All-Ireland champions Limerick continue to overcome the best Tipperary can throw at them.
At the TUS Gaelic Grounds the home side saw off the challenge of the Premier County to reach a third league final in five seasons.
Tipperary have now failed to beat Limerick in their last seven encounters – their last win was in the 2019 Munster round robin, and they haven’t beaten the Treaty County in the league since an extra-time success in the 2018 semi-final.
Granted the outcome of their Munster championship clash on May 21 is far more significant but Limerick are not prepared to yield an inch in this rivalry.
Goals had sustained Tipperary during their unbeaten run through Group B with Liam Cahill’s side finding the net on 14 occasions and never failing to score fewer than two goals. But Nickie Quaid kept a clean sheet – indeed, Tipperary didn’t have one shot on goal.
They were virtually overrun in the second half managing just 0-3 from play and being outscored 1-13 to 0-9. Having hit seven wides in the first half Limerick recorded just one after the break. They had 13 different scorers compared to six for Tipperary.
So, Limerick march on to the Easter Sunday final in which they will meet the winners of Sunday’s second semi-final between Kilkenny and Cork. Ominously they look in better shape than they did a year ago when they won just one league game in the spring.
It’s back to the drawing board for Tipperary. Manager Liam Cahill just cannot get the better of Limerick – in his previous job as Waterford manager they clashed with the Treaty County on six occasions winning just once.
The All-Ireland champions fielded their strongest team since last year’s final with 11 starters from the side that beat Kilkenny. Barry Murphy was a late replacement at midfield for Darragh O’Donovan.
In contrast, Tipperary had just six survivors from the last beaten by seven points by Limerick last year’s championship: Brian Hogan, Ronan Maher, Séamus Kennedy, Conor Stakelum, Jake Morris, and Noel McGrath.
There was a confrontation before the throw-in as the match officials attempted to implement the new rule which stipulates that other than the four midfielders all other players must be behind their 45m line for the throw-in.
Once the action got under way the scores came at a rate of one a minute in the opening exchanges. A fabulous ninth minute point from Jason Forde after a rapid puck-out from Barry Hogan gave the visitors a 0-5 to 0-4 advantage but by then Limerick had hit four wides from long range.
The frenetic scoring rate continued but gradually Tipperary gained the upper hand; twice they moved into a three-point lead and by the 21th minute they were five points clear.
Midfielder Alan Tynan chipped in with three points while Mike Casey was struggling to contain Jason Forde who in addition to converting two frees hit three super points from play. He finished the half with an eight-point tally – five from placed ball.
Cian Lynch was essentially keeping Limerick in the match but they were uncharacteristically wasteful with Diarmuid Byrnes squandering two chances and Aaron Gillane missing a straight forward looking fear.
In the last 15 minutes the scoring rate finally slowed, and Limerick’s marksmanship improved. But they still trailed by four at the break (0-16 to 0-12) as the pin-point accuracy of Tipp’s deliveries troubled the Limerick defence.
Limerick opted not to make changes at the break but within five minutes of the restart they had reduced the deficit to a point with scores from Gillane (free), Cian Lynch and Tom Morrissey, the latter a smashing effort from the wing.
There was more urgency about Limerick’s play and although Tipp stretched their lead to three again after Alan Tynan hit his fourth point from play Limerick hit the next four scores – including three frees – before Aaron Gillane’s first point from play in the 46th minute gave them the lead for the first time since the seventh minute.
A Gearóid O’Connor point in the 50th minute – their first for eight minutes – left it a one-point game, but Limerick stepped on the gas again with three unanswered points.
Content to hit points up until then, they finally went for a goal in the 57th minute when a cross-field ball from the increasingly influential Colin Coughlan was fielded by Peter Casey ahead of Johnny Ryan and the full forward beat Barry Hogan from close range with a kicked effort to extent their lead to six points.
The score effectively killed the game as the Limerick fans in the attendance of 11,812 could relax knowing that their place in another national final was all but secure.
Tipp did score five points in a row and Limerick went scoreless for ten minutes but they finished a satisfactory night with two points from play via Peter Casey and Cian Lynch deep in stoppage time.
Scorers – Limerick: A Gillane 0-7 (6fs); D Byrnes 0-6 (5fs); P Casey 1-2; D Hannon, C O’Neill, T Morrissey, C Lynch 0-2 each; B Nash, C Coughlan, B Murphy, W O’Donoghue, D Ó Dálaigh 0-1 each. Tipperary: J Forde 0-14 (11f), A Tynan 0-4, G O’Connor 0-3, S Kennedy 0-2, N McGrath 0-1, J Morris 0-1.
Limerick: N Quaid 7; S Finn 7 M Casey 6, B Nash 7; D Byrnes 8, D Hannon 7, C Coughlan 7; B Murphy 7, W O'Donoghue 6; C O'Neill 7, C Lynch 8, T Morrissey 7; A Gillane 7, P Casey 7, D Ó Dálaigh 7. Subs: G Hegarty 6 for O’Neill 60m, C Boylan for Morrissey 63m, R English for Finn 65m, S Flanagan for Gillane 71m, M Houlihan for O’Donoghue 73m,
Tipperary: B Hogan 7; E Connolly 7, M Breen 7, J Ryan 6; D McCormack 7, B O'Mara 7, R Maher 6; C Stakelum 7, A Tynan 8; S Kennedy 7, N McGrath 7, G O'Connor 7; J Forde 8, P Maher 6, J Morris 6. Subs: M Kehoe 6 for P Maher 51m, J McGrath 5 for Morris 55m, C Bowe for Kennedy 66m.
Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway).