Ninety seconds, during which two sets of hurling warriors honoured the celebrated colours of their battledress - green and white on the attack, in search of the point that would give them the draw they so richly deserved, blue-and-gold defending with disciplined but absolute determination.
Ninety seconds, during which none of the 26,600 enraptured attendance can ever have been more energised, more electrified, in a performance where every single second carried the possibility of elimination, or advancement, in the championship.
Ninety seconds set off by Andrew O’Shaughnessy’s superbly-angled, deliberately-placed shot behind the forest of Tipperary legs into the corner of the net, bringing Limerick within a point of Tipperary, the point that ultimately separated these two less-than-perfect but perfectly-prepared sides.
“The fellas gave it everything,” said proud Tipperary manager Ken Hogan. “I suppose our hurling wasn’t very good, our shooting was off, and our forwards aren’t getting it together quite yet. But we showed huge heart, the lads blocked and hooked; we stressed that even if you weren’t going well, to stay in the game, keep plugging away. The forwards especially did that, even when things weren’t going well for them.”
Given the magnificent displays of all six Limerick backs - TJ Ryan and Ollie Moran particularly, you wondered how Tipp managed to clock up 3-10. However, two soft goals conceded in an otherwise suffocating defensive first-half display tells how this game was lost by Limerick, 1-3 scored by Tipp’s game-swaying midfield combination of Tommy Dunne and the ever-improving Colin Morrissey tells how it was won by Tipp.
“They were bad goals to give away,” admitted Limerick manager Padjoe Whelehan; “but losing by a point, it’s hard. Cork beat us by three points, and we scored 2-9 from play in that game, they only scored eight points, yet they’re in the Munster final. Now we’re out of the championship.”
Cruel fate, cursed fate, but championship bread-and-butter.
There were other elements to this game; already this year we’ve seen a succession of brilliant goalkeeping displays. On Saturday in the Gaelic Grounds, we had another. Limerick’s John Cahill had an excellent debut, blameless for any of the three goals that beat him, but Tipperary’s Brendan Cummins kept his team in the All-Ireland championship.
That he was beaten twice is testimony to the persistence of the Limerick attack, but on at least two other occasions in the first-half alone Cummins denied them certain goals, first the outstanding Niall Moran with a rifled angled drive from about 15 yards, then a shot of equal intensity from O’Shaughnessy, the only player to beat the Tipp keeper on the day. In the second-half, the giant Cummins went high to deny Limerick what, as it turned out, would have been a game-tying point. Superb.
Final talking point, almost inevitably these days, the referee. “I thought we deserved a free with Donie Ryan there, at the end, the hurley around the neck,”, said Whelahan. “The same thing happened against Cork, we got five bad decisions. It’s very disappointing, refereeing decisions two games in a row; you play Cork and Tipp first two games in the championship, the hardest games you can get, beaten three points and a point, it’s the hardest you can get. It’s hard to take.”
Whelahan did have a point, and in probably any other game, any other referee would have given Limerick the free. But Aodhan MacSuibhne was consistent all game in allowing play continue and there were similar incidents on both sides that were also ignored.
As Ken Hogan saw it, those final moments were all about discipline. “I thought Shaughnessy’s was a wonderful goal, he just turned, made the room and put it in the corner of the net. There was still a minute and a half to be played. Then our fellas did well, didn’t make a lunge, didn’t give away a stupid free; obviously Limerick were trying to manufacture a free, which you couldn’t blame them for, but we kept their discipline, held on well.”
A pity then that some yob would take it on himself to hurl a half-full water-bottle at the officials at the end, striking one of the escorting gardai on the head. It didn’t take anything from the spectacle we had just witnessed, but could have been more serious.
For Limerick now, end of the road, for this year at least. “Played two, lost two, doesn’t do justice to us, but that's championship hurling,” said a rueful Padjoe. “We found a few new players, a few fellas people haven’t seen yet even. Young O’Grady came in at midfield in the second-half, hurled very well, chaps like him are the future, very good hurlers. We’re working hard at it, put a lot of work into this, four nights, five nights a week. It would have been great if we got there, but sure that’s the way life is, isn’t it?”
: Tipperary: S. Butler 1-3; T. Dunne 1-1 (0-1 free); J. Carroll 1-0; C. Morrissey 0-2; E. Kelly 0-3 (0-2 frees); B. Dunne 0-1. Limerick: A. O'Shaughnessy 2-1; N. Moran 0-7 (0-4 frees, 0-2 65's); M. Foley, J. O'Brien, P. Tobin, D. O'Grady, 0-1 each.
: B. Cummins; M. Maher, P. Maher, P. Curran; E. Corcoran, D. Fanning, D. Fitzgerald; C. Morrissey, T. Dunne; P. Kelly, E. Enright, B. Dunne; E. Kelly, J. Carroll, S. Butler.
Subs: B. O'Meara (Enright inj. 33); L. Corbett (P. Kelly 35); T. Scroope (O'Meara 60); M. O'Leary (Butler 65).
: J. Cahill; M. Cahill, TJ Ryan, D. Reale; O. Moran, B. Geary, P. Lawlor; C. Smith, M. Foley; M. McKenna, JP Sheehan, N. Moran; A. O'Shaughnessy, S. O'Connor, D. Sheehan.
Subs: J. O'Brien (JP Sheehan 29), D. Ryan (O'Connor 40); D. O'Grady (Smith 49); P. O'Grady (McKenna 57); P. Tobin (D. Sheehan 63).
: A. MacSuibhne (Dublin).