Heartbreak as six-point lead evaporates in final stretch
All Ireland senior Hurling Semi-Final: Limerick 3-32 Cork 2-31
Hard to do last Sunday's action between Cork and Limerick justice but to surmise, Limerick are through to their first All-Ireland final in 11 years while Cork's wait to get their hands-on Liam McCarthy goes on for another year at least.
Despite the closeness of the contest Cork had one foot firmly in the final with a six-point lead after 64 minutes, however, a great comeback allied to a collapse of sorts from the men in red saw the game head for extra-time which Cork never looked like winning.
The early skirmishes went the way of the Rebels with Shane Kingston opening the scoring with less than 60 seconds on the clock.
Cork were caught napping on the restart as Limerick levelled thanks to a point from Cian Lynch, which came directly from a quick puck out - a tactic that the Treaty side would employ over and over again.
Cork led again on the next play with Seamus Harnedy notching up his first of the game but again Limerick hit back with wonderful score from Gearoid Hegarty.
Two minutes on the clock and four points on the board - this one had cracker written all over it - and, while the scoring pace obviously had to settle down some bit, the intensity and excitement of the fixture certainly did not.
Cork looked good for the next half hour and despite racking up far too many wides they looked like they would lead at the break, but a sucker punch goal from Cian Lynch on the stroke of the interval sent the men in green in leading by one. 1-12 to 0-14.
Cork were back on terms moments after the resumption thanks to another Darragh Fitzgibbon masterpiece, but Limerick were not going to be distracted and managed to keep their noses just in front with Aaron Gillane and Lynch adding points as Daniel Kearney and Conor Lehane responded.
Cork managed to wrestle back the lead from Limerick on 43 minutes and started to open the first real gap of the game which was added to by Lehane's brilliant goal on 53.
Limerick responded with a brace of points, but Cork were now in the zone and restored the six-point gap with another Fitzgibbon point and one from Luke Meade.
Cork looked to be well on their way to victory at this point with just six remaining minutes on the clock but credit to Limerick they stuck to their guns and banged over seven points on the bounce to wrestle the lead in the 73rdminute from a shell-shocked Cork.
The well-publicised save from Limerick's Nicky Quaid on Harnedy kept Limerick on track but a late free in the midfield gave Patrick Horgan the chance to save Cork and yet again the nerves of steel shown impressed all.
Extra-time started well enough for Cork with Horgan landing yet another free but from that point on there really did look like only one winner as Cork wilted and Limerick pushed on - mainly thanks to their impressive substitutes Shane Dowling, Peter Casey, David Reidy and Barry Nash.
Dowling's goal from a penalty four minutes into the second half of extra time looked to have sealed this one with the goal from Ryan all, but sending Limerick through moments later.
Cork did have a second goal at the death from Lehane, but it was never going to make a difference as Cork dropped out at the same stage as last year - albeit with a much better performance this time round.
Back to the drawing board for John Meyler and his men as Limerick look to win their first All-Ireland for 45 years.
LIMERICK: N. Quaid; S Finn, M. Casey, R. English; D. Byrnes 0-1f, D. Hannon (c), D. Morrissey; D. O'Donovan 0-1f, C. Lynch 1-1; K. Hayes 0-1, G. Hegarty 0-3, T. Morrissey 0-1; A. Gillane (0-13, 7 frees), S. Flanagan 0-1, G. Mulcahy 0-4. Subs: P. Casey for T. Morrissey (51); S. Dowling 1-4 (1-0 pen, 0-1f); for S. Flanagan (57); P. Ryan 1-0 for G. Mulcahy (63); W. O'Donoghue for D. O'Donovan (70+1); S. Hickey for D. Byrnes (77); B. Nash 0-1 for A. Gillane (inj 84). D Reidy for Hannon 0-1 (88)
CORK: A. Nash; S. O'Donoghue, D. Cahalane, C. Spillane; M. Coleman 0-2 (1.sl), E. Cadogan, C. Joyce 0-1; B. Cooper, D. Fitzgibbon 0-4; L. Meade 0-1, S. Harnedy 0-2, D. Kearney 0-3; S. Kingston 0-3, C. Lehane 2-3. P. Horgan 0-11 (10f). Subs: R. O'Flynn for S. Kingston (55); M. Ellis for D. Kearney (inj 60); T. O'Mahony for L. Meade (65); M. Cahalane for E. Cadogan (70+1); D. Kearney for M. Cahalane (e-t); M. Cahalane for S. Harnedy (inj 77); S. Kingston for D. Fitzgibbon (inj 78); J. O'Connor 0-1 for D. Kearney (85)
Referee: P O'Dwyer (Carlow)