Tipperary 0-20 Limerick 0-17: A rousing finish from Tipperary – in which Liam Cahill’s charges hit four unanswered points in the final four minutes of action – put paid to Limerick’s Munster minor hurling three-in-a-row bid.
In a decidedly poor and error-ridden contest, points from Barry Murphy and the outstanding Peter Casey moved the defending champions into pole possession turning the bend for home. Ahead by 0-17 to 0-16 and having weathered several storms throughout the second period, momentum now rested in Limerick’s corner.
But Leo O’Connor’s young troops would fail to score from the 53rd minute onward, whereas the home outfit finished in a blaze of glory.
Lyndon Fairbrother, who finished the tie as Tipperary’s top-scorer - and was arguably their outstanding performer - clipped a 56th-minute free to level matters, notching his third from play in the ensuing passage to hand Tipperary both the lead and the initiative.
Having not conceded a single scoreable free in the entire first period, indiscipline was now derailing the visitors’ title defence and when Conor McSweeney hauled David Gleeson to the floor on 59 minutes, Fairbrother stretched the gap out to 0-19 to 0-17.
Tipperary’s Shane Neville split the posts from the ensuing puck-out to prompt Munster officials to remove the green bunting from the waiting silverware in the Ryan Stand.
Determined not to relinquish their crown without a fight, Limerick launched one final assault on the opposition goal in search of the required equaliser. Barry Murphy was dragged to the ground upon taking control of the sliotar and no sooner had the corner-forward hit the deck was keeper Eoghan McNamara being summoned forward to strike the 20-metre free.
His shot was blocked on the line and in the ensuing goalmouth scramble the final whistle sounded, prematurely it seemed. Referee Joe Larkin signalled two minutes of extra-time, but called a halt to this decider one minute and 22 seconds into stoppages.
Winning manager Liam Cahill wasn’t too concerned by the early whistle.
“Let’s be honest, if we were beaten today there could be a lot of things said with things that went on between the white lines. What good is that, though? It is best to leave it all between the white lines.”
Added to their storming finish, Tipperary’s victory was primarily born out of their impressive spread of scorers – the front eight as well as substitute Shane Neville on the mark from play. This contrasts strongly to the Limerick contributors, corner-forward Peter Casey tallying 0-13 of their 0-17 total.
The visitors had returned to the dressing room 0-10 to 0-8 in front, and although falling three points behind in the opening minutes, they could have been further ahead at the break were it not for seven first-half wides.
Tipperary, for their part, posted six wides, with both sides struggling to settle into proceedings. Both teams opted to employ a sweeper from the off and such was the poor delivery on both sides that Limerick’s Paddy O’Loughlin and Tipperary’s Enda Heffernan hurled the world of ball.
Peter Casey hit all but two of Limerick’s first-half total and it was Casey who was again called upon early in the second half after Fairbrother (0-2), Garry Ryan and Alan Tynan struck four on the bounce to turn a two-point deficit into a two-point lead.
Limerick would thrice more hold the advantage, but Tipperary’s greater balance of score-getters saw Tommy Nolan and Fairbrother on target entering the final quarter to see them breast the tape.
Scorers for Tipperary:
L Fairbrother (0-7, 0-4 frees); T Nolan (0-3); L McCutheon, G Ryan, A Tynan (0-2 each); D Gleeson, D Carey, S Neville, C Darcy (0-1 each).
Scorers for Limerick:
P Casey (0-13, 0-10 frees); M Mackey (0-2); S Flanagan, B Murphy, (0-1 each).
P Hayes (Ballingarry); E Heffernan (Clonoulty Rossmore), E Moloney (Drom & Inch), J Quigley (Kildangan); K Hassett (Drom & Inch), B McGrath (Loughmore Castleiney), D Peters (Kilruane MacDonaghs); D Carey (Templederry Kenyons), L McCutcheon (Templederry Kenyons); C Darcy (Kilruane MacDonaghs), G Ryan (Borrisokane), A Tynan (Roscrea); T Nolan (Drom & Inch), D Gleeson (Ballinahinch), L Fairbrother (JK Brackens).
J Skehan (Holycross Ballycahill) for Heffernan (41), G Dunne (Holycross Ballycahill) for Moloney (52, inj), R Mulrooney (Portroe) for McCutheon (55), S Neville (Lattin Cullen) for Darcy (57).
E McNamara (Doon); T Hayes (Doon), C McSweeney (South Liberties), J O’Grady (Knockainey); C Byrnes (Murroe Boher), P O’Loughlin (Kilmallock), C Houlihan (Na Piarsaigh); D Carroll (Kilteely Dromkeen), T Grimes (Na Piarsaigh); K Hayes (Kildimo Pallaskenry), M Mackey (Adare), B Ryan (South Liberties); P Casey (Na Piarsaigh), S Flanagan (Feohanagh Castlemahon), B Murphy (Doon).
P Ahern (Kileedy) for Hayes (40 mins), W O’Meara (Askeaton) for Mackey (54), C Boylan (Na Piarsaigh) for Carroll (58).
J Larkin (Cork).
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