LIMERICK manager Mickey Ned O'Sullivan couldn't hide his frustration at being denied a fourth-minute penalty by referee Pádraig Hughes in his side's 0-16 to 1-11 extra-time loss to Cork.
Limerick were a point up when John Galvin was tumbled close to the Cork goal. It looked a clear penalty, but the ref awarded a free out for over-carrying.
The Armagh ref later gave Limerick a last-minute penalty when Galvin was shoved by Cork's Alan O'Connor in the dying moments of the match, but we'll never know how the fourth-minute incident might have changed the game.
"We're disappointed. The better team won on the day. We don't have any grudges about Cork, but we do feel that the GAA will have to get the decision-makers making right decisions," O'Sullivan said. "I don't have a persecution complex, but this is the third year in-a-row that poor decision making has cost us a game."
A hard-fought, but turgid game was ebbing towards the inevitable conclusion of mission accomplished for favourites Cork in the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday night. The Rebels were leading by five points with four minutes of normal time left when suddenly Limerick burst into life. First, Ger Collins scored a point from an awkward angle in the 69th minute.
Then in the 71st minute Cork's Alan O'Connor had a rush of blood to the head when he barged Galvin in the back as a high ball dropped in the Rebels' danger area. Up stepped Collins to blast the ball low and hard to the net.
Goalie Alan Quirke committed hari-kiri with less than 60 seconds left. His kick-out could've gone anywhere. Row Z would've been ideal compared to where the ball landed -- in Galvin's hands. Galvin raced forward and just as he's being tackled got the ball out to sub Conor Fitzgerald, who slotted it over. Draw match and extra time.
And then it became a case of which side could keep the mistakes to a minimum, because, for a while in the first period of extra-time, it was a game nobody seemed to want to win.
Daniel Goulding, Cork's leading scorer with 0-7 on the night, missed two good chances, then Limerick's top scorer, Collins, fired wide.
Time for someone to step up, and Cork's Donnacha O'Connor duly obliged, with a deadlock-breaking point after 79 minutes. Once he tapped the ball over the bar again from a free in the 81st minute, Cork had gained some vital breathing space. As for the second period of extra-time, all that needs to be said is that Limerick died with their boots on.
Cork manager Conor Counihan had this message for his troops at the end of normal time:"I said 'lads, let's take this 10 minutes at a time and I've no doubt we're capable of grinding this out'." He was right.