Cregan's cubs maul out-of-sorts Offaly

 

Eamonn Cregan's razor-sharp youngsters - average age 22 - turned the heat on subdued Offaly at the Gaelic Grounds yesterday, delighting the 5,000-strong crowd.

The Limerick management took a brave gamble in handing the number 14 shirt to regular full back Brian Begley, but they were rewarded when the youngster blasted in the game's only goal in the 51st minute, and he also had a hat-trick of points.

Begley's big frame caused problems galore for Hubert Rigney and his colleagues in a hardpressed Offaly defence. Another star on the day for the home side was corner forward Barry Foley who hit nine points, seven of which came in the first half and helped his side to a 0-13 to 0-5 interval lead.

Limerick were dominant all over the park and TJ Ryan, who took over at full back from Begley, had a blinder. Offaly, ineffective in most positions, were very disappointing up front and a measure of their shortage of scoring power was reflected in a contribution of seven points, all but one from placed balls, from midfielder Johnny Dooley.

Offaly boss Pat Fleury showed his displeasure by introducing Johnny Pilkington, Ger Hannify and Simon Whelahan at halftime. The benefit came immediately, with points from Johnny Dooley and Hannify; but Limerick regrouped and coasted for the remainder of the contest.

Offaly knew it was all over when Shane O'Neill dropped the ball into their square and Begley, under pressure, somehow managed to steer it past Stephen Byrne to leave the score at 1-16 to 0-8. Afterwards it was mainly a point-swapping exercise.

Limerick may ask neighbours Clare to forfeit home venue for the counties' glamour league meeting on Sunday week. A bumper crowd is likely after yesterday's win for Limerick, but Cusack Park will be ruled out because of renovation work. Clare have already played a league match at their other county ground in Milltown Malbay; but Limerick selector Canon Willie Fitzmaurice reckons that there could be more to be gained financially if the match was switched to the Gaelic Grounds. "Limerick is central to both and I think that it would be nice if we could enter into some kind of arrangement with Clare. I believe supporters will also benefit if this match was at the Gaelic Grounds".

LIMERICK: T Houlihan; S McDonagh, TJ Ryan, D Ryan; B Geary, O Moran, M Foley; J Foley (0-1), C Smith (0-1); S O'Neill (0-2), T McLoughlin, M O'Brien (0-1); J Moran (0-2), B Begley (1-3), B Foley (0-9). Subs: J Butler for J Moran; J Cormican (0-1) for McLoughlin; M Keane for O'Brien; B Callinan for Geary.

OFFALY: S Byrne; M O'Hara, H Rigney, C Cassidy; A Mannion, K Martin, D Kelly (0-1); J Dooley (0-7), P Mulhare; A Hanrahan, J Ryan, B Murphy (0-1); C Gath, J Troy (0-1), M Duignan (0-3). Subs: G Hannify (0-1) for Murphy; J Pilkington for Hanrahan; S Whelahan for O'Hara; J Errity for Gath; N Claffey for Mulhare.

Referee: M Wadding (Waterford).