By Brendan Larkin
A GOAL from a penalty struck with power and precision by wingback Eoin Foley earned Limerick a second bite of the cherry in a cracking Munster Under 21 HC Final at Thurles last night.
Indeed, Foley had a chance to win it for the champions in injury time but his effort from a sideline cut was only inches wide.
It would have been rough justice on either side to have lost this final. Both sides had periods of dominance in which they failed to win it and of the two, Tipperary were perhaps the most disappointed as they held a three-point advantage going into the closing minutes.
At the final whistle, there was confusion when it was announced over the public address system that extra time would be played. Tipp stayed on the field, obviously wanting the extra time due to their senior and intermediate involvements, but Limerick departed and it was subsequently announced there would be no extra time played which delighted the 14,560 spectators.
Five times these excellent sides were level in a marvellous contest spoiled somewhat by the greasy underfoot conditions.
Limerick had many stars, particularly in defence where Damien Reale, Eugene Mulcahy and Paudie O’Dwyer were outstanding. Peter Lawlor and Michael O’Donnell ensured they won the midfield exchanges while up front James O’Brien, Andrew O’Shaughnessy and Niall Moran posed most of the problems for the Tipp defence.
Tipp too had their stars, notably senior player Lar Corbett who had an outstanding hour, scoring 1-2 from play. Eoin Kelly made his usual contribution from frees with six points, but in overall play found it difficult to get away from Eugene O’Neill who was switched in on the Mullinahone man after Brian Carroll struggled on him and was taken off. Paul Curran did well at fullback and John Devane was excellent at centre-back while Donal Shelley and John O’Brien had their moments in attack.
The game started at a blistering pace with Andrew O’Shaughnessy pointing for Limerick seconds after the restart. The sides were level twice in the opening minutes at 0-2 apiece, the St Colman’s star claiming the defending champions’ scores and Eoin Kelly likewise for Tipp.
Limerick looked very sharp in the opening sequence and their superiority was confirmed with their opening goal in the seventh minute.
It got worse for Tipperary and their captain six minutes later, when John O’Brien’s effort looked to be going wide but the Limerick man’s shot hit the back of the empty net as Tipp keeper Damien Young looked on in amazement.
Tipp moved to remedy the situation with a couple of switches which saw Eoin Kelly move out to left half-forward, Lar Corbett to centre-forward and John O’Brien to full-forward, and they finally began to motor.
John Devane tightened up considerably at centre-back and the home side got back into the game with a splendid goal by Donal Shelley after an excellent run. That goal settled Tipp and after Eoin Kelly and Mark Keane exchanged points, Limerick went in at half time leading 2-6 to 1-8.
Tipp resumed the second half with Kelly at full-forward and after Lar Corbett tied the game for the fourth time, a minute after the resumption, they hit the front for the first time since the second minute when Corbett pounced for a goal after an excellent line ball in by Shane Maher.
Limerick began to struggle as Tipperary scored three further points before referee Michael Wadding drew the wrath of Limerick followers when he called back Andrew O’Shaughnessy who had broken clear and awarded a free in. He would surely have goaled had he been left to carry on.
However, in a welter of excitement it all came right for the champions in the end when Conor Fitzgerald was grounded in the square and up-stepped wingback Eoin Foley to strike a splendid equalising goal.
Scorers for Limerick: N. Moran, J. O’Brien 1-1 each, M. Keane (frees), A. O’Shaughnessy 0-3 each, E. Foley 1-0 (pen), C. Fitzgerald 0-1.
Tipperary: E. Kelly 0-8 (0-7 frees), L. Corbett 1-2, D. Shelley 1-1, E. Ryan 0-1.
LIMERICK: T. Houlihan; D. Reale, B. Carroll, E. Mulcahy, E. Foley, P. O’Dwyer, M. O’Brien, P. Lawlor, M. O’Donnell, C. Fitzgerald, J. O’Brien, K. Tobin, A. O’Shaughnessy, N. Moran, M. Keane. Subs: J. O’Connor for Carroll, P. Kirby for Tobin, T. Carmody for Keane.
TIPPERARY: D. Young; M. Maher, P. Curran, D. Gleeson, T. King, J. Devane, D. Fitzgerald; S. Maher, E. Brislane, D. Shelley, L. Corbett, E. Kelly, R. O’Brien, J. O’Brien, E. Ryan. Subs: K. Mulryan for Fitzgerald, P. Buckley for R. O’Brien, M. Peters for Brislane, M. Butler for Ryan.
Referee: M. Wadding (Waterford).