By John Fogarty
Two goals in the first half of extra-time from Jason Forde sent Tipperary to their second successive Division 1 final after a riveting clash in Thurles.
The first in the opening minute a gift after Limerick goalkeeper Nicky Quaid had struck a puck-out straight to him and the second seven minute later a scrappy finish helped to give Tipperary a five-point cushion after the first half, 2-28 to 0-29.
Graeme Mulcahy’s second-half followed by David Reidy’s point threatened another dramatic end but Tom Morrissey’s later shot was easy for Daragh Mooney to snuff out.
The 12,006 crowd in Semple Stadium were treated to a marvel of an affair in which Tipperary never trailed but then they were never comfortable in normal time even when they were four points up in the 64th minute and again in the 66th and 67th minutes. Limerick’s bottle had been there for all to see in the Gaelic Grounds against Clare and here it was again in all its glory as they leeched themselves onto last year’s league runners-up.
A Ronan Maher sideline cut from 70 metres out and more looked to be a crowning moment for Tipperary but Limerick, despite having withdrawn their entire full-forward line, finished with the last four points, Cian Lynch providing two of them.
A Tom Morrissey free, after the player himself had been hurt by Brendan Maher, was the ultimate equaliser. Ronan Maher did have another sideline cut to win it but it tailed wide.
Two injury-time points meant Tipperary led at the break, 0-12 to 0-10, and while it was questionable that they were the better team in the first half they were most certainly the more economic in an enjoyable period, their only wide a Ronan Maher sideline cut in the 33rd minute.
Limerick never went ahead but they were dominant in the air across their half-back line, although the tactic of trying to hurt Tipp in their corners should have been changed as soon as they realised Michael Cahill and Alan Flynn were getting the better of their men in those duel scenarios. Flynn, though, had to be alert to first cut out a Tom Morrissey pass to Aaron Gillane, which would likely have resulted in a goal, and then clear his interception away from the goal-line.
After going 10 minutes without a score during which time the visitors drew level, Tipperary hit Limerick for four points in a row but were reeled in again towards the end of the half. Limerick were putting more thought into their play and the interchanges between the forwards for scores was sharp.
John Kiely’s side would rue their erratic shooting in the opening 35 minutes when they hit six wides and sent three short into Daragh Mooney’s possessions.
Scorers for Tipperary: J. Forde (2-11, 0-8 frees); R. Maher (2 sidelines), J. McGrath (0-5 each); M. Breen, S. Curran (0-3 each); B. Heffernan, W. Connors, B. McCarthy, J. O’Dwyer (0-1 each).
Scorers for Limerick: A. Gillane (0-7, 4 frees, 2 65s); T. Morrissey (0-6, 4 frees); G. Mulcahy (1-1); S. Flanagan, K. Hayes, G. Hegarty (1 sideline) (0-3 each); C. Lynch (0-2); B. Murphy, D. Morrissey, P. Browne, D. Byrnes, B. Nash, D. Reidy (0-1 each).
TIPPERARY: D. Mooney; A. Flynn, J. Barry, M. Cahill; B. Heffernan, Pádraic Maher (c), T. Hamill; S. Kennedy, R. Maher; J. McGrath, B. McCarthy, S. Curran; M. Breen, J. Forde, W. Connors.
Subs for Tipperary: B. Maher for T. Hamill (h-t); J. O’Dwyer for B. McCarthy (46); C. Barrett for S. Kennedy (66); D. Maher for B. Heffernan (70+2); M. Russell for W. Connors (78); C. Darcy for M. Breen (89); S. O’Brien for R. Maher (90+1).
LIMERICK: N. Quaid; S. Finn, S. Hickey, R. English; D. Byrnes, D. Hannon (c), D. Morrissey; C. Ryan, C. Lynch; G. Hegarty, K. Hayes, T. Morrissey; A. Gillane, S. Flanagan, B. Murphy.
Subs for Limerick: P. Browne for C. Ryan (h-t); P. Ryan for B. Murphy (50); G. Mulcahy for S. Flanagan (60); B. Nash for A. Gillane (inj 61); D. Reidy for G. Hegarty (84); P. O’Loughlin for D. Byrnes (86).
Referee: J. Keenan (Wicklow).