Despite a four points defeat at the hands of Tipperary today at Semple Stadium in the fifth round of the Munster senior hurling championship, All-Ireland champions, Limerick still go through to the provincial final where they will again meet Tipperary at the LIT Gaelic Grounds in two weeks time.
This was Limerick’s second defeat in the round-robin series and while their disappointment is softened by the fact that a number of key players were rested, a lacklustre performance will give them much food for thought in the build-up to the final.
Tipperary sailed through the campaign unbeaten and will see this win as a significant marker in their quest for silverware. Before an attendance of 39,115, they enjoyed a slight edge in a tight first half and just about deserved their interval lead of 0-12 to 0-8.
The Tipp cause was not helped however by the loss through injury of defender Cathal Barrett after thirty two minutes, and they suffered a further setback when attacker Patrick "Bonnar" Maher was carried off before the break.
Limerick defended well but their attack was given little scope, and they registered only three points from play in the opening period.
The decisive score of the game came two minutes into the second half as John McGrath set up Seamus Callanan for a Tipperary goal and a five points lead. Limerick kept nibbling at the deficit to the finish but against a fiercely determined home side, the goal they needed to really ignite their challenge never threatened.
It was a win that will hugely boost Tipperary’s confidence as they face into the final. Seamus Callanan who bagged 1-4 from play had a starring role, but Padraic Maher, Ronan Maher, John McGrath, Brendan Maher and Michael Breen all had big games.
The much-publicised strength of the Limerick bench will be under review following this setback but they have the opportunity to make amends in the final in two weeks. In this encounter they relied heavily on the free-taking of Aaron Gillane to keep them in touch.
Ten of his twelve points came from placed balls, with Diarmuid Byrnes also pointing two frees in his tally of 0-3. Paddy O Loughlin, Sean Finn and Tom Morrissey were others to do well for Limerick.
Tipperary – B Hogan; C Barrett, S Barry, S O Brien; B Maher(0-1), Padraic Maher(0-2), R Maher; M Breen(0-1), N McGrath(0-2,1f); Patrick Maher, J O Dwyer(0-1), J Morris(0-1); J McGrath(0-2), S Callanan(1-4), J Forde(0-8, 4fs, 2 sidelines); Subs - A Flynn for Barrett(31mins), D McCormack for Patrick Maher(38mins), R Burns for Breen(47mins), M Kehoe for Morris(62mins), W Connors for J McGrath(67mins);
Limerick – N Quaid; S Finn, M Casey, R English; D Byrnes(0-3,2fs), D Morrissey, P O Loughlin; D O Donovan, W O Donoghue; S Dowling(0-1), K Hayes, T Morrissey(0-3); A Gillane(0-12,10fs), S Flanagan, P Casey; Subs – G Mulcahy(0-1) for Flanagan(half-time), C Boylan for Dowling(43mins), P Ryan for Casey(57mins), C Lynch(0-1) for O Donoghue(55mins), D Reidy for Hayes(63mins);
Referee – S Cleere, Kilkenny