TJ Ryan’s Limerick found four of the last five scores to finally advance past the Cork students after the sides were level on 11 occasion in Kilmallock on Saturday evening.
The reward for wins over Waterford and UCC is a final place against Cork for Limerick, who were last winners in 2006.
“The most positive thing is the result — we ground it out. We didn’t play overly well and missed a few goal chances, which would have sealed the deal but it was a good game to get,” said a content Limerick manager TJ Ryan.
“They were star-studded and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy — we went three points up in the first half and three points up in the second and would have been looked to kick-on but in fairness they came back at us with a couple of scores and then got the goal but our fellas finished out well.”
Watched by just 646, this was an end to end open contest. The teams had shared eight scores inside the opening five minutes.
Alas for UCC a Stephen O’Keeffe point in the fourth minute was to be their final score from play in the opening half, at the end of which they trailed 0-10 to 0-7.
Limerick dominated the final 15 minutes of the half with Conor Allis, Niall Moran, Cian Lynch and free-taker Thomas O’Brien all on target to open the interval lead.
With one eye on Thursday’s opening game in the Fitzgibbon Cup, UCC were back level within two minutes of the restart with Rob O’Shea, Daniel Roche and Conor Lehane on target.
Although Limerick replied it was UCC that were 0-15 to 0-14 clear with 15 minutes left to play.
Then four unanswered points from subs Shane Dowling, Tom Morrissey and Paul Browne looked to have Limerick finally in the driving seat.
But UCC stormed back in front when DJ Foran goaled in the 65th minute.
But their chances of securing an all-Cork final weren’t helped when they had to play out the final four minutes with 14-players after a knock to Alan Cadagon. Limerick took advantage and scored four of the remaining five points.
Scorers for Limerick: T O’Brien (4f), S Dowling (2f) 0-4 each, A Breen 0-3, C Allis (1f), C Lynch, J Ryan 0-2 each, N Moran, C King, T Morrissey, P Browne, P Begley 0-1 each.
Scorers for UCC: C Lehane 0-6 (3f), R O’Shea 0-4 (3f), DJ Foran 1-0, A Cadagon, S O’Keeffe 0-2 each, S O’Donnell, D Roche, P Prendergast (f) 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: N Quaid; S Walsh, R McCarthy, S Hickey; W McNamara, D O’Grady, D Morrissey; C Allis, C King; N Moran, J Ryan, C Lynch; T O’Brien, P Begley, A Breen.
Subs: S Dowling for O’Brien (h-t), T Condon for McNamara (h-t), T Morrissey for Allis (46), P Browne for King (53).
UCC (Cork unless stated): D O’Gorman, K Burke, D Glynn (Kilkenny), M Breen (Tipperary); C Murphy, P Prendergast (Waterford), S Roche (Waterford); D Roche, R O’Shea; S O’Keeffe, J Barron (Waterford), C Lehane; B Hartnett, S O’Donnell (Clare), A Cadagon.
Subs: D Lester for Burke (h-t), M Collins for O’Shea (40), E Finn for Lehane (51), DJ Foran (Waterford) for O’Donnell (51), R Cahalane for Breen (59).
Referee: Pat Casey (Waterford).