Munster Senior Hurling Championship - Round 4
The Munster Championship is the gift that keeps on giving as Tipperary and Limerick played out a gargantuan fourth round tie in FBD Semple Stadium as the bitter rivals left with a share of the spoils on an exceptional occasion this afternoon.
Tipperary led for the majority of the minutes of this game and threw everything at Limerick over the course of the nearly 80 minutes of play, and despite that Limerick looked to have won it late on with Tom Morrissey’s 75th minute point in added time giving Limerick the lead.
But it was left up to John McGrath with time up to show his experience - on the pitch only a minute - winning possession from the last play to draw a free and despite being laid up for a minute or so from that tackle he showed pure quality and nerves of steel to step up and level the game and send all the supporters home satisfied and with a collectively high blood pressure to go with it.
The attitude from Liam Cahill’s players was on point from early on, even allowing from Limerick taking the lead within ten seconds after Darragh O’Donovan won the throw in and fed Aaron Gillane on the overlap to point inside the 45.
The match ups from the start were interesting to say the least, with Dan McCormack picking up Gearoid Hegarty, while Cathal Barrett lined up to take on Seamus Flanagan, along with Michael Breen stepping up on Aaron Gillane.
Noel McGrath settled his side with a fantastic sideline not a minute after Gillane’s effort and it kicked off a run of scores which put Tipp into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead as Mark Kehoe’s improvised shovelled point and a monstrous long range free from Rhys Shelly found the target.
Tipp were ravenous in their work rate and Jake Morris and Mark Kehoe were continuing their form from the Cork game, with Nenagh man Morris finding the target for his first of the day after ten minutes, just after Gearoid O’Connor settled himself to score his first placed ball of the day a minute earlier,
A few uncharacteristic wides from Diarmaid Byrnes and Tom Morrissey was taking the impetus from the Limerick effort at times, but it must be said that they were taking them under severe pressure, but Seamus Flanagan did win his first fifty-fifty ball with Cathal Barrett to point after 11 minutes.
It was apparent that Tipp were hellbent on trying to turn the Limerick half back line, and it drew another free soon after which O’Connor converted to open a 0-6 to 0-3, but the Treaty hit the next three scores with two majors from Cathal O’Neill either side of a Diarmaid Byrnes long range free restoring parity after 17 minutes.
Jake Morris was showing very well at this point and had his second and third points bagged in quick succession, first being set up well by Mark Kehoe and then nabbing the puckout from Nickie Quaid to fire over from the 45.
Tom Morrissey and Cathal O’Neill were starting to influence the game in a big way, and only for some poor striking from the former they’d have had a bigger tally but he did hit his first of the game in the 20th minute, with a swift Tipp response from the lightning pair Mark Kehoe and Jake Morris who were causing consternation in the full forward line.
The sides were trading blow for blow for the rest of the first half but Limerick were doing a lot of huffing and puffing, with Dan McCormack subduing Gearoid Hegarty completely, while Cian Lynch wasn’t looking full fit for the throes of the game.
However, it was Tipp who finished the half well and had the scores to reflect that dominance, with three O’Connor frees along with a third Mark Kehoe point had the Premier in front with a three point advantage at the break at 0-15 to 0-12.
Tipperary have been in this position so many times in the last few years at the break, so there was nobody in the gantry or the stands getting carried away from a Tipp point of view, and the early stages of the restart looked like a case of groundhog day once again, as the Treaty came out of the blocks with the first four points to take the lead, with Cathal O’Neill finding far too much space again with two points, along with an Aaron Gillane free and a savage score from Seamus Flanagan after a beautiful diagonal ball from Darragh O’Donovan.
Experience and cool heads were needed now to stem the Limerick tide, and a Bryan O’Mara “injury” stopped the game for a few minutes in the 41st minute and gave the Premier a chance to regain their shape and composure.
And it worked a treat as Gearoid O’Connor converted a free two minutes later before a well picked out pass across the pitch from Mark Kehoe found captain Noel McGrath in space to score and put Tipp back in front.
