LIMERICK’S 2020 season came to a heartbreaking end in the LIT Gaelic Grounds on Saturday as they lost by a point to Tipperary in the Munster football semi-final.
Having lead by seven at half-time, Conor Sweeney brought the game to extra-time with the last kick off the game.
In the final 20 minutes, Tipperary would outscore Limerick by a point to win out 1-15 to 2-11 to conclude Limerick’s year.
In what has been a very eventful year for Lee’s side, below are some of key talking points to emerge from their final outing of the season.
Golden opportunity missed
The goal at the start of the season for Billy Lee and his side would have been to earn promotion to Division 3 for the first time since 2016. That job was done prior to the championship but with a Munster final so close, the disappointment will be hard to avoid in the coming days.
Limerick will rue missed chances late on to not only secure the draw and penalties, but to take the lead prior to Tipp’s final brace of points.
Bias aside, Limerick were the better team for much of the 90 minutes, controlling the pace of the game aside from the third quarter collapse.
When the Munster Championship draw was made with Limerick separated from the traditional Munster powerhouses Kerry and Cork, there was a sense that a first Provincial final in a decade was within reach.
One could argue that calls on the day went against Limerick, notably the foul on Hugh Bourke in the Tipp penalty area, but Limerick had the win in their hands regardless of any incorrect decisions.
To come so close is a bitter blow but must be used as motivation in 2021…
Still learning to do
There is no doubting the progress that Limerick have made in the last 18 months under Billy Lee. The win against Tipperary last year was somewhat of a breakout moment with the team showing real improvement each week since.
However, there is still so much learning for the side.
Heading into a Munster semi-final half-time with a seven point lead was a dream scenario for the side as they looked certain to make it back-to-back wins over the Premier.
Yet, at the final water break, that lead had vanished as Limerick remained scoreless for the best part of 20 minutes to allow Tipp back into the game and retake the lead.
Limerick’s response was brilliant and they would hold the lead down the stretch once more with Sweeney’s effort hard to account for.
In extra-time, the Treaty would again dominate possession but relied on excellent long-range scores from Sean McSweeney and Donal O’Sullivan.
At the other end, Tipp found their scores much easier to come by and this will be something that the side will have to look to ahead of the 2021 season as well as their game management in these clutch scenarios.
Conor Sweeney the difference
The biggest difference between the sides on Saturday however was the presence of Conor Sweeney in the full-forward line. There are few in the land that would have had the audacity to take on the kick to ensure extra-time not to mind execute it.
But that’s what Sweeney did and it is what he does.
The Ballyporeen man was instrumental in keeping the Tipperary scoreboard ticking in normal time as he hit 0-7 with two fine efforts from play.
To his credit, Sean O’Dea did an excellent job on the influential forward but were it not for Sweeney, Limerick would be looking forward to a Munster Football final meeting with Cork.
2020 still a positive for Limerick footballers
It will take a while for the squad to get over the disappointment of last Saturday’s defeat as they were moments away from a first Munster final in ten years.
But when the dust settles, each player will be able to look back on a hugely successful year for the side as they won the McGrath Cup and Division 4 League title.
The McGrath cup win was the first in fifteen years while their last League triumph came in 2013.
The League win will have been the main objective and to complete that and pick up a Munster championship win will be a huge boost to morale, as will the manner of the performance against Tipp where they outclassed the 2016 All-Ireland semi-finalists for the majority of the game.
The huge gulf in standard between Division 3 and 4 should stand to Limerick as they will begin their 2021 championship preparation against the likes of Tipperary, Derry and Cavan.
Playing at this higher standard will benefit Lee’s side who have shown their ability to mix it with teams of that calibre.
2019 saw the breakout championship win over Tipperary.
2020 brought a McGrath cup and National League title.
Bring on 2021!
The post Talking Points as Tipperary end the footballers brilliant 2020 campaign appeared first on Sporting Limerick.