By Jackie Cahill
Limerick kingpins Kilmallock and Cratloe of Clare will contest the AIB Munster senior club hurling championship final on November 23 after respective wins over Sarsfields and Thurles Sarsfields today.
Kilmallock made it through to a first provincial decider since 1994 with an epic extra-time victory over Cork outfit Sarsfields.
Kilmallock ran out 3-22 to 3-20 winners after the sides finished level at 3-15 apiece at the end of the regulation hour.
On home soil, Kilmallock got off to an ideal start when Kieran Kennelly booted home the game’s opening goal.
Sars hit back with two quickfire strikes from Eoin Quigley and Michael Cussen and at half-time, they led by 2-4 to 1-6.
Kilmallock regained the initiative when Brian O’Sullivan’s long range effort found the Sars net, soon after he had landed a crucial point.
Paddy O’Loughlin scored Kilmallock’s third goal to open up a 3-14 to 2-11 lead but Sarsfields hit back to force extra-time as Kieran Murphy sparked the fightback with the sixth, and final, goal of the game.
Cian McCarthy held his nerve to convert two injury-time frees and at half-time in extra-time, the sides were still deadlocked at 3-18 apiece.
They were level at 3-20 each before late scores from Paddy O’Loughlin and Limerick county star Graeme Mulcahy ensured victory for the hosts.
Meanwhile, Cratloe beat Thurles Sarsfields by 1-18 to 0-14 in the other semi-final at Cusack Park, Ennis.
Sars were rocked by a red card for Tipperary panellist Denis Maher just seconds after the throw-in, for a swipe at Cratloe captain Liam Markham.
Clare hitman Conor McGrath would finish with 0-11 for Cratloe, who are through to a very first provincial decider.
And there could be Munster glory at the double for the Banner County stars as they will face Waterford outfit The Nire in next Sunday’s football semi-final.
Sars led by 0-3 to 0-2 in the early exchanges but Cratloe hit five points without reply to gain the initiative.
And a stoppage time goal from Podge Collins was a dagger in Sarsfields hearts.
In front of a vocal 4,708 attendance, Cratloe led by 1-8 to 0-4 at half-time and with the breeze at their backs in the second half, they were content to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
The sides shared 20 points between them in the second half as Sars kept going right to the end.
But Cratloe, who registered 14 wides in total, including eight in the first half, were full value for the win, as McGrath, Collins, Markham and Conor Ryan starred.
Sars captain and ex-Tipp squad member Pa Bourke led the way in the scoring stakes for Sars with a haul of 0-8, including seven frees.