LIMERICK battled their way through to an All-Ireland final date with Kilkenny in an epic semi-final showdown with Galway in Croke Park today.
The outcome was in doubt up to added time but Limerick’s ability to convert scoring changes when it mattered most got them over the line in a game where the sides were level on ten occasions.
A Thomas Monaghan point opened proceedings for Galway before Aaron Gillane and Seamus Flanagan knocked over points after clever diagonal runs to collect possession.
A flutter of wides from both sides ensued before Flanagan added his second point of the game in the fifth minute. Gillane followed with a quick fire brace of points before Darragh O’Donovan worked a short sideline to Will O’Donoghue who pointed from under the Hogan stand.
Six minutes in and John Kiely would have been pretty happy with a 0-06 to 0-01 lead as Galway were slower to settle. A Conor Cooney point followed by another from Tom Monaghan helped that settling process for the tribesmen and reduced the arrears to just three points.
Hegarty responded with a point from play and three minutes later on the quarter hour mark Diarmaid Byrnes added his first long range free of the day to make it 8 points to 3.
Ronan Glennon and Kyle Hayes exchanged scores before two Conor Cooney points make Galway 0-6 Limerick 0-9.
Hayes extended Limerick’s lead to four once again but Galway kept responding and scores form Mannion and Monaghan cut the deficit to just two points.
In keeping with the see-saw nature of the first half, Limerick’s response came through a Gillane free and a superb long range point form Barry Nash to put Kiely’s side back into a 12-8 lead.
Mannion knocked over a long range free on 27 minutes but the imperious Gillane gained possession from a beautiful cross-field ball to land another score. Galway then embarked on their best run of the half with three points in succession to reduce the gap to a point.
Limerick needed leaders and up stepped Gillane with a free before Hannon landed the last score of the half to see Limerick in with a 0-16 to 0-12 lead.
Cathal Mannion scored the opening point of the second half as Limerick were hit by a revitalised Galway. First goal of the game came on 37 minutes when the flight of a long ball seemed to catch Mike Casey slightly out of position.
Brian Concannon gathered and fired past Quaid to make t 1-13 to 0-16. Level game and all to play for.
Jospeh Cooney nudged Galway in front on 43 minutes but Byrnes landed two huge frees in quick succession to put Limerick back in front. Cathal Mannion levelled within a minute. 1-15 to 0-18 and the game on a knife edge.
Tom Morrissey and Conor Whelan swapped points from tight angles as the teams were level again at 1-16 to 0-19.
Byrnes landed another free to give Limerick a one point lead on 55 minutes. Peter Casey drew a cheer as he came in to replace Graeme Mulcahy and two minutes later Cian Lynch took the field in place of Tom Morrissey.
Glennon stepped up to to level for the tribesmen once again, 1-17 to 0-20, before Conor Cooney landed a free to edge them into a point lead. Kiely’s men were straining under huge pressure from the Galway challenge but Byrnes knocked over another free to level proceedings once again.
Tom Monaghan, who was superb throughout, pointed to swing momentum back west of the Shannon once again. Gillane and Reidy wrestled it back to Kiely’s charges once again but Galway were not done. Burke and Kyle Hayes exchanged scores. Conor Whelan levelled on 67 minutes to make to 1-21 to 0-24.
A loose ball was gathered by David Reidy and quickly snapped over the bar. Limerick into a one point lead. Five minutes injury time up on the board when Sean Finn won a high ball and was fouled. The quick free was worked to Reidy who made no mistake with the shot. Limerick into a perilous two point lead.
A foul in the 74th minute gave Byrnes a chance to eat into the remaining minutes, not only did he do that, but he also landed the free to make it a three point game. Injury time was up the Galway would launch one more attack.
A long ball back into the edge of Limerick was dropping dangerously but Kyle Hayes clutched possession from the air with the final whistle following soon after.
0-27 to 1-21 and Limerick through to play Kilkenny.
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