Limerick, the New York Champions in 2001, got off to a fast start with a second-minute free from Dave Simms. Simms, so impressive in the goal for New York against Derry, reverted to his normal club position in the Limerick forwards. He looked sharp early with another point on the 5-minute mark.
But Offaly tightened its grip as Alan Gleason, Simms’s understudy for New York, denied his goal effort, and Mike Dolan began to win their personal battle.
Offaly have greatly improved their lineout and interestingly the one time Senior Division doormats had nearly as many New York panelists on view as Limerick — four to five.
Mark Wynne got Offaly on the board after a long puck out from Gleason. Gleason’s long drives were an important feature to Offaly’s attack and the Faithful soon added a second point when Sean Nolan snatched a Gleason puck and fed Kieran Brennan who flipped to Brian Delaney for the early equalizer.
Offaly were enjoying a period of dominance but scores were proving a bit scarce. Wynne gave Offaly a 0-3 to 0-2 lead, but Offaly were unable to strike the big blow when Finbarr Flood, himself an accomplished New York goalkeeper, denied Sean Nolan’s kicked effort in the 18th minute.
Brian Monaghan extended Offaly’s margin to 0-4 to 0-2, but Limerick closed out the low scoring first half with a Dave Dunne point from play and two late Simms frees, taking a 0-5 to 0-4 lead into the intermission.
The Limerick halfback line was very effective, particularly the Kerry duo, Andrew Keane and Trevor McKenna. New transfer Vinny Norton completes the trio and with Flood and New York county men Tadgh O’Callaghan and Justin White, Limerick figure to defend well this season.
Offaly’s defense unearthed a real gem of their own in Seamus Spain. The veteran was making his debut in New York and he brought toughness and no mean skill, dominating his man with a clinical defensive performance.
There was little between the sides in the tense and competitive second half. Kieran Dowling and Dave Dunne pointed for Limerick as Offaly got two points from Brian Monaghan, their best forward on the day, and one from Liam Power.
Nigel Carney checked into the game for Offaly and immediately scored the equalizer after Sean Nolan caught a long Gleason puck out and set him up.
A long Simms free nosed Limerick in front and then Simms made Offaly pay for a crucial error. Old time hurling law tells you never to turn into your own goal and, of course, everyone does it and nothing ever happens. Well, on this occasion it did as Simms deftly blocked down his tormentor Dolan and rejoiced as the ball trickled across the goal line.
Now Limerick led by 0-4 with only 5 minutes left to play. Surely, Limerick would close it out and Offaly would be left with nothing for the efforts. But Offaly were not done.
Brian Monaghan, who had missed three makeable scores, got Offaly back to within one, driving a free to the Limerick twines. Then on the 30-minute mark, the same man equalized. He would get one more chance from 65 yards. But this time his free sailed wide of the uprights, sending the sides home level.
Co-men of the Match: Trevor McKenna for Limerick and Seamus Spain for Offaly.
Limerick: Finbarr Flood, Justin White, Tadgh O’Callaghan, Andrew Keane, Trevor McKenna, Vinny Norton, Mike Barron, Dave Dunne (0-2), Mike Stretch, Kieran Dowling (0-1), John Loftus, Dave Simms (1-6, 5 frees), John Edwards. Sub: Jed Horrigan.
Offaly: Alan Gleason, Mike Dolan, Seamus Spain, John Hanlon, Enda Condren, Brian Delaney (0-1), Adrian Guinan, Sean Nolan, Brian Monaghan (1-4, 1-2 free), Niall Marshall, Kieran Brennan, Liam Power (0-1), Mark Wynne (0-2). Subs: Nigel Carney (0-1), Ed Flynn.