Limerick 1-25 Waterford 0-17
DESPITE a 30-minute delay due to a traffic jam on the M7 and a late red card for Peter Casey, Limerick marched into their third All-Ireland final in four seasons at Croke Park.
Raging favourites to retain the Liam MacCarthy before a ball was pucked this summer, it will take a hell of a lot more than we've seen to date from either of the other semi-finalists, Cork and Kilkenny, to deny them now.
After an understandably slow first quarter, where the Déise brought the momentum from recent wins over Galway and Tipp into a bruising contest, Limerick were still 0-4 to 0-3 up. They found their groove after the water break and by half-time the lead was stretched to eight points: 0-15 to 0-7.
Seamus Flanagan and Tom Morrissey were the scorers in chief for the Treaty, though RTE subsequently gave the Man of the Match to hard-working midfielder Darragh O'Donovan. An Aaron Gillane piledriver in the second half left Liam Cahill's men in serious trouble against their conquerors in the 2020 Munster and All-Ireland finals.
It meant the major talking point after was Casey's straight red in the 60th minute, which will rule him out of the decider in two weeks. John Kiely's charges are as abrasive and physical as you'd expect from such a dominant force in hurling, but they were lucky not to see players sent off against Cork and Tipp.
Casey's dismissal was particularly needless as they were cruising home at that juncture, 10 points up.
Still, even without the gifted inside forward, Limerick are a hurling force of nature.
A Gillane 1-5 (0-4 f), T Morrissey 0-5, S Flanagan 0-4, C Lynch, D Byrnes (0-2 f) 0-3 each, P Casey 0-2, G Hegarty, W O’Donoghue, D O’Donovan (f) 0-1 each.
Stephen Bennett 0-6 (0-5 f), A Gleeson 0-4 (0-1 sl, 0-1 f), D Hutchinson, C Lyons, J Barron 0-2 each, K Bennett 0-1.
N. Quaid; S. Finn, D. Morrissey, B. Nash; D. Byrnes, D. Hannon (c), K. Hayes; W. O’Donoghue, D. O’Donovan; G. Hegarty, C. Lynch, T. Morrissey; P. Casey, A. Gillane, S. Flanagan.
D. Reidy for G. Hegarty (66); G. Mulcahy for S. Flanagan (67); R. English for D. Byrnes (68); C. Boylan for C. Lynch (70); C. Coughlan for B. Nash (inj 70+3).
S. O’Brien; S. McNulty, C. Prunty (c), I. Kenny; Shane Bennett, K. Bennett, C. Gleeson, C. Lyons; J. Fagan, Stephen Bennett, J. Prendergast; D. Hutchinson, A. Gleeson.
D. Lyons for P. Hogan, M. Kiely for J. Prendergast (both 44); N. Montgomery for J. Fagan (52); S. Fives for I. Kenny (inj), P. Curran for Shane Bennett (both 55).
J. Keenan (Wicklow).