Garryowen prevailed after a powerful second-half display in which they mixed the best of the old (superb cloud-touching garryowens by impressive out-half Declan Cusack), with the best of the new, as backs and forwards combined seamlessly in a superb exhibition of ball-carrying, ball-supporting and ruck-clearing. However, Dolphin also played their part in a superb tie.
Garryowen had the ideal start, and a penalty by Cusack inside five minutes was followed quickly by their first try - centre Corey Hircock taking advantage of turnover ball with a scorching midfield break to set up left-winger Lucas Kuntz, who turned up on the opposite wing for the final cutback inside pass.
Cusack’s conversion put the side 10-0 ahead, and with their pack looking superior in the scrum, they looked in control. Then came a devastating five-minute spell by Dolphin in which they scored two tries courtesy of an impressive back division. Aaron Fleming and Bryan Dennehy had the touchdowns, but it was inside centre Eric Moloney that was pivotal in both along with out-half Barry Keeshan, who converted the scores.
Dolphin were now the side with the wind in their sails and they tried to drive on from there. Twice during this period, they were denied tries when Fleming was forced into touch by last-ditch tackles by Garryowen full-back Lorcan Burke. Dolphin were rampant, cutting Garryowen apart almost at will. Eventually, however, the Blues steadied the ship and two penalties by Cusack before the break reduced the deficit to a point (17-16).
Within minutes of the restart Dolphin had extended their lead after another Keeshan penalty, but the tide was about to turn. A Cusack penalty reduced the game to the minimum once again before the first of three second-half tries arrived. It started with good work in the forwards and a midfield break by Hircock, before Cian O’Shea found Lorcan Burke for the score.
Cusack added the extras and though Dolphin stayed in the hunt with two further Keeshan penalties, Garryowen finished in style with Kuntz and Hircock touching down while Cusack remained deadly with the boot.
“On the second-half performance we probably deserved it,” Garryowen coach Paul Cunningham said, “but in the first half we weren't too smart. Dolphin came up here and showed their intent and how much they wanted to win this competition. We lost a lot of ball, but that was due to the intensity Dolphin brought with them.
“Maybe we thought that just because the game was in Limerick it was just going to happen for us. But it didn’t. We had a good talk at half-time and they came out and played super in the second half.”
From Dolphin coach Steve Ford came blunt honesty. He said: “We just couldn't deal with their kicking and they lived off our mistakes. We gifted them 21 points and you can't win games like that. I'm not happy with that at all, I feel we let ourselves down. We had a chance to get ourselves into a Munster Senior Cup final and we didn't take it.”
Scorers for Garryowen: L. Burke (try), C. Hircock (try), L. Kuntz (2 tries), D. Cusack (4 pen, 1 DG, 4 con).Scorers for Dolphin: A. Fleming (try), B. Dennehy (try), B. Keeshan (4 pen, 2 con)
GARRYOWEN: L. Burke; C. O'Shea, C. Doyle, C. Hircock, L. Kuntz; D. Cusack, A. Healy; J.P. Cooney, R. Meyer, D. Lavery; F. McKenna, A. McCloskey; P. Neville, D. Sherry, C. Hartigan.
Replacements: J. Harney for Cooney (53); J. Reale for Meyer (72); I. Whelan for Hartigan (74); C. Fitzgerald for McCloskey (80+1); S. Buckley for Neville (80+1); K. Hartigan for Burke (80+4); D. O'Connor for Cusack (80+4); McCloskey for McKenna (80+4); Cooney for Lavery (80+4).
DOLPHIN: N. O'Driscoll; A. Fleming, B. Dennehy, E. Moloney, P. Hurley; B. Keeshan, T. Parker; R. O'Neill, N. Scannell, P. Ryan; C. Rowe, P. Murphy; R. Allen, S. O'Sullivan, R. Geoghegan.
Replacements: I. Mullarkey for Ryan (inj. 50); R. O'Herlihy for Allen (60); D. Abbott for Mullarkey (66); R. Brosnan for Scannell (67); C. Bohane for Dennehy (71); P. Ryan for Murphy (inj. 77); D. McGrath for Parker (80+1); Geoghegan for O'Sullivan (inj. 80+4).
Referee: D McCormack (M.A.R.).