Gooch squeezes Kerry to lucky win against Limerick

Kerry 2-10 Limerick 0-10

Kerry 2-10 Limerick 0-10

Colm 'Gooch' Cooper will live long in the nightmares of Limerick's footballers tonight after he single-handedly guided Munster and All-Ireland champions Kerry to another provincial final appearance at the Gaelic Grounds.

The Dr Crokes' marksman tallied up two goals - including a neatly-tucked away finish after only 33 seconds - and five points of Kerry's full-time total to fend off the best efforts of the vanquished Shannonsiders.

Limerick, still without a championship win over the Kingdom since 1895, were falling to their now regular foes for the sixth time in the last five Munster championships.

It was not for the want of trying. Liam Kearns' men worked their socks off to lead 0-7 to 1-1 at the break, despite the fact that it took them all of 23 minutes to net their first point from play.

They were helped by Kerry waiting until the third minute of the second half to secure a point from play. Jack O'Connor's men hit 14 wides in all, and on another day, that wayward finishing might have stung them.

Kerry's start could not have been better. A direct centre from Darragh Ó Sé ripped the Limerick defence to shreds - Cooper fielded and popped a left-footed finish to the right of Limerick stopper Seamus O'Donnell from close range.

It would have got worse for Limerick in the next five minutes had O'Donnell not positioned his ample frame well enough to block out goal chances from Mike Frank Russell and Eoin Brosnan.

Kearns' charges failed to panic and they were back level at 0-3 to 1-0 thanks to three well-struck frees from skipper Muiris Gavin.

At the Kerry end, Dingle stopper Diarmuid Murphy did well to parry a shot from the unmarked Padraig Browne, but Limerick motored on, playing tidy football and earning regular shots at the posts for Gavin.

He tagged on two more frees to Conor Fitzgerald's opening point from play to push Limerick three points in front after 28 minutes.

Cooper finally got Kerry a point from a free four minutes later, but Johnny McCarthy managed to erase that lead as Limerick ended the half in good stead.

Stephen Lavin gave them a four-point cushion on the restart - 0-8 to 1-1 - but Kerry's traditional spurt was only moments away.

The 2004 winners went on the rampage, slowly but surely clocking up the points - five in all over the first quarter-hour of the second half.

Cooper hit four of those (0-2f), with Liam Hassett striking the other, as the semi was levelled at 0-8 at 1-5 on 50 minutes.

Limerick were to go briefly back in front, but all they could muster in the closing stages were two Gavin points on 52 and 66 minutes.

Kerry dominated, with influential substitutes Dara Ó Cinnéide and Seamus Moynihan, who claimed a point apiece, to the fore.

The tide turned on Mark O'Riordan's 55th-minute sending off for a questionable clash with Cooper.

Five minutes later, Cooper, who turned 22 earlier this month, was fortunate to nab a second goal. He swung his left leg to send a lobbing ball through to the unmarked Hassett and with 'keeper O'Donnell's eyes on the advancing Kerry player, the ball dipped between the duo and sprung straight into the Limerick net.

Kerry rattled off closing scores from Moynihan, Ó Cinneide, Eamonn Fitzmaurice and substitute Brian Sheehan to guarantee a July 10 Munster final clash with Billy Morgan's Cork.

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