee who has had to deal with the departure of a number of key forwards in recent times.
In the past three seasons, Limerick have lost Danny Neville, Jamie Lee, Seamus O’Carroll and both Sean McSweeney’s (St Senans & St Kierans) for varying reasons. All were regular starters in the championship but have been replaced with the current crop making their mark.
Against Wicklow, each of the starting six forwards got on the scoresheet with substitute Diarmuid Kelly also adding a point. Hugh Bourke in particular was in terrific form clipping over 0-4 from play wile Josh Ryan hit the net to go with four frees. Meanwhile Adrian Enright, Peter Nash, James Naughton and Brian Donovan all chipped in with a point. That six have nailed down the starting berths and have all been in fine fettle so far.
Ryan has 1-12 (9f, 3 45′) thus far with his placed ball expertise coming in crucial. Bourke has kicked 1-8 from play in the four games with Donovan and Nash adding 2-3 and 1-3 respectively. Naughton has hit the target in each game accounting for 1-5.
All this compliments the likes of Iain Corbett, Robbie Childs and Gordon Brown to name a few, who so often trouble the scoreboard.
Lee’s side have always been mean in defence but with the attacking unit flourishing, Limerick are a dual threat to any opposition.