Waterford 1-9 Limerick 1-17
Limerick progressed to their second successive Munster SFC final as they ended the hopes of 13-man Waterford at Fraher Field this afternoon.
Waterford midfielder Tommy Prendergast earned a straight red card for a stray elbow on Jim O’Donovan in the 13th minute, and the Deise’s captain Tony Grey was also dismissed for his second booking in the dying minutes.
Ger Collins and Gary Hurney swapped goals as Limerick built a 1-8 to 1-4 half-time lead, with the home side working hard to keep in contention.
Robert Ahearne and Grey led Waterford’s fightback as they got back within three points, but Ian Ryan, Stephen Kelly and substitute Conor Fitzgerald helped Limerick stretch clear and secure their place in the July 4 decider.
Waterford made one change to the team that saw off Clare in the opening round, with Robert Ahearne installed at full-forward in place of the injured Patrick Hurney. They started with a slight wind behind them, blowing from the town goal end.
Limerick manager Mickey Ned O’Sullivan made four changes to the side he fielded for the recent NFL Division 4 final win over the same opposition, Johnny McCarthy, Stephen Lucey, Stephen Lavin and Stephen Kelly the players to come in.
Kelly was switched to centre-forward in an attempt to curb Shane Briggs’ influence for Waterford, with James Ryan pushed into full-forward and Ian Ryan repositioned to the corner.
Those changes had the desired effect as the home defence struggled initially to cope with the Shannonsiders’ pace.
The sides kicked an early free apiece – Ger Collins and Brian Wall were both on target – before Ian Ryan had a penalty claim waved away. But Limerick did not have long to wait for a goal, just six minutes had elapsed when Kelly dinked an inviting ball in from the wing and Collins got away from his marker to knock it to the net.
Limerick’s width continued to cause problems for the Deise and after a Wayne Hennessy miss, Collins curled over a free to increase his tally to 1-2. Conor McGrath took advantage of a slip by Pa Ranahan to point on the turn, just moments before the game’s real talking point.
As the sides scrapped for possession in midfield, Tommy Prendergast raised his arms and seemed to accidentally catch Jim O’Donovan with his elbow.
The Limerick midfielder went down, requiring attention, and referee Syl Doyle brandished a straight red card – much to the shock of the home crowd.
It was an innocuous looking challenge, and Waterford have to be commended for their superb response.
They worked the ball through for Gary Hurney to turn his man and blast to the net for the second successive Championship match, tying up the game at 1-2 apiece when slotting past Championship debutant Brian Scanlon.
Briggs and Waterford skipper Tony Grey were springing forward from the back and Hurney, who had been moved to centre forward, was posing a threat off limited ball.
McGrath struck Waterford’s third wide, and the game suddenly swung back in Limerick’s favour as they used the extra man to raid successfully down the right wing, kicking three points in-a-row through Lavin, Ian Ryan and Padraig Browne.
Limerick had a tighter grasp on the midfield sector, with Lavin sweeping up as the spare man, and full-back Johnny McCarthy was unfortunate not to finish off a powerful run with a point.
A fisted point from Ian Ryan made it 1-6 to 1-2 and Limerick maintained that four-point advantage up to half-time, with Kelly and Lavin adding late points.
Waterford’s fortunes improved before the break and they had to, with Limerick showing signs of pulling away. The Deise ended an 18-minute scoreless spell when Grey pointed and they closed out the first half’s scoring with Wall’s second pointed free, which was helped over by a post.
The pace slackened in the second period, given the sweltering heat, but 14-man Waterford were still hanging in there as Limerick blundered in front of goal, hitting six wides in the opening 13 minutes of the half.
Substitute Kevin Power collected Waterford’s fifth point and a Seanie Buckley effort was cancelled out by Wall, reducing the arrears to 1-9 to 1-6. That was the signal for Limerick to up their game and they hit three scores in quick succession.
Defender Mark O’Riordan set the ball rolling with a much-needed point, Collins tagged on a free and substitute Conor Fitzgerald, teed up by Buckley, took the safer option of a point when a goal looked on.
The experienced Fitzgerald soon doubled his tally, but not before Waterford had put on a little spurt. They had a touch of good fortune when Ahearne’s shot, which went a couple of yards wide, was signalled as a point by the umpires, and Grey followed up with a well-taken right-footed effort.
However, as Limerick boss O’Sullivan emptied his bench, those fresh legs helped his side over the finish line. Briggs and Hurney could do little as the visitors put in a strong finish, a stretch of four unanswered points doing the damage – albeit with Limerick’s wides tally increasing all the while.
Certainly, improvements will have to be made if they are to annex their first Munster title since 1896, but as we have already seen this weekend, anything is possible in Championship football.
Waterford: B Wall 0-4 (0-2f), G Hurney 1-0, T Grey 0-2, C McGrath, R Ahearne, K Power 0-1 each
Limerick: G Collins 1-4 (0-4f), I Ryan, C Fitzgerald 0-3 each, S Lavin 0-2, M O'Riordan, P Browne, S Buckley, S Kelly, E O'Connor 0-1 each
WATERFORD: T Wall; M O'Gorman, T O'Gorman, K Connery; T Grey (capt), S Briggs, E Walsh; M Ahearne, T Prendergast; W Hennessy, C McGrath, B Wall; G Hurney, R Ahearne, L O Lionain.
Subs used: K Power for M Ahearne, C Phelan for Connery, J Phelan for Walsh, C O'Keeffe for O Lionain, M Donnelly for B Wall.
LIMERICK: B Scanlon; M O'Riordan, J McCarthy, A Lane; S Lavin, S Lucey, P Ranahan; J O'Donovan, J Galvin; P Browne, J Ryan, S Buckley (capt); G Collins, I Ryan, S Kelly.
Subs used: C Fitzgerald for J Ryan, E O'Connor for Kelly, E Joy for Browne, S Gallagher for Ranahan, J Mullane for Buckley.
Referee: Syl Doyle (Wexford).