Ryan heartbreak as Antrim go so close in Limerick
Antrim manager Kevin Ryan almost plotted a huge upset against Limerick but in the end admitted his side "did not have enough in the tank so early in the campaign".
A goal by substitute David Breen was crucial to Limerick's win. It came after 55 minutes and put the home side two points in front, 1-15 to 0-16.
Antrim will regret that they managed only two points from a first half penalty and a last minute 21 yard free. On both occasions the efforts by Neil McManus (pictured) were deflected over for points but a goal from the late free would have salvaged a draw for Kevin Ryan's side.
It was all square at 0-4 each after 18 minutes. By half-time Antrim led by 0-13 to 0-8 with McManus getting eight of their points, five from frees. But his saved penalty after 32 minutes could have had his side out of sight.
Substitute Paddy Doherty edged Antrim in front with a well taken point but Limerick sub Breen got in for the only goal of the game. His initial shot was only partially saved by Ryan McGarry and Breen flashed the second chance to an empty net to make it 1-15 to 0-17.
Once in front Limerick never relinquished their grip but Karl Stewart, PJ O'Connell and McManus getting the late scores for an Antrim side who will cause sides problems during the campaign.
"We probably let it slip and we hadn't enough in the tank," said Antrim boss Ryan.
"I would have liked to have another five weeks to prepare but that is the way it is."
Ryan was pleased with the effort put in by his players.
"Even when they went four points in front we did not drop the heads and a goal from the free at the end would have been a better scoreline," he said.
Limerick manager John Allen was impressed by Antrim.
"We found it hard to cope with the fact that Antrim played a sweeper and we played into his hands," he said.
"But I am happy with the win and we can improve – and must improve," he said.
Midfield was dominated by Antrim but McManus lacked support up front. Defensively the Saffrons were solid with Conor Carson, Simon McCrory and midfielders Matthew Donnelly and Conor Laverty catching the eye.
Limerick: A Murphy; S Walsh, R McCarthy, T Condon; W McNamara, D O'Grady, G O'Mahony; J Ryan (0-1), P O'Brien; D Hannon (0-9, 5f 1 sl), S Hickey (0-4), P Browne (0-2); G Mulcahy (0-1), K Downes, S Dowling (0-2, 1f). Subs: D Breen (1-0) for O'Brien ht, S Tobin for Downes 56, N Moran for Dowling 61, A Breen for Mulcahy 66.
Antrim: R McGarry; A Graffin, C Carson (0-1), B McFall; S McCrory, N McAuley, C McKinley; M Donnelly, C Laverty; S Beattie (0-2), K Stewart (0-1), E McLoskey (0-1); N McManus (0-11, 8f), KB McShane, S McNaughton (0-1). Subs M Gettens McFall 32, P Doherty (0-1) for McShane 46, C McFall for Beattie 46, PJ O'Connell (0-1) for Laverty 52, D McClean for McLoskey 60.
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).