Bord Gáis Energy Munster Under-21 Hurling Championship Quarter-Final
Tipperary 2-18 Limerick 2-11
There were no howling epithets from the Tipperary players when referee Colm Lyons blew his final whistle at Semple Stadium on Friday evening, just a solemn contentment at business smartly done.
Admittedly Limerick were disappointing, but Tipperary went about their hurling in impressive fashion. Indeed, Ken Hogan’s side deserve to win this encounter by more, much more.
Playing into the wind in the opening half Tipperary roared into a 0-8 to 0-2 lead inside the opening twenty-one minutes before an Aidan McCormack goal presented the home side with a 1-11 to 0-4 interval advantage.
Limerick did rally in the second half, but ultimately TJ Ryan’s men were out-classed.
Tipperary smashed the Limerick challenge on a bulwark of teamwork and discipline. Indeed, it was extraordinary to note that Tipperary refused to concede a free inside their own half of the field in the opening forty-four minutes.
The game was memorable for many things, but most of all for an exceptional display from corner-back Michael Breen. Jason Forde scored 1-8 and scooped the TG4 man of the match award, but, perhaps, it was the Ballina man who best encapsulated Tipperary’s impressive approach to this provincial quarter-final - when the ball was there to be won Breen got his body in there and when that ball was won Breen did his utmost to do something positive with it.
The example set was followed by Breen’s playing colleagues. At full-back Andrew Ryan was terrific, Séamus Kennedy caught the eye on the wing, Justin Cahill was busy in midfield, Dan McCormack dominated at centre-forward and Aidan McCormack enjoyed a super outing in the corner.
Tipperary took to the game like solicitors to tribunals with two Jason Forde frees and a smashing left-hander from Brian Stapleton helping the home side into a 0-3 to no-score lead. Declan Hannon got Limerick off the mark in the fifth minute while Bill Walsh was denied a goal when Limerick corner-back Mark Carmody effected a terrific hook in the sixth. Four minutes later Tipp full-back Andrew Ryan hooked the raiding William Hickey after Dan McCormack and Limerick’s Shane Dowling had traded points.
Despite playing into the breeze Tipperary then opted to go up through the gears and hit four unanswered points to claim a 0-8 to 0-2 lead by the 21st minute - Aidan McCormack, Liam McGrath and Jason Forde (one free, one penalty) were responsible for said efforts. The penalty materialised in the 16th minute when an awkward Alan Dempsey challenge on Dan McCormack left referee Colm Lyons with little option. Unfortunately, Jason Forde’s effort flew over the bar.
In the 23rd minute Kevin O’Donnell scored Limerick’s third point. Tipperary, however, responded with an Aidan McCormack effort within seconds before the Thurles man plundered the opening goal of the game in the 26th minute. The highly-influential Dan McCormack dispossessed a sloppy Barry O’Connell and fed Jason Forde who moved the ball on to McCormack. The Thurles Sarsfields star fired home a rasping left-handed shot.
Two minutes later Limerick’s Kevin O’Donnell landed a long-range free, but it was all looking a little routine for Tipperary as the home side closed out the half with a classy Jason Forde point following neat work from Niall O’Meara.
Half-time: Tipperary 1-11 Limerick 0-4.
Some terrific play from Séamus Kennedy created the room for Aidan McCormack to open the second half scoring, but Limerick were encouraged significantly in the 33rd minute when Michael Ryan goaled. David Reidy and Declan Hannon then added to the Limerick tally and with twenty minutes to play the deficit was reduced to six (1-6 to 1-12).
Jason Forde then made a critical intervention. The ‘Mines man first created an opportunity for Bill Walsh to score before Forde fired over a free which forced Tipperary back into an eight-point lead by the 41st minute. Forde also instigated a move which almost culminated in a goal in the 42nd minute, but Liam McGrath’s kicked effort was smothered before Niall O’Meara added to the Tipperary tally - 1-15 to 1-6.
The Tipperary defence coughed up their first free in the 44th minute as Limerick desperately tried to introduce a little melodrama to proceedings. Indeed, three Shane Dowling points (two frees) and a Shane Kenny effort reduced the Tipp lead to five points (1-10 to 1-15) by the 49th minute.
The Limerick supporters were howling for a penalty in the 51st minute when Andrew Ryan expertly blocked Shane Dowling’s route to goal and forced the senior star to over-carry.
Declan Hannon was booked for his protests with regard to the incident, but Tipperary kept their heads and scooted down the field to where Liam McGrath won possession and passed to Jason Forde who buried a left-handed shot. Leaving a marksman like Jason Forde unmarked with so much at stake was probably not the most sensible course of action from a Limerick point of view - 2-15 to 1-10.
Seconds later Tipperary notched the score of the game - Andrew Ryan broke out of defence and worked the ball to Michael Breen. The Ballina man found Bill Maher who, in turn, passed to Brian Stapleton who landed a terrific effort from distance.
Shane Dowling (free) and Jason Forde then traded points before Borris-Ileigh men Conor Kenny and Dan McCormack combined beautifully before McCormack belted over a terrific effort to hand Tipperary a ten-point lead in the 58th minute.
With two minutes to play Shane Kenny buried a superb left-handed shot in a top corner following fine work from Shane Dowling and Declan Hannon - to be fair Limerick’s efforts hardly deserved that second three-pointer.
Tipperary: Darragh Mooney (Éire Óg Annacarty), Cathal Barrett (Holycross-Ballycahill), Andrew Ryan (Toomevara), Michael Breen (Ballina), Joe O’Dwyer (Killenaule), Tomás Hamill (Killea), Séamus Kennedy (St Mary’s Clonmel), Justin Cahill (Kilruane MacDonagh’s), Brian Stapleton (Templederry Kenyons, 0-2), Jason Forde (Silvermines, 1-8, 0-5 frees, 0-1 penalty), Dan McCormack (Borris-Ileigh, 0-2), Niall O’Meara (Kilruane MacDonagh’s, captain, 0-1), Aidan McCormack (Thurles Sarsfields, 1-3), Bill Walsh (Carrick Swans, 0-1), Liam McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney, 0-1). Subs: (46th) Conor Kenny (Borris-Ileigh) for Bill Walsh, (51st) Bill Maher (Kilsheelan-Kilcash) for Joe O’Dwyer, (54th) Tommy Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg) for Aidan McCormack, (61st) John Meagher (Loughmore-Castleiney) for Cathal Barrett.
Limerick: Owen Webb O’Rourke, Alan Dempsey, Mark O’Loughlin, Mark Carmody, Dan Morrissey, Barry O’Connell, Kevin O’Donnell (0-2, 0-1 free), Thomas Ryan, Shane Kenny (1-1), Declan Hannon (0-2), William Hickey, David Reidy (0-1), John Fitzgibbon, Shane Dowling (0-5, 0-3 frees), Adrian Breen. Subs: (25th) Kevin O’Brien for William Hickey, (HT) Barry Lynch for Barry O’Connell, (HT) Michael Ryan (1-0) for John Fitzgibbon, (45th) Robert Egan for David Reidy.
Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork).