Limerick face Antrim in NHL

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Cork v Limerick - Allianz Hurling League Division 1B Round 1THE LIMERICK senior hurlers entertain Antrim in the National Hurling league this coming Sunday  23. Throw-in for the round two clash is at 2pm and with Limerick having drawn with Cork last weekend, the chase for top spot in Division 1B remains wide open.
Limerick battled for the full 70 minutes last weekend to secure a valuable point and Limerick co-manager TJ Ryan was impressed with his sides effort and work rate.
“To be honest, I was very happy with the response from the lads. Their effort, work rate and honesty after the sending off was excellent.”
Indeed with Limerick trailing Cork by as much as six points at stages in the first half, Limerick fans feared the worst. Ryan however, never saw the game as being lost at any point.
“We were behind on the scoreboard alright, but I felt that it was early enough in the game to get back into it. The sending off wasn’t ideal, but the three points we got back before half time were invaluable. That made for a more positive team talk at half time alright.”
Indeed. With Limerick down to fourteen men, away from home, against the losing All Ireland finalists, where did the Limerick positivity come from?
“We  spoke at half time about the sending off and about how we were going to organise ourselves in the second half to deal with what was to come. A few of the players spoke and we remained positive that a result could be achieved,” Ryan added.
The second half efforts for Limerick were capped by a Shane Dowling free in the last play of the game to earn a 0-17 to 0-17 draw. Dowling, who had played for Na Piarsaigh seven days earlier, was a surprise inclusion in the Limerick team. TJ Ryan revealed this week however, that both parties were eager for the Na Piarsaigh players to return.
“We spoke to Shane Dowling and Kevin Downes about it and they were eager to play. David Breen was too, but he was carrying a knock. Shane was vital to us. We needed to have a recognised inter county free taker on the field last weekend. Looking at it, the decision was a big one in the end,” commented the former inter county star.
With Antrim up this weekend, Limerick will be looking to make sure of a two points home-win. Something that may not be easy coming, as some supporters might expect. Having lost to Wexford by a single score  last weekend (1-11 to 0-15), Antrim will arrive into town this weekend in the knowledge that another loss will see them rooted to the bottom of the table, adrift from the top four spots that would secure them a league quarter final spot. If any Limerick hurling fans are doubting the talents of Antrim this weekend, they need only look to the experience of Na Piarsaigh, two seasons ago, who lost out to Loughgiel Shamrocks of Antrim in the All Ireland club final. A game TJ Ryan will take inspiration from.
“There will be nothing won easy in this Division. All the games last weekend were very tight and every point will be hard earned. That is a given,” concluded the Garryspillane club man.
LIMERICK team v Cork: Nickie Quaid; Stephen Walsh, Richie McCarthy, Tom Condon; Paudie O’Brien, Wayne McNamara, Gavin O’Mahony; Paul Browne, Donal O’Grady; Tom Ryan, James Ryan, Conor Allis; Graeme Mulcahy, Shane Dowling, Seán Tobin.
Scorers for Limerick v Cork: Shane Dowling 0-11 (0-8f, 0-2 65), Paul Browne 0-3, Paudie O’Brien 0-2, Conor Allis 0-1.

by Donn O’Sullivan, Sports Editor
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