By Greg Barrett
The UL Vikings made the trip to the sunny south east to face off against the Wolves on Sunday. UL were 5&2 as they made the trip to Waterford for their final game in the regular season. Already they had secured the home tie in the Wildcard round of the playoffs so it was no surprise that some players were granted a rest day. Marc Ashworth and Adrian “The Carwash” Garvey two notable absentees. The Vikings though still had some of their big names in the ranks. Ian Cahill, Craig Switzer and Glen Carr to name a few as well as new acquisition Finn Kearns.
The Wolves won the toss and elected to defer giving Limerick first possession. The first game between these two teams resulted in Limerick getting their noses in front very quickly and capitalising on Waterford mistakes to best effect, but this was a Waterford team that was now learning from its mistakes. The first quarter saw a true display of defensive football from both teams and it wasn’t until the very end of the first quarter that Boston College graduate Finn Kearns reeled in a 10 yard pass from Glen Carr to take the ball the extra couple of yards into the end zone to score his second touchdown is as many games and to get Limerick off the mark for the day. Carr dispatched the PAT with little effort and Limerick led 7-0 as the quarter ended.
The second quarter started with Waterford in possession but on the very first snap the ball was fumbled by the Wolves and recovered by Limerick. Clearly nerves had been rattled, but to be fair they settled again and the war of attrition unfolded with Switzer, Gleeson and Cahill all making good runs from running back but to no avail. On the Waterford side Barry, Butler & Sullivan all had decent gains but in the end it was the defences that stood firmest. The half ending with UL holding onto that one touchdown lead.
The game itself was a typical hard hitting affair with some interesting match ups, probably one of the most interesting was John McGrath against Ian Cahill. In the last game Cahill had great success coming from his DE position and got several sacks on Waterford’s QB as a result. The addition of McGrath to the Wolves O line matched up with Cahill’s speed and strength very well and reduced his impact on the Quarterback (literally). Despite the good spirit the game was played, Jason O’Mahony and his officiating crew were kept busy, with both teams giving away silly penalties. Limerick at one stage getting caught for two consecutive 15yard penalties.
The third quarter started and Waterford must have felt they had a chance at the win as they went out until disaster struck for them with UL getting two Touchdowns in quick succession. The first came from a Craig Switzer run as he took the ball 20yards from a handoff from Carr into the endzone. Carr missed the PAT kick but a foul by Ian Walsh on the snapper meant they would have a second go from half the distance to the goal. This time Carr opted for a pass to Lorcan Crean but was unsuccessful. Soon after Limerick pressed Waterford again deep in The Wolves’ half and on the fourth down Cahill broke free to block the punt and as the ball bounced into the endzone John Mullen was there to jump on it and claim the touchdown. On the extra point attempt Shane Gleeson powered up the middle to get the 2 points, and as the quarter ended The Vikings had a 21-0 lead.
The fourth quarter started and for the first time in my experience the Wolves looked a bit deflated, this was a time for their senior players to stand up and rally their troops and that’s what they did. McGrath, O’Coinn, Reinhardt, Butler and Byrne all pushed their team mates to get their heads back up and finish strong and fight on. Limerick did score again, with Gleeson powering his way up the middle again from a short yardage situation to add on another six points, but again Carr couldn’t convert. Carr himself should be quite pleased with his performance, showing up everywhere on offence and defence, and when he ran he was near unstoppable and when he tackled he was efficient and concise. Waterford pushed one more time as the game was coming to an end and were moving the ball pretty well, but in the last ten seconds of the game two Limerick players ended up being ejected from the game, Eoin Whelan for helmet to helmet contact, and on the very next play Pat Noonan was ejected for tacking a prone player.
With only 1 second on the clock Reinhardt threw for the corner and was intercepted for Limerick to end the game and to take a 6&2 record into the Wildcard playoffs. The Wolves face a must win trip to the West Dublin Rhinos next week to give themselves any chance of SBC survival, and even if they do win, their survival still isn’t guaranteed as the Rhinos/Knights game is still yet to be decided. If the Rhinos win that then it won’t matter to the Wolves if Waterford beat them or not they will be relegated to IAFL1.