Late O’Meara point edges Tipp through to decider

A POINT by Mark O’Meara three minutes into injury time earned Tipperary a narrow victory over Limerick in a hugely entertaining Munster U21HC semi-final at Thurles last night.

Six times the sides were level and it looked odds on extra-time until O’Meara struck for victory to set up a final against the winners of the Cork/Clare clash in a fortnight’s time.

Tipperary can count themselves fortunate though. They played second fiddle to Limerick for long periods. They were forced to soak up a lot of pressure and were grateful to outstanding goalkeeper Mathew Ryan, full-back Padraig Maher and the superb Thomas Stapleton at centre back.

The accuracy of Pa Bourke from frees — he finished with seven points from placed balls — kept Tipp in the game but it was Shane Bourke’s goal in the 18th minute which proved the decisive score.

Limerick will be very disappointed. Overall they were the better side and it was no fault of centre-back Seamus Hickey, wing back Gavin O’Mahony and midfielders James Ryan and Paudie O’Brien that they lost. With Tipp clinging to their narrow lead and the game deep in injury time, Limerick had one last chance to force extra-time, but Sean Tobin was inches wides with his effort.

This game was always going to be a close affair and two evenly matched sides were level four times in the opening nine minutes after they shared eight points between them.

The dominance of Limerick’s half back line of Cathal King, Seamus Hickey and Gavin O’Mahoney in particular meant Tipp struggled badly in that area but after Pa Bourke edged the home side in front, they struck for the game’s opening goal in the 18th minute.

Seamus Hennessy drove a long ball deep into the Limerick defence where Shane Bourke won possession, and after making some ground along the end line, he found the corner of the net from the acutest of angles.

Tipp moved to try and remedy their problem in the half forward line by taking off Thomas McGrath and bringing in Ray McLoughney, but Limerick continued to dictate the play.

James Ryan and Paudie O’Brien ensured they won the midfield exchanges and with Graham Mulcahy giving his marker a torrid time at right corner forward, points by David Moloney and Don Hanley left just two between the sides coming up to half time.

However, in typical Tipp finished strongly and at the break Shane Bourke’s goal separated the sides as they trooped off with the home side 1-8 to 0-8 to the good.

Limerick threw the gauntlet down to Tipp in the early minutes of the second half with points by Paudie O’Brien and Bryan O’Sullivan and this game was back in the melting pot.

In an effort to break the Limerick dominance on midfield, Tipp brought Patrick Maher out from wing forward in a swap with Seamus Hennessy but and both players benefited.

Silly frees by the Limerick defenders gave Pa Bourke the opportunity to increase his scoring rate and he duly converted two in a row to leave the goal between the teams after 40 minutes.

Tipp were hurling with a bit more aggression and almost goaled a second time but Limerick keeper Nicky Quaid saved superbly to deny Mark O’Meara.

However, Tipp’s scoring had dried up and they went 14 minutes without a score as Limerick pushed forward more and more. Two long range points by the hugely impressive Gavin O’Mahoney, the second one a magnificent effort off his left hand for over 80 metres out, left just the minimum between the sides after 50 minutes and it was all to play for.

As the tension mounted so too did the excitement and amid some tremendous bouts of first time hurling, the sides were level on two further occasions after Sean Tobin pointed a close in free.

Extra time beckoned but in one final effort a huge clearance from his own defence by Thomas Stapleton broke out to Mark O’Meara and he drilled it straight and true to give his side a victory they didn’t deserved.

Scorers for Tipperary: P. Bourke 0-9 (0-7 frees); S. Bourke 1-1; G. Ryan, S. Hennessy, M. O’Meara 0-1 each.

Limerick: E. Ryan (0-2 frees), G. O’Mahoney (0-2 frees) 0-3 each; G. Mulcahy, B. O’Sullivan 0-2 each; R. McCarthy, D. Moloney, D. Hanley, P. O’Brien, S. Tobin 0-1 each.

TIPPERARY: M. Ryan; K. Maher, Padraig Maher, B. Maher; K. Lanigan, T. Stapleton, J. McLoughney; G. Ryan, S. Hennessy; T. McGrath, S. Callinan, Patrick Maher; P. Bourke, M. O’Meara, S. Bourke.

Sub: R. McLoughney for McGrath. M. Gleeson for Hennessy; M. Cahill for McLoughney.

LIMERICK: N. Quaid; K. O’Rourke, T. Condon, P. Browne; C. King, S. Hickey, G. O’Mahoney; J. Ryan, P. O’Brien; B. O’Sullivan, D. Moloney, D. Hanley; E. Ryan,. R. McCarthy, G. Mulcahy.

Subs: S. Tobin for Ryan; T. O’Brien for Moloney.

Referee: D. Copps (Cork).

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