The energy and excitement in Semple Stadium was starting to cause the stands to shake as the players put in ferocious hits and passages, and the teams went into another tit-for-tat battle going into the fourth quarter; with Tipp holding a slender one point lead with ten minutes to go after a brace of beauties from substitute Conor Bowe after his introduction giving Tipp the impetus, but the likes of Diarmaid Byrnes and Declan Hannon were now powering into the game and the latter pointed a beast of a point in between Bowe’s scores to keep the All Ireland champions going.
It was going to be a frantic last ten minutes now with nothing between the teams and Tom Morrissey again was causing Eoghan Connolly endless problems, finding space all too often and had levelled the game at 0-21 apiece in the 63rd minute, but Tipp weren’t letting it deter their play and after O’Connor re-established the lead two minutes later a ridiculous Noel McGrath pass in traffic back over his head with the hurley found Conor Bowe in space and the Moyne Templetuohy attacker pointed his third of the game to put two points between the with four minutes of normal time to go.
Limerick had impact subs of their own though and the experienced head of Graeme Mulcahy had it back to one with two to go and it was Diarmaid Byrnes who stepped up to the plate again to level it, launching over a monster free from at least 80 yards from under the old stand to level it again.
The atmosphere was electric at this stage and when six minutes of added time were announced there was still time for the game to be won, and Tipp got a big boost two minutes into added time, when Barry Nash received his second yellow for an off the ball incident, and Seamus Callanan made his move first for Tipp soon after, intercepting a Byrnes pass to run onto the ball and fire over with just two minutes to go.
All Ireland’s aren’t won by teams without character and Limerick showed their credentials in the next few minutes a man down as they hit the next two points, first from Graeme Mulcahy and a massive score from the unremarkable Tom Morrissey and it looked like that could be the winning of the game.
But the Premier men have bottle of their own and John McGrath - just on the pitch for his brother Noel - won a free as the clock ticked into the red and after a brief stoppage he dusted himself down to fire it over from the 65 to send Tipp supporters wild.
Sean Stack blew his whistle just after the puckout as the sides shared the spoils in another classic Munster Championship game to add to this year’s list, as the draw makes sure that Tipperary progress out of the province with a game to spare, while a win over Waterford will see Liam Cahill’s men into a Munster final against Clare.
There were unreal performances all over the pitch with Mark Kehoe and Jake Morris continuing to assume the leadership mantle, while Noel McGrath, Dan McCormack, and Cathall Barrett all played very well.
Limerick will go forward into the last weekend as they host Cork in what is now a winner takes all tie.
Tipperary: Gearoid O’Connor (0-9, 0-8f), Jake Morris 0-5, Mark Kehoe, Conor Bowe 0-3 each, Noel McGrath (0-2, 0-1sl), Rhys Shelly, John McGrath 0-1f each, Seamus Callanan 0-1.
Limerick: Aaron Gillane (0-6, 0-3f), Cathal O’Neill 0-5, Diarmaid Byrnes 0-5, Tom Morrissey 0-4, Diarmaid Byrnes 0-4f, Seamus Flanagan, Graeme Mulcahy 0-2 each, Declan Hannon, Peter Casey 0-1 each.
Tipperary: Rhys Shelly; Cathal Barrett, Michael Breen, Ronan Maher; Eoghan Connolly, Bryan O’Mara, Seamus Kennedy; Alan Tynan, Dan McCormack; Conor Stakelum, Patrick Maher, Noel McGrath; Jake Morris, Gearoid O’Connor, Mark Kehoe.
Subs: Seamus Callanan for P Maher (12, blood sub - reversed after 14); Seamus Callanan for Tynan (45); Conor Bowe for P Maher (52); Brian McGrath for Barrett (60); Johnny Ryan for Stakelum (69); Sean Ryan for Gearoid O’Connor (69); John McGrath for N McGrath (75).
Limerick: Nickie Quaid; Mike Casey, Dan Morrissey, Barry Nash; Diarmaid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, Kyle Hayes; Darragh O’Donovan, Will O’Donoghue; Gearoid Hegarty, Cian Lynch, Tom Morrissey; Aaron Gillane, Seamus Flanagan, Peter Casey.
Subs: Peter Casey for Lynch (50); Conor Boylan for Hegarty (57); Graem Mulcahy for Flanagan (62); David Reidy for O’Neill (64); Richie English for M Casey (65).
Referee: Sean Stack (Dublin)