TIPPERARY stayed in their shells for 30 minutes of today's Munster semi-final but for the remaining 40 minutes they produced polished, precision hurling to enjoy a 16-point win over Limerick.
It was more than enough to get them past their dogged rivals, who had beaten them twice in successive years, and straight into a provincial decider against Waterford, the most improved team in the land.
For the opening 10 minutes, however, and indeed 20 after the restart, Tipp looked sleepy, off the pace even. But in between and after those dormant spells they showed enough to be deemed championship contenders again.
It was a day that All Star Darren Gleeson really came of age in the Tipp shirt with some spectacular saves, Jason Forde too. It was also an afternoon when Richie McCarthy was caught on the edge of the square and a game which showed that when the Tipp forwards knuckle down, produce a relentless work-rate and create space they look unstoppable. The moment those forwards stop working, however, they lose something.
Don't mind today's game - down the line if they want to win a Munster or an All-Ireland title therein lies the key.
Still, there are far more positives for Eamon O'Shea than for his counterpart TJ Ryan. Tipp are back in a Munster final, the spine of their team looks well and they have players like Lar Corbett and Noel McGrath to come back into their side.
After a slow start Tipp finally awoke and were far superior to their opponents for the remainder of the first half. Paudie Maher, making his 30th championship appearance, saw Declan Hannon pick up three points playing off him but yet Maher had the run of the park. Darren Gleeson worked every puck out short and playing against a stiff breeze Tipp had precision enough to still lead by six at the break.
For a side looking for a first championship win in Limerick there was no uncertainty apparent in Tipp's play for most of the first half. Eleven of the side that started last year's All Ireland Final replay begun this game and their experience was vital. Bonner Maher roared into life, hitting 0-3 from play in the first 35, Seamie Callanan led Richie McCarthy on a dance and fired 2-2 off him in that time, while John O'Dwyer and Shane McGrath were also razor sharp. Niall O'Meara worked his socks off and the Tipp forwards rotated, switched, jinked and jived all over the Gaelic Grounds, rendering Limerick's man marking policy useless at times.
The hosts were left one on one too many times and while Hannon had 0-3 in the opening period, they were dependant on Shane Dowling's free-taking. Their main men stepped up to the plate in the first 10 minutes until Tipp's attack came running at them.
By the 12th minute Tipp had shot into a lead. They had scored 2-11 against the breeze by the break. Limerick had five forwards who scored from play and yet they were winning no ball from their own puck outs. Their full back line, meanwhile, was taken apart. It was difficult to see any road to redemption appearing.
Paul Browne, recovered from a shoulder injury, came on for Limerick and Seamus Hickey took the task of marking Seamie Callanan after the restart. The home side really upped the ante, forcing Darren Gleeson into three great saves soon after. Dowling sunk a penalty after 40 minutes to bring them within three points.
Tipp went to sleep for the next 14 minutes as Limerick exerted more and more pressure. Jason Forde, Callanan (two) and O'Dwyer finally hit points to get their team into the second half and with 20 minutes left Tipp led by five points.
Soon after Jason Forde ran 30 metres to get on the end of a Bonner Maher pass and he goaled to kill the game. Their bottle had been questioned again but they hit 1-4 without reply and it was enough to quell those doubts. They proceeded to fire a series of scores which puts them back into another Munster final.
Tipperary: S Callanan (2-5, 0-1 '65, 0-1f), J O'Dwyer (0-7, 1'65), J Forde (1-3), Patrick Maher (0-3), M Breen (1-0) S McGrath (0-2), N O'Meara (0-1), J Woodlock (0-1), S Bourke (0-1)
Limerick: S Dowling (1-7, 4f, 1-0 pen, 2 '65), D Hannon (0-3) D Breen (0-1), G O'Mahony (0-1), G Mulcahy (0-2), S O'Brien (0-1), D O'Grady (0-1)
Tipperary: D Gleeson; P Stapleton, J Barry, C O’Brien; K Bergin, Pádraic Maher, R Maher; J Woodlock, S McGrath; J Forde, B Maher, Patrick Maher; J O’Dwyer, S Callanan, N O’Meara.
Subs: M Cahill for P Stapleton (inj, 35), M Breen for S Callanan (53, blood sub - Callanan returns 61), S Bourke for N O'Meara (68), M Breen for S Callanan (58)
Limerick: B Hennessy; S Walsh; R McCarthy, S Hickey; S O’Brien, G O’ Mahony, T Condon; J Ryan, P O’Brien; D O’Grady, D Hannon, D Breen; G Mulcahy, S Dowling, C Lynch.
Subs: P Browne for D Breen (h/t), K Downes for D O'Grady (50), J Fitzgibbon for P O'Brien (59), W McNamara for R McCarthy (59), D Reidy for J Ryan (66)
Ref: B Gavin (Offaly)
Belief, real belief, the deeply held conviction that you can defeat the opposition is an essential ingredient, any day you take the field in the championship. It's an intangible. It's not something you can buy or measure. But failing to acquire it effectively dooms you to failure.
Tipperary and Limerick is the fiercest rivalry of them all. I hadn't realised just how bad it was until I went to match with a friend from a part of Limerick so close to Tipperary the apples fall off the trees from one county into the other. This normally mild- mannered man went off the head.