All-Ireland SHC: Bergin guns down Limerick

July 12, 2008

Limerick's Seamus Hickey tries to halt the run of Offaly's Brendan Murphy during the Faithful's All-Ireland qualifier win
By Cóilín Duffy Offaly 3-19 Limerick 0-18 The swagger is back in Offaly hurling and a new generation is in vogue, after Joe Dooley's youthful charges firmly disposed of last year's All-Ireland finalists Limerick, in impressive fashion at the Gaelic Grounds tonight. A wides tally of 12 was the only real blip on an otherwise excellent performance from the Faithful County side that is assured to have critics of the small ball code sitting up and taking note. All-Ireland titles may not be won following an impressive qualifier victory, but one feels that Dooley's side are capable of another big scalp via the back-door route, as they build for a first All-Ireland success in a decade. And Joe Bergin is one-man who is undoubtedly going to have a major say in the remainder of Offaly's campaign, after the Seir Kieran full-forward's hat-trick powered his side into Phase 4 of the Hurling qualifiers, and a place in tomorrow night's draw. Bergin fired to the back of the Limerick net from all-angles, including twice in the first half as Offaly banished the disappointment of a comprehensive semi-final defeat to eventual Leinster champions Kilkenny last month. A Bergin brace of goals helped Offaly to a comfortable 2-11 to 0-6 interval lead, and despite Limerick trying hard thanks to half-time substitute Pat Tobin, and the likes of Mark Foley and Niall Moran, this was to be the Faithful County's day. From Brian Mullins in the goals right up to Championship debutant Daniel Currams at left-corner forward, Offaly oozed confident and enthusiasm mixed with skill and flair as they downed Limerick with ten points to spare at the finish. Indeed Offaly stood firm to the Limerick attack, with David Franks and David Kenny particularly impressive on the full-back line. In an otherwise clean encounter, Limerick's frustrations set in late on when Denis Moloney was shown a yellow card following a wild pull on Joe Brady. This was a free-flowing encounter that had the large crowd of travelling Offaly supporters on their feet throughout. In a game which saw the visitors firing on all cylinders, boosted by under 21 players Diarmuid Horan, Shane Dooley and Daniel Currams. Once Brian Carroll slotted over the first of his six points in the opening minute, it paved the way for Offaly to continuing building momentum, and they wouldn't trail the hosts at any stage of this game. An eager Offaly attack penetrated the back of the Limerick net for the first time in the 14th minute after a long range free was sent inside by Michael Verney, which dipped on the edge of the square. Although a possible penalty was on the cards, Joe Bergin shook off the challenge of Limerick full-back Stephen Lucey to control the ball and flick it to the back of the net, as Joe Dooley's side took a 1-3 to 0-3 advantage. Brian Carroll added his third point, a first from a 65' to give Offaly a four point lead as the game entered the second quarter. Left-half forward Niall Moran was doing his utmost to keep the hosts in touch with a fine 19th minute point from an acute angle on the terrace side of the pitch, but Limerick's joy was short lived as Bergin crashed home his second goal. Limerick's defence was again left exposed as the Seir Kieran clubman shook off the challenges of Stephen Lucey and Seamus Hickey, and went on a crusade towards the goalmouth, when Bergin launched an unstoppable shot past a hapless Brian Murray. Offaly continued to build momentum, but the switch by Limerick manager Richie Bennis of Niall Moran to full-forward seemed to reap dividends as O'Shaughnessy also opened up the game and was unfortunate to have his 24th minute goal shot saved, before Adare midfielder Wayne McNamara slotted over a point, to cut the gap to five points. This game continued to produce some excellent free-flowing hurling, and in the strong evening sunshine it was Offaly's turn to sparkle, as they were virtually unstoppable before the interval outscoring Limerick by seven points to one before the break as they took a comfortable 2-11 to 0-06 lead, with defender Mark Foley's injury-time point the only blip on an otherwise perfect spell from the Faithful County. The introduction of Pat Tobin and Donnacha Sheehan aided Limerick greatly in the second half, with both on target inside a nine-minute spell on the restart, as the hosts cut the gap to seven points by 2-11 to 0-10. A previously accurate Brian Carroll was now beginning to mis-fire from frees, but this was against a strong breeze and Sun, which Offaly had in their favour in the opening half. However Shane Dooley made amends for Carroll's wides, and when Bergin fired home his third goal, with 20 and a half minutes remaining there was only going to be one winner, as it opened up an 11 point gap. But Offaly had it far from easy in the final quarter, with half-time substitute Pat Tobin bringing his tally to five points by the full-time whistle. However Offaly were continuing to produce a top-drawer performance and with treble All-Ireland club title winner Brian Mullins marshalling well between the posts, with superb save upon save; there was no doubt that Joe Dooley's charges would emerge winners. Offaly - B Mullins; D Franks, D Kenny, M Verney; K Brady, G Oakley, D Horan (0-1, 1 65); B Murphy (0-1), R Hanniffy; S Dooley (0-6, 1f), J Brady, D Molloy (0-2); B Carroll (0-6, 1f, 1 65), J Bergin (3-2), D Currams (0-1). Subs - D Hayden for Carroll (BS 47-51); J Rigney for Horan (63 inj); D Hayden for Currams (67); C Mahon for Murphy (71) Limerick - B Murray; D Reale, S Lucey, S Hickey; M O'Riordan, B Geary (0-1, 1 65), M Foley (0-1); D O'Grady, W McNamara (0-1); M O'Brien, O Moran, N Moran (0-3, 1f); A O'Shaughnessy (0-4, 2f, 1 65), S O'Connor, D Ryan (0-1). Subs - D Moloney for O'Connor (28); D Sheehan (0-1) for O'Brien (HT); P Tobin (0-5) for Ryan (HT); D Cosgrave for Lucey (58); K Tobin (0-1) for N Moran (62) Ref - Cathal McAlister (Cork)

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