Limerick 5-11 Waterford 2-15, Croke Park
A five-star performance from Limerick saw their 2007 odyssey continue at Croke Park this afternoon as they avenged their Munster final defeat to Waterford and shot themselves into a prized All-Ireland SHC final.
Playing three top class matches in 14 days proved too much for Waterford who amassed 17 wides today and never showed the sort of play that drove them on to National League and Munster titles earlier in the season.
Limerick’s sheer hunger, with the county not having contested an All-Ireland decider since 1996, willed them on and a superb first half, during which Andrew O’Shaughnessy scored 1-6 and Donie Ryan also goaled, saw the Shannonsiders take a lead they never surrended.
In front of an 80,546-strong crowd, Richie Bennis’ charges grabbed early goals through Ryan (5 minutes) and O’Shaughnessy (15) to move into a scarcely believable 2-7 to 0-3 lead, 20 minutes into the fray.
A Stephen Molumphy goal in the 27th-minute added some life to the Waterford attack and the Deise were only 2-9 to 1-8 down at half-time thanks to late scores from Ken McGrath, Dan Shanahan and Paul Flynn.
Limerick almost snuck through for a third goal just seconds into the second period but that third goal did arrive in the 37th-minute when Ryan pulled first time on a Brian Begley hand pass to blast past Clinton Hennessy and move Limerick seven points ahead.
The Munster champions, who tried to shake things up by withdrawing frontliners Flynn and John Mullane, got back within touching distance when substitute Eoin McGrath danced through for a goal and an inspirational point from the left sideline from Eoin Kelly whittled Limerick’s lead down to two points.
But with goal-den boy Dan Shanahan largely kept quiet, it was Limerick’s time to turn on the style and two late goals from O’Shaughnessy, who banged a penalty to the net after a foul on full-forward Begley, and Begley himself confirmed their passage through to a September 2 tussle with Kilkenny.
With the Waterford full-back line exposed time and again, Mungret clubman Begley did the business in injury-time with a cool finish from the left past a stranded Hennessy, which left the result in no doubt.
It was cruel luck on Waterford whose valiant search for a first All-Ireland crown since 1963 goes on. “My heart goes out to Waterford,” said Limerick boss Bennis afterwards, but, in praising his super-charged side, he added: “They died for Limerick today and that’s what it is all about.”
LIMERICK: B Murray; D Reale (capt), S Lucey, S Hickey; P Lawlor, B Geary, M Foley; D O'Grady, M O'Brien; M Fitzgerald, O Moran, S O'Connor; A O'Shaughnessy, B Begley, D Ryan.
Subs used: N Moran for Fitzgerald (40 mins), M O'Riordan for Foley (56), J O'Brien for O'Connor (59), K Tobin for Ryan (67), P Tobin for O'Brien (69).
WATERFORD: C Hennessy; E Murphy, D Prendergast, B Phelan; T Browne, K McGrath, A Kearney; M Walsh (capt), E Kelly; S Molumphy, S Prendergast, P Flynn; J Kennedy, D Shanahan, J Mullane.
Subs used: E McGrath for Kennedy (25 mins), S O'Sullivan for Mullane (46), Shane Walsh for Flynn (52).
Referee: Seamus Roche (Tipperary)