Limerick 1-20 Galway 0-17: Limerick hero Tom Morrissey kept coming back to one word when describing the secret to his team’s victory over a fancied Galway at Semple Stadium on Saturday night.
Composure to stand confidently alongside players who six-days previous had set Croke Park alight against far more vaunted opposition than Limerick’s U21 batch.
Composure to negate the influence of the opposition’s targetmen and composure to step up their intensity in the face of seven unanswered Galway scores either side of half-time.
It was Morrissey, though, who showed the greatest composure of all.
On 50 minutes, the Limerick corner-forward put through David Dempsey as the Galway defence lost all shape in their efforts to pare back a three-point deficit.
The angle proved too tight and so Dempsey recycled the sliotar to the Ahane forward. Three maroon shirts circled and Morrissey lost his footing as the challenges flooded in. Falling to the ground, he let fly with a low shot that sailed into the net.
“There was a bit of luck,” the man of the match modestly reflected at the game’s end.
“I gave a bad hand-pass at first. I was about to kill myself as I thought I lost the goal chance. Luckily, it came back to me and I said I’d have a pot.
“I probably should have passed it off, but got lucky and I was glad it had hit the net when I got up. I didn’t actually see it go in, but I’m sure I’ll see a replay at some stage.
“To win means everything. For a lot of us now, we lost the minor final last year so it was our target to get to the Munster final and win it, which we did.
“We’ve nothing won All-Ireland-wise, but we wanted to push on and make sure we got ourselves into that position. We are a long time waiting, we need one in our county.”
Senior duo Conor Whelan and Jason Flynn cut the deficit in the aftermath of Morrissey’s green flag. The required goal, however, didn’t materialise – Flynn’s 20-metre free repelled on the Limerick goal-line late on.
Impressive half-forward David Dempsey slotted his fourth minor of the second-half to book a first final appearance since 2002 and it was a victory the Treatymen richly deserved, their determined defensive effort stifling Galway’s big-name trio of Jason Flynn, Conor Whelan and Cathal Mannion.
The three forwards managed 11-points from play in the county’s sensational senior semi-final win over Tipperary last week, on Saturday evening they contributed a miserly 0-2 from open fare.
After midfielder Dan Nevin opened the westerners account nine seconds in, Limerick swatted five of the next six scores through half-back Diarmaid Byrnes (0-2), Colin Ryan, Darragh O’Donovan and Barry Nash.
Added to the heavy challenge which forced Jason Flynn temporarily onto the sideline, the opening five minutes alone provided the 7,563 crowd with more drama than that generated throughout a drab curtain-raiser.
Flynn and Brian Molloy endeavoured to keep Johnny Kelly’s outfit in touch, but with Limerick’s midfield pair of Darragh O’Donovan and Pat Ryan dominant, the Munster champions landed four on the bounce to move into a 0-10 to 0-4 lead – Gearóid Hegarty, Morrissey (0-2) and Cian Lynch inflicting the damage.
A superb Flynn sideline cut on 23-minutes lit the fuse on a Galway revival, with centre-back Shane Cooney, Molloy and three more from the stick of the hard-working Flynn (two from the placed ball) levelling the match at 0-10 apiece at half-time.
A second from midfielder Nevin 26 seconds into the second period edged the Tribesmen in front and question marks now hung over Limerick’s appetite for battle.
Their response was as decisive as it was emphatic.
Ronan Lynch, O’Donovan, Dempsey (0-2), Morrissey and Ryan registered six of the next seven scores in a hugely productive seven-minute spell to return Limerick into pole position, 0-16 to 0-12.
And while Galway would half the deficit turning the bend for home, Morrissey’s goal took them across the line with a bit to spare.
Said Morrissey:“We have won so many important games together as a group that our composure seems to show when we are put under pressure.”
Scorers for Limerick:
T Morrissey (1-3); D Dempsey (0-4); R Lynch (0-2 frees, 0-1 sc), C Ryan (0-3 each); D Byrnes, D O’Donovan (0-2 each); C Lynch, G Hegarty, B Nash (0-1 each).
Scorers for Galway:
J Flynn (0-7, 0-2 frees, 0-2 ‘65’s, 0-1 sc); B Molloy (0-5); D Nevin (0-2); E Brannigan, S Cooney, C Whelan (0-1 each).
D McCarthy (Glenroe); S Finn (Bruff), R English (Doon), M Casey (Na Piarsaigh); D Byrnes (Patrickswell), B O’Connell (Kildimo Pallaskenry), G Hegarty (St Patrick’s); D O’Donovan (Doon), P Ryan (Doon); B Nash (South Liberties), C Lynch (Patrickswell), D Dempsey (Na Piarsaigh); R Lynch (Na Piarsaigh), C Ryan (Pallasgreen), T Morrissey (Ahane).
A La Touche-Cosgrave (Monaleen) for Ryan (50 mins), P Casey (Na Piarsaigh) for Nash (51), M O’Callaghan (Knockaderry) for M Casey (59), J Kelliher (Patrickswell) for Morrissey (62).
G Loughnane (Loughrea); D Croinn (Cappataggle), P Kileen (Tynagh-Abbey-Duniry), B Keane (Clarenbridge); É Burke (St Thomas’), S Cooney (St Thomas’), S Sweeney (Loughrea); K McHugo (Tommie Larkins), D Nevin (Cappataggle); E Brannigan (Rahoon/Newcastle),C Mannion (Ahascragh/Fohenagh), J Flynn (Tommie Larkins); R O’Meara (Portumna), C Whelan (Kinvara), B Molloy (Kilnadeema-Leitrim).
M Mullins (Gort) for O’Meara (20 mins), J Kennedy (Ardrahan) for Brannigan (42), J Ryan (Loughrea) for McHugo (51), B Burke (Killimordaly) for Kennedy (56).
F Horgan (Tipperary).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved