By Mike Fitzpatrick
Having long since qualified for this semi-final, it would not have been at all surprising had Limerick relaxed a little in their games since. That has not been the case. With a side containing talented hurlers such as Tom Canty, Dave Reynolds, Eamonn Shields and Dave Sims, perhaps it’s not that shocking that they have continued to play with a sense of urgency and commitment.
Mike Galligan of Limerick opened the game with a flurry, notching up three points in the opening minutes, only for Brendan Kirby to reply with a cheekily taken goal which whizzed through a bewildered Limerick defense.
The excitement continued for much of the first half, both sides proving stubbornly resistant in letting the other slip ahead for too long. Galligan’s third point, in particular, was one taken straight from the text book, sailing right between the posts from a good distance out.
Not to be outdone by his prolific teammate, Limerick’s Mark Foley stole two points to move his side ahead only for Colm Reilly and Enda Lohan of Westmeath to reply immediately. Galligan of Limerick bagged another point only to be copied at the other end by Westmeath’s David Cuddy who levelled the tie at six points apiece.
The battles in midfield between Coleman and Shields of Limerick and Colm Reilly and Declan Rooney proved worthy of the final itself with both partnerships tussling for possession throughout the tie. Galligan scored another for Limerick followed swiftly by one from his teammate Brendan Cagney. Brian Daly of Westmeath dragged his side back into the side scoring two points, providing Cuddy with assistance to score and finishing off the half with a fantastic opportunistic point, taking a chance from a long way out to give his side a three point advantage going into the interval.
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The second half provided the crowd with more excitement. Dave Sims banged in a goal for Limerick, levelling the sides and Galligan managed another over the bar for his side to move one point ahead of Westmeath.
Cuddy brought his side back into the fray with a nicely struck point and following this was a serious flurry from both sides. Westmeath’s Declan Rooney had a fine shot miraculously diverted away from goal by Limerick goalkeeper Finbarr Flood who proceeded to run upfield, and hitting the ball into the path of the attack-minded Cagney who was unlucky not to score. Westmeath’s Daly equalized for his side later on only for Mark Foley to score the last point to give his side a well fought victory. Limerick go on to meet Tipperary in the senior final.
Limerick: Finbarr Flood, John Riordan, Vincent Ruane, Dave Reynolds, Tom Canty, Jack Foley, Eamonn Coleman, Eamonn Shields, Brendan Cagney (0-1), Mark Foley (0-2), Tom Sims, Mike Galligan (0-8), Dave Sims (1-0). Subs: Maurice Nelligan (0-1), Mike Deere, Cathal Kenny, Mark Nash.
John McDonald, Jim Miller, John Nolan, Enda Condron, Brian McCabe, Enda Lohan, Colm Reilly (0-1), Declan Rooney, Jim Hughes, David Cuddy (0-4), Brendan Kirby (1-0), Brian Daly (0-5), Shane Dalton (0-1).