Kyle Hayes hit a key goal as Limerick recovered from an eight-point half-time deficit to seal promotion from Division 1B of the Allianz Hurling League for the first time in eight years with victory over All-Ireland champions Galway in Pearse Stadium.
Without ten of their panel due to club commitments, Limerick were never ahead until two minutes from time when Cian Lynch pushed them one clear, while Pat Ryan fired another point late on as the visitors took a deserved win.
This was a hugely physical display from John Kiely’s side, and their first win over Galway in seven attempts, stretching back to 2006, and they will now meet Clare in next weekend's quarter-finals.
Limerick needed a bright start against the All-Ireland champions, but after three early wides from Kiely’s troops, it was the home side that flew into the action with scores from Conor Cooney and David Burke.
A long puck-out from James Shehill from one of those wides resulted in Galway’s goal in the third minute, and after the ball broke off Jason Flynn, Cathal Mannion fired a crisp ground stoke past Nicky Quaid.
Limerick beat reigning All-Ireland Champions Galway in the Allianz Hurling League! See the Full-Time Highlights here on GAANOW! pic.twitter.com/Q1zs7IvDMy— The GAA (@officialgaa) March 11, 2018
Johnny Coen fired a point straight away for Galway as they led 1-03 to 0-00 after three minutes, but to their credit Limerick began to pick out their forwards, and with Seamus Flanagan impressive at the edge of the square they hauled their way back into the action.
A point from Gearoid Hegarty got them up and running, before Adrian Tuohey was penalised for a hold on Barry Murphy and Aaron Gillane dispatched the penalty.
The teams shared four points in the next few minutes, but four-in-a-row from Galway including two from the in-form Cathal Mannon and a brilliant Greg Lally sideline cut put them back in control.
Limerick continued to pile on the wides – they hit 11 before the interval – and despite a Gillane 65, Galway stretched their lead to 1-13 to 1-04 by the 28th minute as Cathal Mannion continually crept off Declan Hannon to score.
But in first-half added-time a flash point materialised that saw David Burke lucky to escape with a yellow card.
Burke was fouled in the build up to Flanagan’s fourth point, but when Diarmuid Byrnes pulled Burke up off the ground a melee ensued, and Burke lashed out at Byrnes with his hurley.
Despite consulting with his sideline official and two umpires, referee Cathal McAllister only booked the St Thomas’s midfielder.
A free from Gillane and a David Reidy’s score from play put six points between the sides in the early stages of the second-half, but a Flynn free seemed to stem that Limerick tide somewhat.
But Limerick hit the next three points – all Gillane frees – to make it 1-16 to 1-12, while Hayes’s goal – via a deflection off Tuohey – in the 48th minute really renewed Limerick’s hopes.
Galway kept their noses ahead, but despite Joe Canning’s seasonal bow they could not gain a significant lead.
A free from Gillane and Flanagan’s fifth point drew Limerick level in the 59th minute, and a Canning 65 was cancelled out by Graeme Mulcahy before Lynch fired the lead score for Limerick and Ryan finished the job at the death.
Limerick: N Quaid, S Finn, R McCarthy, R English; D Byrnes, D Hannon, D Morrissey; P Browne, C Lynch (0-01); G Hegarty (0-01), T Morrissey, D Reidy (0-02); A Gillane (1-07, 1-00 pen, 0-06 frees, 0-01 ‘65), S Flanagan (0-05), B Murphy.
Subs: K Hayes (1-00) for Hegarty (18), PO’Loughlin for Byrnes (35-40, blood), G Mulcahy (0-01) for Flanagan (60), Pat Ryan (0-01) for Reidy (63), Colin Ryan for Browne (66).
Galway: J Skehill; A Tuohy, P Mannion, S Bannon; G Lally (0-02, 0-01 sideline), G McInerney, A Harte; J Coen (0-02), D Burke (0-01); S Maloney, C Mannion (1-04), C Whelan; N Burke, C Cooney (0-02), J Flynn (0-07, 0-06 frees).
Subs: D Glennon for Burke (25-29, blood) & for Flynn (58), J Hanbury for Bannon (44-47, blood) & for Tuohy (48), J Canning (0-01, 0-01 ’65) for Maloney (53), S Cooney for Lally (54), B Concannon for N Burke (67).
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork)