A FIRST Munster decider since 2010 is just 70 minutes away for Billy Lee and the Limerick footballers as they travel to Thurles to take on Tipp in the provincial semi-final this Saturday evening.
It is a fourth successive last four clash for Lee and his team since his appointment in 2017, with the Shannonsiders yet to get over the line and into a final during his tenure.
The last time these sides met was at the same stage in 2020 when Limerick looked certain of progression to the decider before a moment of Conor Sweeney magic from the sideline sent the game to extra-time.
In the additional time, Tipperary claimed a one point win before going on to win a first Munster championship triumph in 85 years.
The previous year, Limerick picked up a first Munster championship win in seven years with a 3-11 to 1-10 win over the premier in this weekend’s venue.
Lee’s side, seeking a maiden win in the province since 2012, when they beat a lowly Waterford, hit the ground running in Thurles as goals from Iain Corbett, Cillian Fahy and Peter Nash were enough to keep Tipp at bay.
A heavy defeat against Cork followed in Limerick’s first Munster semi-final in nine years, with Tipp following suit with their snatch and grab victory in 2020 while the Rebels put away a below par Limerick side in last year’s semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds.
Limerick will be buoyed by the manner of their quarter-final win as they outlasted Clare in Cusack Park in a breathless encounter that was decided by the senior championship’s first ever penalty shoot out.
Robbie Bourke levelled with the last kick of normal time while Eoin Cleary matched that feat in extra time with penalties needed to separate the sides.
Iain Corbett set the tone for Limerick as Robbie Bourke and Brian Donovan also slotted their efforts as Clare missed two of their opening three.
That allowed James Naughton the chance to win the game, to which he duly obliged allowing for fantastic scenes in Ennis as Limerick claimed a first win over Clare after five successive championship losses.
Billy Lee alluded to the magnitude of the result as it continued to show the development of the side as was shown in previous encounters with the Banner.
Yet, Lee refused to get carried away by a fourth successive year that yielded a Munster championship win as attention shifts to the Premier county.
“It’s tremendous, it’s another championship win is the first thing I would say. The last couple we came against Clare in 17/18 in my tenure, we weren’t able to compete with them. We lost by a point here but they were in control of that game. In ’18 they blew us off the field but the lads have worked really hard in the last couple of years to come on and take on a seasoned team like Clare in division two.
“We mustn’t get away from the fact too that Clare are missing a couple of key players, It’s great it’s gonna give us confidence and further belief as we face into the rest of the year but we wont be getting carried away.”
And while, Limerick were overcoming Clare, Tipperary were in Dungarvan as they saw off Waterford 2-13 to 0-18 as this weekend’s opponents both put their league final defeats behind them.
Tipp were promoted from Division 4 while Limerick moved back into the second tier for the first time since 2007.
However, league form will count for little this Saturday evening as Limerick hope to continue a trend with the away side in this fixture winning each of the previous three encounters, including the semi-finals in 2019 and ’20.
For the winner, a daunting prospect of Kerry awaits in the final, but for both Billy Lee and David Power, not a second will have been wasted on the Kingdom with a provincial final within reach.
Can Limerick bridge the twelve year gap or can Tipp further prove 2020 was no fluke? Only time will tell but with so little between the sides, it will be no surprise if Corbett, O’Sullivan and co are needed at the Killinan end after 90 minutes once again.
Limerick and Tipperary in the Munster Senior Football Championship semi-final throws in at 7pm in the FBD Semple Stadium on Saturday 14 May.
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