By Martin Breheny
Lose a man and win the match. That has become something of an accepted norm in Gaelic games in recent years and it applied again last Sunday when Waterford had wing-back Brian Greene sent off but still went on to beat Limerick by a point, 1-16 to 1-15, in the first round of the Guinness Munster hurling championship in Cork.
Greene was dismissed for a second bookable offense in the 49th minute at a time when Waterford were leading by 1-11 to 0-8. In the short term it had a galvanizing effect on his colleagues, who scored two quick points, but once Limerick started to exploit the extra man, the momentum swung their way and they outscored Waterford by 1-5 to 0-2 in the closing 16 minutes.
A goal by Mike Houlihan ignited Limerick in the 56th minute and with sub Gary Kirby showing his usual accuracy from frees the pressure mounted on the Waterford defense. Houlihan was unlucky when a second shot for goal whizzed just wide of the Waterford goal and while Limerick kept plugging away time ran out on them.
It was Waterford’s first championship win over Limerick this decade and was built on a massive opening burst which saw them go eight points clear (1-7 to 0-2) after just 23 minutes. The goal came from the man-of-the-match, Paul Flynn, who scampered through a static Limerick defense before whipping the ball to the net.
.Flynn scored 1-8 (0-4 from frees) on a day when the Ballygunner star showed all his great qualities. New Limerick full-back Brian Begley tried hard to curb him, but with Flynn in such imperious form, even a far more experience defender would have struggled.
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Limerick’s first-quarter plight would have been far less severe if their forwards had taken even a reasonable proportion of their chances. They were badly betrayed by their shooting, as proven by their final tally of 11 wides, compared with Waterford’s five.
Limerick improved in the last 10 minutes of the first half and three pointed frees by Mike Galligan, accompanied by points from Barry Foley and James Moran, had them back in contention by halftime when they trailed by just five points, 1-9 to 0-7. Waterford, inspired by Flynn, Ken McGrath, who scored four points, Brian Flannery, Sean Cullinane and Tony Browne, who passed a late fitness test, regained the initiative early in the second half to pull seven points clear but Greene’s dismissal changed the complexion of the game.
It gave Limerick renewed hope but in the end time ran out on them. It was a great win for Waterford, who showed that they have retained the sense of energy and enterprise which brought them so close to winning major honors last year. They now move on with confidence to the Munster semifinal clash against Cork in Thurles a week from Sunday.
Fermanagh end drought
Fermanagh pulled off the first surprise of the 1999 Bank of Ireland football championships when they beat Monaghan by 2-12 to 1-10 in Clones on Sunday.
It was Fermanagh’s first win in the championship since 1992 and set them for a quarterfinal clash with Tyrone.
Monaghan started as hot favorites and looked to be on their way to an easy win when Declan Smyth goaled from the penalty spot in the second minute. Monaghan led by 1-4 to 0-2 after 14 minutes, but gradually Fermanagh battled back and a goal from Shane King, also from the penalty spot, in the 25th minute changed the pattern of the game and by halftime a shock looked on when Fermanagh led by 1-6 to 1-5.
King scored a second goal three minutes after the restart to give Fermanagh a decisive advantage, and while Monaghan cut the gap to two points with 10 minutes remaining, they failed to score again while Fermanagh added three points.
Roscommon had a successful lift-off to their Connacht championship campaign when they beat Leitrim by 0-15 to 1-7 at Carrick-on-Shannon. It was a pretty comfortable afternoon for Gay Sheerin’s team. The sides were level — 1-3 to 0-6 — at halftime, but Roscommon pulled away in the second half.
€ Frankie Dolan scored three of their points while his cousin Des kicked 1-6 as Westmeath overwhelmed Longford in the Leinster championship tie at Mullingar. The game was all but over at the interval when Westmeath led by 3-6 to 0-5, a lead they extended to 19 points (3-15 to 0-5) by the 53rd minute. Longford rallied and scored 2-4 in the closing 16 minutes, but it was no more than a token gesture of defiance as the game was well beyond their reach by then.
€ Wexford’s hurlers led Dublin by 1-13 to 0-7 with 18 minutes to go in their Guinness Leinster championship tie at Nowlan Park but Dublin staged a great recovery which fell just a point short (1-13 to 1-12) at the finish. It was all very disappointing for Dublin, who had plenty chance to draw level but were let down by poor shooting. They shot 17 wides to Wexford’s 11 on a day when Adrian Fenlon was Wexford’s top scorer on 0-5.