Seven points was the difference in the end but — contradictory as this may seem — it could have been more, had Tipperary converted their obvious superiority into scores, but it could also have been a lot less, had Limerick converted the many goal chances they created throughout the game.
Three times in the opening half Limerick bore down on the Tipp goal (though playing into the breeze) but a single point was all they had to show for those efforts; twice more in the second period they again sliced open the Tipp defence, came away with nothing on either occasion. In those latter instances, however, no blame could be attached to the attackers. In the first instance a there was a magnificent last-ditch goal-line block by corner-back Óisín O’Flynn on William Shanahan (39th minute), then later, an acrobatic foot-save by keeper Gearoid Slattery, to deny Ian Fahey (55th minute).
Overall, however, Tipp were in control of this game. Featuring a dangerous inside line of Liam McGrath, Michael Quinlivan and TJ Ryan, they were four points to one ahead in the 12th minute, Limerick already with three wides. In a game that was interrupted time and again by the shrill blast of Mr Jay’s ever-ready whistle (not often you see two teams completely at odds with the referee, and for the whole hour, but thus it was, and with good reason), there was little to report in the next 10 minutes, a Limerick point from centre-forward Denis O’Dea the only scoring.
The 22nd minute, however, was the pivotal moment, the game’s only goal, and an easy concession it was too; a speculative centre in towards the Limerick goals but full-back Kevin O’Donoghue was first off the mark and got himself into good position to cut off the danger. When he slipped on the greasy surface, the ball broke to the waiting Michael Quinlivan and he finished well — 1-4 to 0-2.
Tails up, Tipp finished out the half stronger and led by six as the teams headed for the oranges, 1-6 to 0-3.
Tit for tat it was for the opening 10 minutes of the second half, two more points apiece (Danny Frewen and Francis O’Riordan for Limerick, freetaker TJ Ryan with the brace for Tipp), then three points in two minutes for Tipperary (Ryan again, sub Dean Lonergan and Liam McGrath), and Limerick were very much in the hole, nine points behind (1-11 to 0-5). There was still time for a comeback, quarter of an hour remaining, and at this stage Limerick brought on the cavalry, emptying the bench. The best of the newcomers was Dean Lillis, and his two points, along with two brilliant efforts by midfielder Dara Tracey, narrowed the gap. But it proved merely damage limitation; Tipp roll on to the semi-final against Kerry, Limerick look now to a backdoor game.
Scorers for Tipperary: TJ Ryan 0-6 (0-3f); M Quinlivan 1-2; P Quirke 0-2 (0-1f); D Lonergan 0-2, L McGrath 0-1.
Limerick scorers: D Tracey 0-2; D Lillis 0-2; F O’Riordan 0-2 (0-1f); J Quaid, D O’Dea, D Frewen, 0-1 each.
G Slattery; O O’Flynn, C O’Sullivan, P McGuire; B Maher, F Ryan, C O’Riordan; S O’Brien, D Butler; J Martin, P Quirke, I Foley; L McGrath, M Quinlivan, TJ Ryan.
Subs: D Lonergan for Martin (30); C Kennedy for Quirke (50); G Henry for Fahey (55); L Vance for O’Brien (59); E Fitzgerald for TJ Ryan (63).
D Condron; S Barrett, K O’Donoghue, B McCarthy; E O’Donnell, S O’Connor, K Brosnan; D Tracey, T Griffin; J Quaid, D O’Dea, F O’Riordan; D Neville, K Larkin, D Frewen.
Subs: W Shanahan for Larkin (35); D Lillis for Quaid (43); K Meade for Barrett (48); L Hanly for Neville (52); N Mann for O’Dea (57).
Referee: S Jay (Kerry).