Limerick are Munster hurling champions for the fourth year in a row following a 1-29 to 0-29 extra time win over Clare at Semple Stadium, Thurles.
It was a battle throughout between two well matched teams but Limerick had enough left in the tank to dominate extra time and win by a three point margin.
Declan Hannon looked to have given Limerick the win in added time but a sublime Tony Kelly sideline saw the game extend another 20 minutes. However, it was John Kiely’s men that prevailed with Seamus Flanagan landing 0-8 in a stunning performance.
Clare made the early running in Semple Stadium with Tony Kelly, a Peter Duggan sideline and Ryan Taylor helping them to an early 0-3 to 0-0 advantage.
Limerick, however, were soon back in the game with scores from Aaron Gillane and Seamus Flanagan before Tom Morrissey levelled the game for the first time.
It was nip and tuck after that with Flanagan and Diarmaid Byrnes twice putting Limerick in front but they were pegged back by Kelly and Taylor.
Clare hit the front once more with Kelly and Fitzgerald putting them into a 0-9 to 0-7 advantage with 20 minutes on the clock.
That lead was soon at three points when Taylor got his third of the half but Limerick drew level through a stunning Gearoid Hegarty goal on 28 minutes.
The St Patrick’s clubman flicked the ball over Diarmuid Ryan after taking Tom Morrissey’s hand pass before firing a bouncing shot into the bottom corner of the net.
Flangan’s fourth of the half and Morrissey’s second saw Limerick into the lead before the break but two Kelly frees saw the game all square at 1-11 to 0-14 at half time.
Fitzgerald had Clare in front at the start of the second half but some wayward shooting from both sides followed before O’Neill levelled the contest for an eight time.
It was just as tight in the second half with Gillane and Kelly leading the way for both sides. Kelly missed a couple of frees and his free taking duties switched to Duggan.
A 53rd minute score from Darragh O’Donovan had Limerick 1-16 to 0-18 ahead and Flanagan’s fifth from play saw them into a two point lead for the first time.
Kelly and Shane Meehan soon had Clare level again before a Peter Duggan free saw Clare one point to the good before Gillane and Flanagan saw Limerick swing ahead themselves.
Another Gillane effort stretched that advantage to two points but two Duggan frees had the game squared up for a 14th time heading into added time.
A long range Declan Hannon point put Limerick into the ascendency but a sublime Kelly sideline forced extra time – full time score: 1-21 to 0-24.
Limerick made a superb start to extra time with Gillane and Flanagan popping over points and then a Gillane free stretched the lead to three before a Kelly score cut the lead to two at the half time break.
It was a tight battle in the second half of extra time but Limerick came out on top with David Reidy and William O’Donoghue steering Limerick to their fourth Munster crown in a row.
Scorers – Limerick: Aaron Gillane 0-10 (7f), Seamus Flanagan 0-8, Tom Morrissey 0-3, Gearoid Hegarty 1-0, Cathal O’Neill 0-2, Diarmaid Byrnes (1f), Darragh O’Donovan, Declan Hannon, Conor Boylan, David Reidy and William O’Donoghue 0-1 each.
Limerick: Nickie Quaid (Effin); Sean Finn (Bruff), Mike Casey (Na Piarsaigh), Barry Nash (South Liberties); Diarmaid Byrnes (Patrickswell), Declan Hannon (Adare, captain), Dan Morrissey (Ahane); William O’Donoghue (Na Piarsaigh), Darragh O’Donovan (Doon); Gearoid Hegarty (St Patrick’s), Cathal O’Neill (Crecora-Manister), Tom Morrissey (Ahane); Aaron Gillane (Patrickswell), Seamus Flanagan (Feohanagh-Castlemahon), Kyle Hayes (Kildimo-Pallaskenry).
Subs: Richie English (Doon) for Casey (57 inj), David Reidy (Dromin-Athlacca) for O’Neill (58), Graeme Mulcahy (Kilmallock) for O’Donovan (64), Conor Boylan for T Morrissey (65), Oisin O’Relly (Kilmallock) for Hegarty (87).
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