From under pressure and under the thumb in the first half to their usual unstoppable selves upon the restart. A second-half won by 1-16 to 0-9 secured Limerick a third league final appearance of John Kiely’s reign.
Trailing by 0-16 to 0-12 at the break, the hosts got themselves and their gameplan up and running during a third quarter they owned with familiar authority.
They drew level by the 45th minute and hit the front a minute later to lead this league semi-final for the first time since the seventh minute.
The lead score - Aaron Gillane’s first and sole from play - was one long, sweeping move of perfectly-timed passes and hard running out from the back by Barry Nash and Declan Hannon. It was the type of score we had not seen of Limerick in the first half. And credit for that goes to Tipp.
But the visitors were a shadow of their first half selves in the second period. A couple of fairly standout stats highlight the sharp swing in momentum, quality, and dominance.
From half-time to the hour mark, Limerick outgunned their now out-of-ideas opponents by 1-14 to 0-4 to complete a 13-point swing and leave the winners nine to the good at 1-26 to 0-20.
Only two of Tipperary’s meagre four-point tally during this 25-minute period came from play. Now, they did hit five unanswered points between the 61st and 72nd minute to close within four, but no late comeback drama ever seemed on the cards. Tipp, the scorers of 15 goals this spring, never threatened a green flag all night.
The game’s one green flag came in the 56th minute. Peter Casey held off Johnny Ryan to pluck down a Colin Coughlan skyscraping delivery and kick to the net.
Limerick’s young supporters invaded the pitch seconds before the full-time whistle sounded. In truth, they could have invaded it at any point from Casey’s goal onwards such was the inevitability of the outcome from that moment on.
Before Liam Gordon had even got a chance to get proceedings underway, respective midfielders William O’Donoghue and Alan Tynan went wiring into each other. A proper getting-to-know-you exchange. Tynan’s refusal to take a backward step became symbolic of the visitors’ first half showing.
The shadowboxing that had come to define much of the league had been left in the group stages. This was a contest of which there was no shortage of edge.
O’Donoghue found himself being lined up again four minutes in, a heavy but fair hit on the Limerick midfielder leading to a turnover that ended with a converted Jason Forde free.
That challenge on O’Donoghue occurred on the Tipperary ‘65 in front of the Mackey Stand. Now it would be stretching the narrative to say Tipperary turned the middle third into an area of out and out combat, but it was clear their approach was to prevent Limerick building momentum and passes in that sector.
The hosts, bar the odd occasion, just weren’t allowed to snap three or four passes together around the middle before either taking aim at Barry Hogan’s posts or picking out an inside forward.
A fairly breakneck opening quarter of an hour finished with the teams deadlocked at 0-6 apiece. Then came the Tipp burst.
Noel McGrath arrowed over a typically sweet Noel McGrath point in front of the main stand. He followed it with a diagonal pass for a Jason Forde point. Alan Tynan made it three-in-a-row with the second of his first half hat-trick of white flags.
All in all, between the 15th and 22nd minutes, Liam Cahill’s fairly ravenous charges outgunned the All-Ireland champions 0-6 to 0-1. Included in this was another green shirt turned over for a Gearoid O’Connor point.
A fairly subdued Peter Casey and an Aaron Gillane free, after a foul on Lynch, brought the gap back to three, 0-12 to 0-9. But Tipperary continued fronting up, continued to find blue shirts deep in Limerick territory, either from Barry Hogan restarts or possession worked confidently out from the back.
Gearoid O’Connor, after fetching one particular Hogan puckout, and Forde’s fifth of his first-half seven pushed the margin out to four on 26 minutes. It was still four 10 minutes later when Gordon sent them back to the dressing-rooms.
Limerick re-emerged a hungrier and more clued in animal. In shutting down Tipp, they were finally able to establish a rhythm of their own.
A Gillane 0-7 (6fs); D Byrnes 0-6 (5fs); P Casey 1-2; D Hannon, C O’Neill, T Morrissey, C Lynch 0-2 each; B Nash, C Coughlan, B Murphy, W O’Donoghue, D Ó Dálaigh 0-1 each.
J Forde 0-14 (11fs); A Tynan 0-4; G O’Connor 0-3; S Kennedy 0-2; N McGrath, J Morris 0-1 each.
N Quaid; S Finn, M Casey, B Nash; D Byrnes, D Hannon, C Coughlan; B Murphy, W O’Donoghue; C O’Neill, C Lynch, T Morrissey; D Ó Dálaigh, A Gillane, P Casey.
G Hegarty for O’Neill (59); C Boylan for Morrissey (62); R English for Finn (64); S Flanagan for Gillane (71); M Houlihan for O’Donoguhue (73).
B Hogan; E Connolly, M Breen, J Ryan; D McCormack, B O’Mara, R Maher; C Stakelum, A Tynan; S Kennedy, N McGrath, G O’Connor; J Forde, P Maher, J Morris.
E Heffernan for Stakelum, M Kehoe for P Maher (both 51); J McGrath for Morris (56); C Bowe for Kennedy (65).
L Gordon (Galway).