Limerick 2-29 Tipperary 3-21
Limerick completed the first Munster senior hurling three in a row since 1989 as Tipperary were beaten at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday afternoon.
However, few words could do justice to the majesty shown by John Kiely’s side as they effected a second-half turnaround to recover a ten-point half-time deficit and then pull clear of their opponents. It was a Jekyll and Hyde performance from the All-Ireland champions, but the good outweighed the and the bottom line is that they are in the All-Ireland semi-finals while Tipp move into the quarter-finals, bamboozled at how the direction of the game was irrevocably turned in the third quarter.
Having gone in trailing by 2-16 to 0-12 at half-time, Limerick were perhaps lucky to keep their full complement early in the second half as first-half sub Aaron Gillane, having been fouled for a free, lashed out at Cathal Barrett, but a yellow card was the decision of referee Paud O’Dwyer.
If that was a let-off, so was a half-chance of a third Tipp goal as John O’Dwyer pulled wide, but the Treatymen made the most of their breaks as the deficit was chipped at to become more manageable, with Gillane, Tom Morrissey and Diarmaid Byrnes on target. On 42 minutes, the game was really back in the melting post as Gearóid Hegarty found Gillane and, while his shot was saved, Séamus Flanagan poked in the rebound.
Though Tipp replied through Jake Morris, the green wave was in full flow and Limerick led, 1-21 to 2-17, through Flanagan on 52, with Peter Casey pointing just before the water-break.
Then, when the game was back on, the outstanding Cian Lynch laid off to wing-back Kyle Hayes at midfield and his darting run from deep saw him beat two mean before crashing home. Casey’s third point immediately after that made it 2-23 to 2-17 and while Tipp did up their scoring rate late on, with an injury-time goal from sub Mark Kehoe giving them some hope, Limerick’s momentum couldn’t be halted.
The first half was much different. While Limerick had the lead from Tom Morrissey in the third minute, it was the only time they were in front in the first half. Tipp seized the advantage as Jake Morris latched on to a break from a puckout to fire to the net and, from there, they produced a marvellous first-half display.
Jason Forde led the way with ten points in the opening period – five of his first six were from play – while Cathal Barrett and Pádraic Maher were outstanding in a full-back line that frustrated Limerick’s attacking intentions. Gillane, dropped following the win over Cork, was introduced as a 31st-minute sub and had an immediate impact with a point but, Tom Morrissey apart, the champions’ forwards struggled to find a rhythm. However, they could legitimately point to at least three instances where they should have had attacking frees that didn’t accrue.
That aside, though, they were clearly second-best in the first half, as Tipp forced turnovers and pounced on a higher number of uncharacteristic errors than usual. Their willingness to go for scores was evident from a tally of eight wides by the 17th minute, but they were creating so much that captain Séamus Callanan’s first point just before the water-break had them 1-8 to 0-7 in front.
When the action resumed, a four-point lead became seven, with a second goal coming in similar circumstances to the first. John O’Dwyer was the man to gather possession following a puckout on this occasion and, while he had had two poor wides just before that, he had no reluctance to go for goal, a decision vindicated as the ball flew past Nickie Quaid.
Limerick replied with points from Morrissey (free) and Diarmaid Byrnes to come back within five, but Tipp scored six of the next seven points, with Noel McGrath and Dan McCormack instrumental in the build-up.
Three minutes before the break, Limerick might have had a goal as Declan Hannon’s point attempt dropped short and Séamus Flanagan challenged goalkeeper Barry Hogan before poking the loose ball home but there were few arguments with the awarding of a free out.
Forde’s tenth point, a free, left ten in it at half-time but by the time Tipp would score again, a Morris point on 46, Limerick would have come within a goal. That was the Premier County’s only score in a third quarter where the Shannonsiders showed exactly why they are champions and why they are never out of a game.
Scorers for Limerick: A Gillane (0-4f), T Morrissey (0-1f) 0-6 each, S Flanagan 1-3, P Casey 0-5, D Byrnes 0-4 (0-2f, 0-1 65), K Hayes 1-0, G Hegarty 0-3, C Lynch, D Reidy 0-1 each.
Scorers for Tipperary: J Forde 0-11 (0-3f, 0-1 65), J Morris, J O’Dwyer 1-2 each, M Kehoe 1-0, R Maher, D McCormack, S Callanan, W Connors, M Breen 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: N Quaid; S Finn, R English, B Nash; D Byrnes, D Hannon, K Hayes; W O’Donoghue, D O’Donovan; G Hegarty, C Lynch, T Morrissey; P Casey, S Flanagan, G Mulcahy.
Subs: A Gillane for Mulcahy, D Morrissey for English (temporary) (both 31), D Reidy for O’Donovan (65), C Boylan for T Morrissey (66), P Ryan for Flanagan (68), R Hanley for Lynch (70).
TIPPERARY: B Hogan; C Barrett, P Maher, B Heffernan; S Kennedy, B Maher, R Maher; A Flynn, D McCormack; M Breen, J Forde, N McGrath; J Morris, S Callanan, J O’Dwyer.
Subs: W Connors for Flynn (52), M Kehoe for McGrath, N O’Meara for O’Dwyer, P Cadell for McCormack (all 56), B McGrath for Heffernan (59).
Referee: P O’Dwyer (Carlow).