/ GAA

Limerick 0-22 Tipperary 2-13 AET

Updated: Tuesday, 03 Jul 2007 21:05

Mark O'Riordan celebrates Limerick's victory Ollie Moran after scoring the final point of the game
Mark O'Riordan celebrates Limerick's victory Ollie Moran after scoring the final point of the game

By Marty Morrissey

If there was an award at the Oscars for Sports Scriptwriting, then somebody should surely nominate whatever God designed the Munster Championship of 2007.

It has been a very special two weeks in the history of this wonderful Championship.

As a Munster man myself, we all grew up with the tales and heroics of the great Christy Ring, Mick Makey, John Doyle and Jimmy Smyth, but since I wasn't around in those illustrious times I can only imagine what these wonderful hurlers were like and how they saved the day for their team and county on different occasions.

Thankfully, I have been alive and present to witness two of the greatest weeks in the history of Munster hurling. 

We had all the drama of last weekend in Thurles when first Limerick and Tipperary went to extra-time and couldn't find a pathway past each other to a Munster final.

Last Sunday's epic clash between Cork and Waterford has already been compared in some quarters to one of the greatest games ever, especially in lieu of the disciplinary hassle involving some of the star Cork players.

Then comes Round 3 of the Limerick v Tipperary saga in front of 30,608 fans today and, honestly, one is left breathless from it all.
 
Today might have lacked the finesse and style of Cork and Waterford but it was counterbalanced by raw courage and passion in this, the second replay between the sides.

In contrast to the two previous games, Limerick dominated the first half and led at one stage by 0-07 to 0-01.

It took Tipperary 33 minutes to get their first point from play, with Eoin Kelly keeping the Premier lads in close quarters through consistent free taking.

The goal came in the 34th minute for the blue and gold when Darragh Egan was left unmarked to blast home.

Just before that, Mark Foley picked up an accidental injury and while Limerick protested afterwards it had no real impact on the score.

Once again the sides were level at half-time thanks to an Andrew O'Shaughnessy free.

The second half was powerful and enthralling as first Limerick, then Tipp, then Limerick again exchanged the lead, but nothing could separate the sides.

As we headed into the final stretch, Limerick led by three points with about four minutes to go.

But Tipperary have character and defying logic at times fought back to level the match in the 71st minute with a Seamus Butler point. Tipperary 1-12 Limerick 0-15.

We were heading into extra-time yet again! Incredible stuff!

Limerick started the first period of extra-time with a spring in their step but were rocked back after substitute Willie Ryan pulled first time on a ball that Eoin Kelly worked hard to provide.

The advantage was now with the blue and gold and they led at the break in extra-time by 2-13 to 0-17.

Could Limerick fight back yet again to draw level or would Tipperary drive on from here?

The answer came in that second period of extra-time as Limerick surged forward and relentlessly wore down the Tipperary resistance with a string of points, five in all, four from play with a '65 from Andrew O'Shaughnessy thrown in for good measure.

Ollie Moran scored I suppose what they call the insurance point and Limerick went mad, the fans invaded the pitch but referee Seanie McMahon hadn't blown the full time whistle yet!

And then the agony of six years waiting for just one Munster Championship victory was over for the Shannonsiders. And gosh, did they celebrate?

You would swear they had just won the All-Ireland!

Thousands of fans swamped their heroes and any sports fan couldn't but be impressed with the manner of the victory and the bond that now exists between 30 players, management and the people of Limerick.

The people sang and danced for joy.

All were magnificent but especially Brian Geary, Seamus Hickey, Peter Lawlor when he came on for the injured Damien Reale, Ollie Moran, Mike O'Brien and Andrew O'Shaughnessy.

However, for me, Niall Moran was outstanding with three points from play, while Mark Foley at 32 years of age was truly heroic at wing-back.

My heart goes out to Tipperary, but even they will admit and acknowledge that failure to score in the second period of extra-time was ultimately the difference between the teams.

They now head to the qualifiers group along with Cork, Dublin and Offaly, while Limerick are Munster final bound on 8 July against hot favourites Waterford.

However, for any man, woman or child to bet against this Limerick side considering what we have all experienced over the last two weeks would be very foolish indeed.

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