Defiant Limerick stand tall to book their Munster final place
Players speak of a perceived ‘lack of respect’ as they savour thrilling victory over Tipp
Tipperary’s Cathal Barrett feels the weight of a Limerick challenge during the Munster championship clash in Thurles. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Just a little respect. That’s all Limerick were after. Aretha’s justalittlebit. They came to Semple Stadium yesterday as Munster champions and left with crown still upright and flag still flying. They came as champions but they felt like they were being let in through one side door and ushered out through another. Rarely has the everybody-wrote-us-off line been better employed.
They dinged and donged with Tipperary all afternoon and ended up 2-18 to 2-16 to the good by the time it breathed its last. Though they trailed by three points going into the 70th minute, they kept their feet better in the tumbling, whirligiging finish. They planted 1-2 on the scoreboard without reply when the game was there for the grabbing, a surge of pure and boundless defiance.
Afterwards, they wasted no time informing all and sundry what was behind it. Disrespect, plain and simple. Most previews to the championship had them well down the pecking order and they were readily available at 7/2 with the oddsmakers yesterday.
Slip backMidfielder Paul Browne had spoken in the build-up of getting the feeling that people wanted Limerick to “just slip back into the shadows”. The truth or otherwise of the assertion is nowhere near as important as the fact that they felt it.
“If you ask any man inside in that dressing room,” said Browne afterwards, “the driving factor today was the media and what’s been said, the disrespect that’s been shown to us. Just from the media in general, from our own public in Limerick too. Look, we were Munster champions and we weren’t giving up that crown without a hell of a fight.
“You try and keep away from the papers and stuff but inevitably you end up hearing it through the grapevine. We had heard all that stuff and to be honest we were disgusted with it ourselves. We just wanted to prove to ourselves and to the hurling nation that we’re not going away.”
Consider us reminded.
If this wasn’t quite the purest drop in terms of Munster Championship matches, it had a finish that will linger a while. The sides were level nine times and nobody managed to build a lead bigger than four points all afternoon. After going in at 1-8 apiece at half-time, they were never separated by more than a puck of a ball.
All of which made the endgame such a teasing, teetering fiesta. After Lar Corbett came off the bench to flash a score seven minutes from time, it put Tipp two points up and bubbling. With the next attack, Limerick rained a high ball down on top of Tipp full-back Pádraic Maher, who was blessed to get away with a misjudgement – Barry disallowing Graeme Mulcahy’s goal after deciding that Shane Dowling had tipped Maher’s hurley as the pair of them went for the ball.
Dowling’s time would come though. Having already enjoyed a bonanza in helping himself to 1-9 from frees, it was he who squared the game in the 70th minute.
After Kevin Downes strode right down the throat of the Tipp defence, he fed Dowling who cut inside and nailed the finish. Sides level, 2-16 to 2-16. Not a soul in the 24,962 crowd thinking of the exit.
For Tipp, this was a deadening finish. Just as in the corresponding fixture last year, it was the Limerick players who sizzled and spat when the fat was in the fire. Substitute Tomás Ryan knifed the go-ahead point from out on the left, Séamus Hickey cherried the cake with a primal scream of a run through the middle in the game’s last play.
Regulation freesYet again, Tipp’s poets didn’t grab the quill when prose was the order of the day. Noel McGrath finished with only a point against his name. Séamus Callanan posted five but three of them were regulation frees.
They were indebted to the other-wordly Bonner Maher, through whom everything good they did seemed to funnel. Gearóid Ryan and John O’Dwyer were excellent as well. But it’s nearly two full years now since Tipp won a championship game and they’ve had their chances to win just about every one they’ve lost. Troubling times.
“In one sense, I’m very disappointed,” said Eamon O’Shea.
“But in another, I know that there’s something building here. I know that sounds strange to say after a defeat but I think we will get over the line. We were three points up and in sight of the finishing line. But we have a difficulty in finding the finishing line.”
Their search for it will be one of the strands that detain us through a hurling summer that is humming already. Both Munster championship games have gone to the wire and yesterday Laois had Galway defending an injury-time 21-metre free to escape Portlaoise alive.
If we thought last year was going to be a tough act to follow, there’s been no evidence of it yet.