Munster Senior Hurling Championship

By Matt O’Callaghan
It was dubbed the battle of champions, the All-Ireland kingpins of 2018, Limerick locking horns with their successors Tipperary in 2019 and it lived up the billing on the wind swept banks of the Lee on Sunday afternoon.
Almost incessant driving rain did not prevent the arch rivals serving up another quality game at the end of which Limerick took another step towards retaining their Munster Senior Hurling Championship crown following a nine points victory.
The quality and intensity made a mockery of the very testing prevailing conditions in a game that despite the inclement weather was played on a pristine Páirc Uí Chaoimh turf.
Limerick deserved this latest success over their great rivals as with a game under their belts, they adapted to the conditions much better.
The game was not without its moment of controversy. In the 56th minute Noel McGrath clearly picked the ball off the ground before offloading to his brother John who planted it in the Limerick net. Despite protestations from Limerick players which eventually fell on deaf ears, the referee Liam Gordon, in his first major game, consulted with his umpires and linesman before awarding the score.
John Kiely and his management team unsettled Tipperary from the start by placing Kyle Hayes at wing back, Cian Lynch at centre half forward and Darragh O’Donovan originally nominated for half back duties to his more accustomed environment at midfield.
A tricky wind blew down the pitch and Limerick had the advantage of it in the first half which they finished strongly to lead at the interval by nine points. It looked a tenuous lead such was the strength of the breeze but Limerick adapted to facing the elements and rarely in the second half did Tipperary look as if they were going to pull the game out of the fire.
Facing into the close stages and many tired minds and bodies in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, John Kiely turned to his bench once more with great effect with David Reidy, Séamus Flanagan and Pat Ryan coming in and registering 1-3 between them which was a huge tally given that Limerick were against the elements and Tipperary were fighting on their backs to retrieve the situation. David Dempsey also joined the fray and the Na Piarsaigh man who sat out the game against Clare due to injury was very unlucky not to have a green flag to his name only deprived by a smart save by Brian Hogan.
Liam Sheedy and Tipperary are far from a spent force and will go away and regroup quickly through the back door system just as they did in 2019. On a day in which Séamus Callanan was untypically held scoreless, the most partisan Premier County supporter would concede that Limerick were full value for their nine points winning margin.
Diarmaid Byrnes from a long range free helped wind assisted Limerick into a lead in the first minute. Gearóid Hegarty doubled Limerick’s advantage ahead of Jason Forde getting Liam Sheedy’s men off the mark on the fifth minute.
Four in a row from Tom Morrissey, William O’ Donoghue, Morrissey again and Aaron Gillane helped Limerick put early daylight between the sides.
Noel McGrath from play and two Jason Forde frees closed the gap before Diarmaid Byrne’s second of the game helped Limerick lead 0-7 to 0-4 at the first water break.
Gearóid Hegarty and William O’Donoghue extended the Shannonsiders lead soon after the resumption.
Jake Morris clipped a point off the lead and a minute later the same player supplied the game’s first goal following good approach work by Séamus Callanan. Immediately at the other end, the second goal arrived after Aaron Gillane won the ball and as the defence closed in, he booted the ball past Brian Hogan.
Gillane and Forde swapped frees ahead of Cian Lynch and Graeme Mulcahy extending Limerick’s lead to six, 1-12 to 1-6 after 25 minutes.
Points from Forde and Brendan Maher closed the gap before Limerick finished the half with a five points blitz for Gillane, Cian Lynch, Diarmaid Byrnes, Peter Casey and Graeme Mulcahy to lead at the interval 1-17 to 1-8.
Tipperary were out of the traps quickly after the break as they endeavoured to make the wind count and reeled off three points from a Forde free, Niall O’Meara and Forde again.
In the 44th minute, Aaron Gillane knocked over a free and two minutes later, Limerick reasserted control after Gearóid Hegarty was upended and Aaron Gillane clinically blasted home a resultant penalty.
Gillane added a point before two in a row for the Premier from substitute Michael Breen and Forde from a free closed the gap to nine 2-19 to 1-13 at the second half water break.
Soon after the resumption of the action came one of the game’s controversial moments involving the McGrath brothers which culminated in John steering the ball to the Limerick net to close the gap to a very manageable six points with 15 minutes remaining.
Alan Flynn narrowed the margin to five with a neat strike Limerick regained the initiative and hit back with three in a row from substitutes David Reidy and Séamus Flanagan and Aaron Gillane to stretch the lead back out to eight points with the same number of minutes remaining.
Noel McGrath and Jason Forde clipped points off the deficit but another Limerick substitute Pat Ryan replied.
As the clock ticked into time added on, Brian Hogan made a couple of fine saves to deny first Pat Ryan and later David Dempsey.
On 73 minutes, Jason Forde knocked over a free before Séamus Flanagan came up with his first goal in Munster Senior Hurling Championship to round off a very satisfactory afternoon for John Kiely and his men,.
Scorers: Limerick: Aaron Gillane 2-6, 5fs, 1-0 pen; Séamus Flanagan 1-1; Diarmaid Byrnes 0-3, 2fs; Gearóid Hegarty Tom Morrissey, William O’Donoghue, Cian Lynch, Graeme Mulcahy 0-2 each; Peter Casey, David Reidy, Pat Ryan 0-1 each.
Tipperary: Jason Forde 0-10, 10fs; Jake Morris 1-1; John McGrath 1-0; Noel McGrath 0-2; Brendan Maher, Niall O’Meara, Michael Breen, Alan Flynn 0-1 each.
Limerick: Nickie Quaid (Effin); Seán Finn (Bruff), Dan Morrissey (Ahane), Barry Nash (South Liberties); Diarmaid Byrnes (Patrickswell), Declan Hannon (Adare), Kyle Hayes (Kildimo-Pallaskenry); Darragh O’Donovan (Doon), William O’Donoghue (Na Piarsaigh); Gearóid Hegarty (St. Patrick’s), Cian Lynch (Patrickswell), Tom Morrissey (Ahane); Graeme Mulcahy (Kilmallock), Aaron Gillane (Patrickswell), Peter Casey (Na Piarsaigh)
Subs: David Reidy (Dromin-Athlacca) for Tom Morrissey (57), Séamus Flanagan (Feohanagh) for Graeme Mulcahy (58), Pat Ryan (Doon) for Darragh O’Donovan (63), David Dempsey (Na Piarsaigh) for Gearóid Hegarty (69)
Tipperary: Brian Hogan; Cathal Barrett, Barry Heffernan, Seán O’Brien; Brendan Maher, Ronan Maher, Pádraic Maher; Noel McGrath, Alan Flynn; John McGrath, Jason Forde, Niall O’Meara; Jake Morris, Séamus Callanan, Mark Kehoe.
Subs: Michael Breen for Mark Kehoe (45), John Meagher for Pádraic Maher (51), Dan McCormack for Niall O’Meara (54), John O’Dwyer for Morris (61)
Referee: Liam Gordon, Galway.