Limerick jubilant as they bridge 17-year gap for Munster title
There was joy unconfined for Limerick hurling fans as their team bridged a 17-year gap by beating 14-man Cork by 0-24 to 0-15 in the Munster Hurling Final at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick.
The game turned in first-half injury time when Cork's Pat Horgan, who had been the Rebels best player, was sent-off for striking Paudie O'Brien in the back of the helmet.
The sides were level at 10 points apiece at that stage but Cork never really recovered from Horgan's loss and Limerick outscored them by 14 points to five in the second half.
Limerick strength-in-depth was crucial as substitues Kevin Downes, Shane Dowling and Niall Moran contributed six points in the last crucial 20 minutes.
The result means that Limerick and Dublin are in the All-Ireland semi-finals with Cork taking on Kilkenny and Galway and Clare to meet in the All-Ireland quarter-finals on July 28.
Paudie O’Brien and Daniel Kearney traded points in the opening 60 seconds.
A super point from Declan Hannon as he burst through a number of defenders gave Limerick the lead and a Hannon free gave Limerick a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after just three minutes.
James Ryan added to Limerick’s strong start as John Allen’s men settled much the quicker.
Pat Horgan opened his account for the Rebels who were struggling to deal with ferocious tackling from the Limerick defence.
Great play by Christopher Joyce set up Seamus Harnedy to close the gap to one with Limerick guilty of pucking aimless ball into their forward division and Pat Horgan’s free in the 14th minute made it four points apiece.
Pat Horgan’s third point and the Rebels fourth in a row had them in front.
Horgan missed a huge chance to pull the sliotar into an empty net but he pulled it wide and Graeme Mulcahy punished the miss with a fine point from play for the Treaty Men.
Luke O’Farrell and Declan Hannon traded points as Nicky Quaid was fortunate that his fumble wasn’t seized upon.
Pat Horgan’s third successful free was added to be Pa Cronin as Cork capitalised on their dominance of the middle third.
The hard running David Breen earned a free and Declan Hannon opted to take the point and reduce the arrears to a solitary point.
Seamus Harnedy’s influence was growing and he swapped points with Paul Browne at the nip-tuck nature of the game continued.
Cork had created almost double the number of scoring opportunities but Pa Cronin’s second point in the 29th minute only gave Cork a two-point lead. Limerick had Herculean defending from Richie McCarthy to thank for keeping them in the game.
Seanie Tobin became the final member of the Limerick full-forward line to score and Declan Hannon’s free made it 10 points apiece at the break but that was not the end of the first half drama
In a huge turning point Pat Horgan was dismissed in first half injury time for striking the helmet of Paudie O’Brien. Ref James McGrath led the teams off at the break with a chorus of boos.
Jamie Coughlan came on for Cian McCarthy at the break as Jimmy Barry-Murphy reshuffled his pack ahead of the second half.
Graeme Mulcahy put Limerick in front after their first attack of the half and Declan Hannon sixth point doubled their advantage.
Jamie Coughlan took over the Cork freetaking duties from the red-carded Pat Horgan and he swapped points with James Ryan.
Another Coughlan free was cancelled out by Seanie Tobin with both sides trading scores again and again and Limerick led by 0-14 to 0-12 with 25 minutes to go.
Declan Hannon did brilliantly to hold Shane Dowling’s long ball and fire over his seventh point and Limerick led by three.
Shane Dowling went from provider to scorer to make it 0-16 to 0-12.
Limerick were defending with much more assurance with the extra man at the back and Cork’s heads were beginning to drop.
James Ryan and Seamus Harnedy exchanged points as the wind stiffened at the backs of the Limerick man.
Sub Cathal Nuaghton broke with superb pace and pointed to keep the Rebels in touch and Pa Cronin got them back to within two with 12 minutes left on the clock.
Seamus Hickey’s seventh ever championship point was added to by a sublime sideline cut from Declan Hannon as Limerick regained their four-point lead.
Shane Dowling and Kevin Downes stretched Limerick’s lead to six points with five minutes of normal time to go.
Downes second point copper fastened Limerick control of the game with two minutes to go and that was followed up by Shane Dowling once more and suddenly the gap was eight.
In a very poignant moment, Niall Moran, a soldier of Limerick got on the scoresheet with the final score of the game and Limerick won by nine points.
There was pandemonium after the final whistle as fans invaded the field. A brilliant occasion.