Tipp on top in Munster SHC opener

Tipperary 0-22 Limerick 2-12

Tipperary 0-22 Limerick 2-12

Eoin Kelly shot Tipperary through to a Munster SHC semi-final as Limerick's colours were lowered in a 0-22 to 2-12 defeat at Semple Stadium.

The Mullinahone magician scored 0-14 to almost single-handedly overhaul the Shannonsiders. Goals from Brian Begley (4 minutes) and Andrew O'Shaughnessy (7) set Limerick up for a 2-01 to 0-01 lead.

But corner forward Kelly's first half haul of 0-08 (3f) nudged Tipp back level by half time – at 0-11 to 2-05.

In front of 26,494 spectators, League finalists Limerick were found wanting and efforts from Kenny Dunne, captain Ger 'Redser' O'Grady, Darragh Egan and Kelly – who clipped over the final three – saw the Premier side book a semi-final date with Waterford (Semple Stadium, June 4).

Limerick made what should have been a telling start. Mark Keane, who underwent a late fitness test on a groin injury, fired over a first-minute free and full-forward Begley soared highest to grab a Donie Ryan delivery and blast beyond the grasp of Tipp 'keeper Brendan Cummins from the right edge of the square.

Kelly (free) then replied for Tipp, but Cummins was picking a second ball out of his net soon after when a defensive mix-up allowed corner man O'Shaughnessy to race onto a loose ball and rip an unstoppable drive to Cummins' left.

Limerick were firing on all cylinders at 2-01 to 0-01 ahead, but they waned for the remainder of the half and disappointingly only added four points to their tally. Tipp, on the other half, tagged on ten – mostly from the stick of Kelly.

Kelly replied with a ninth-minute point and was then foiled by Limerick stopper Brian Murray from 20 metres out. John O'Brien scooped up the rebound for Tipp's third point.

A Keane free and a 24th-minute over from half forward Conor Fitzgerald, who had switched wings over to the right, cancelled out two Tipp points from Micheal Webster and Kelly.

In between Limerick lost left half back Denis Moloney to a knee injury with Seamus Hickey coming on. A brilliant Cummins' clearance, which speared through the Thurles skyline, was gathered in by Kelly and pointed the reduce the deficit to 0-06 to 2-03.

O'Shaughnessy and Kelly traded further scores before the latter was denied a goal on 29 minutes. After O'Grady had his shot batted away, Kelly picked up the loose ball and cracked it home past the dive of Murray but Galway referee Michael Haverty ruled the effort out for an illegal pick-up.

Still Tipp regrouped and hit three of the half's final four points with Kelly (0-02 (1f)) and John Carroll both on target, canceling out a 35th-minute free from Keane.

Buoyed by manager Babs Keating's half-time words, Tipp opened the second half in determined fashion. Points from Kelly (0-02 (1f)) and O'Brien cancelled out a single Stephen Lucey shot as they went into the lead for the first time at 0-14 to 2-06.

Keane and substitute Barry Foley, when he came on, did their best to keep Limerick in touch but Tipp were turning the screw and the increasing influence of substitute Kenny Dunne, on for the injured Colin Morrissey, and skipper O'Grady - allied to Kelly's brilliance and the use of the 6ft 5in Webster as a target man - saw the Premier county pull through.

Kelly sent over some stunning scores from play in the closing minutes – with one arched over from the right touchline, 67 yards out from goal. Waterford will have been interested viewers.

TIPPERARY: B Cummins; D Fanning, P Maher, P Curran; E Corcoran, C O'Mahoney, H Moloney; C Morrissey, S McGrath; J Carroll (0-01), G O'Grady (capt) (0-01), J O'Brien (0-02); D Fitzgerald, M Webster (0-01), E Kelly (0-14) (4f, 1 '65).

Subs used: K Dunne (0-02) for Morrissey, D Egan (0-01) for Carroll, S Butler for O'Brien, W Ryan for O'Grady.

LIMERICK: B Murray; D Reale, TJ Ryan (capt), M Foley; O Moran, B Geary, D Moloney; P O'Grady, D O'Grady; D Ryan, S Lucey (0-02), C Fitzgerald (0-01), A O'Shaughnessy (1-01), B Begley (1-01), M Keane (0-05 (5f)).

Subs used: S Hickey for Moloney, N Moran for P O'Grady, M O'Brien for D O'Grady, B Foley (0-02 (2f)) for Keane, M Fitzgerald for C Fitzgerald.

Referee: Michael Haverty (Galway).

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