Limerick find an extra gear to reach a first All-Ireland final in 11 years

Breathtaking comeback catches Cork to turn around a riveting semi-final

Cork’s Bill Cooper blocks Peter Casey of Limerick during the All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho-

Cork’s Bill Cooper blocks Peter Casey of Limerick during the All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho-

 

 Limerick 3-32 Cork 2-31 

Limerick stared defeat in the face at Croke Park on Sunday before producing an extraordinary recovery and storming to victory in extra-time against a tiring Cork side, who once again experienced the torment of losing an All-Ireland semi-final as Munster champions – for the third time in five years.

In the 62nd minute of this riveting contest, Limerick trailed by five and a ruck in front of the Cork goal ended with the siege being lifted, a quick clearance to Darragh Fitzgibbon, the last person a defending team wants to see in space, and he duly outpaced everyone down the right to sweep over a point that put Cork 1-26 to 1-20 ahead.

A two-goal lead heading into the last 10 minutes appeared to draw the curtains on the occasion and book Cork’s place in this year’s final. Were Limerick to recover they would surely need goals and that didn’t look likely, given how effectively the red horde was coping at the back.

But Limerick got into a mood. Just as in the quarter-final against Kilkenny after Richie Hogan’s goal, they calmed down; pulse rate lowered, and went to work. Two points in a minute from Aaron Gillane’s free and the very influential Kyle Hayes, who played a key role in linking defence and attack, and the gap was closing.

More frees from Gillane followed by Patrick Horgan hitting the post for Cork and the momentum was unstoppable. A point behind going into injury-time and the Limerick support in a 71,073 crowd was making its presence felt but it required a match-saving intervention by Nickie Quaid which denied Séamus Harnedy to maintain the challenge.

They rounded off a seven-point turnaround with further points from Gillane and led, 1-27 to 1-26. It was as much as Cork could do to bring it to extra-time with a Horgan free.

Again like the quarter-final, it was the Limerick bench that won it. Frequently replacements can bring energy and renewed focus but this impact was far more easily calculated – 2-6 of the winning total. The goals came in the second period of extra time, courtesy of Shane Dowling’s brilliantly hit penalty – after he himself had been tumbled by Mark Ellis – and Pat Ryan’s artful shot, lobbed over Anthony Nash.

Cork will agonise over how they lost the initiative. There was bad luck involved, as captain Séamus Harnedy sustained a leg injury in the first half and never fully recovered although it required a terrific save from Quaid to stop him getting a dramatic winning goal. Daniel Kearney, outstanding for most of his time on the field, was another to make an enforced departure, as did Fitzgibbon in extra-time.

Final score

But there is a relentlessness about Limerick, a refusal to accept that the game is up and ultimately when they imposed themselves on the match, Cork struggled. The final score could have been worse for them. Conor Lehane grabbed a goal with more or less the last play in extra-time and had

What would have been a useful, two-point lead at half-time was blown apart when just before interval, Séamus Flanagan fed Cian Lynch, who ghosted in on goal and showed how to finish, straightening his run and crashing the ball into the net for a 1-12 to 0-14 lead.

Cork had looked the slicker team in the first half, livelier and more alert, forcing Limerick into turning over possession but their shooting was wayward and they ended the half with 10 wides.

Conditions at the Hill goal were difficult though, a treacherous wind complicating the shooter’s task. It led to quite a few Hawk-Eye referrals, most of which were confirmed as wides.

Limerick threatened. Corner forwards Gillane and Graeme Mulcahy shared 0-10 from play between them over the 90 minutes and the latter, along with Gearóid Hegarty, was at the forefront of the challenge in the opening 35 minutes.

The Munster champions began the second half purposefully, continued to look sharper and regained the lead. The main development for them was the springing to life of Lehane, whose first half had been in keeping with what had been a quiet season.

In 19 minutes from the 38th, he scored 1-3. The goal was a quality finish, as he came in from the right side of the goal and it suddenly opened daylight between the teams, at 1-23 to 1-18. It looked like the end.

 Limerick, however, were only starting. 

There was a minute’s applause before the throw-in in memory of Achill Boothman, who played for Dublin in the 1961 All-Ireland, the last time the county made it to the final when they were considered unlucky to lose to Tipperary by a point, 1-12 to 0-16.

LIMERICK: 1. Nicky Quaid; 2.Seán Finn, 3. Mike Casey, 4. Richie English; 5. Diarmuid Byrnes (0-1), 6. Declan Hannon (capt.), 7. Dan Morrissey; 8 Darragh O’Donovan (0-1), 9. Cian Lynch (1-1); 10. Gearóid Hegarty (0-3), 11. Kyle Hayes (0-1), 12. Tom Morrissey (0-1); 13. Aaron Gillane (0-13, seven frees), 14. Séamus Flanagan (0-1), 15. Graeme Mulcahy (0-4).  

 Subs: 17. Peter Casey for T Morrissey (51 mins), 19. Shane Dowling (1-4, goal penalty, one free) for Flanagan (57 mins), 26. Pat Ryan (1-0) for Mulcahy (63 mins), 24. Will O’Donoghue for O’Donovan (71 mins), 21. Séamus Hickey for Byrnes (76 mins), 23. Barry Nash (0-1) for Gillane (85 mins), 25. David Reidy (0-1) for Hannon (88 mins)

  CORK: 1. Anthony Nash; 2. Seán O’Donoghue, 3. Damian Cahalane, 4. Colm Spillane; 5. Christopher Joyce (0-1), 6. Eoin Cadogan, 7. Mark Coleman (0-2, one lineball); 8. Bill Cooper, 9. Darragh Fitzgibbon (0-4); 10. Daniel Kearney (0-3), 14. Séamus Harnedy (0-2), 11. Conor Lehane (2-3); 13. Shane Kingston (0-3), 15. Patrick Horgan (0-11, 10 frees), 12. Luke Meade (0-1)

 Subs: 22. Robbie O’Flynn (0-1) for Kingston (55 mins), 18. Mark Ellis for Kearney (60 mins), 19. Tim O’Mahony for Meade (65 mins), 24. Michael Cahalane for Cadogan (71 mins), 10. Kearney for M Cahalane (start of extra time),  24. M Cahalane for Harnedy (77 mins), 13. Kingston for Fitzgibbon (78 mins), 23. Jack O’Connor (0-1) for Cadogan (84 mins) 

Referee: Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow).

Stats:

Limerick

First half 1-12
Second half 0-15
Extra time 2-5
Wides 15
From Play 2-24
Frees conceded 19
Yellow cards 3: Finn (39 mins), Lynch (46 mins), Hayes (82 mins)
Red cards 0

Cork

First half 0-14
Second half 1-13
Extra time 1-4
Wides 17
From Play 2-20
Frees conceded 16
Yellow cards - 4: O’Donoghue (33 mins), Cooper (44 mins), Joyce (66 mins), Ellis (84 mins)
Red cards 0
Attendance: 71,073

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