By Mike Fitzpatrick
Tipperary overcame championship holders Limerick in a thrilling senior hurling final at Gaelic Park on Sunday.
Before a capacity crowd, Tipp delighted their fanatical support with a fabulous display of hurling versus their arch nemeses Limerick in this all-Munster matchup. It was a tie in which, at vital stages, either side could so easily have forged ahead to win.
Opening with a Liam Cahill free for Tipp after two minutes, the scorekeeper was kept reasonably busy all afternoon, with forward action from both sides dominating proceedings.
Tipperary ruled the earlier stages of the game, refusing to allow the Limerick players time to settle. Cahill came close with a long-distance shot which sailed just wide, though he made up for this miss soon afterward when he scored a cracking point for Tipp following some determined midfield play from Mike Kennedy.
Limerick began to claim a foothold in the game, and the sprightly Cathal Kenny charged into the Tipperary danger zone only to be denied by a fabulous block from Tipp’s full back Donal Cummins.
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Dave Sims and Eamonn Shields hit a point apiece for Limerick to level the scores, until Mark O’Leary knocked one over the bar to give Tipp the lead once more.
The to-ing and fro-ing went on for another 10 minutes, with Tom Sims leveling for Limerick, and Owen Cummins and Niall Rigney hitting a point each for Tipp and Limerick, respectively.
Tipp upped the tempo and their increased level of forward play resulted in a Kevin Kennedy goal as a result of O’Leary’s inch perfect long distance pass.
Cathal Kenny and his Limerick cohorts counterattacked, and Kenny was unlucky to hit the outside of the post with a shot from a difficult angle. Kevin Kennedy forced a goal-bound save from Finbarr Flood between the Limerick posts, and minutes later Limerick hit back to reduce the deficit to one point, thanks to a Tom Sims goal.
Tipp grabbed the upper hand and snatched points from O’Leary, Cahill and Kevin Kennedy but, right on half-time, a Cathal Kenny ball was slammed home to leave Limerick once more trailing by a mere point.
Niall Rigney levelled the tie for Limerick shortly after the break, and things were looking as if a draw could be on the cards.
Tom Sims saw a goal-bound effort sail narrowly wide, and Owen Cummins restored Tipperary’s lead with two points for his side.
Some good work from Cahill resulted in Kevin Kennedy’s second goal for Tipp, and though Kenny hit another for Limerick, Tipp found themselves in possession of the largest lead of the game — five points. More points followed for both sides, though Tipp upped their forward play and were more accurate in their shooting.
With five minutes left on the clock, Limerick substitute Morgan Burns hit a goal to bring his side right back into the tie, though John Madden capped a fine personal performance with two long-distance late points for his team.
Leading by a scoreline of 2-19 to 3-12, Tipp held on in the dying moments to grab victory. The last New York hurling championship contested in the 20th Century goes to Tipperary, and those who witnessed the tie will agree that this was without doubt one of the best finals contested in modern times.
Tipperary: Ian Duggan, Jimmy Lyons, Donal Cummins, Shane Ryan, Owen Cummins (0-3), Seamus Collison, Mike Kennedy, Alan Slattery, Mark O’Leary (0-5), John Madden (0-2), Michael Carroll, Liam Cahill (0-5), Kevin Kennedy (2-3),. Subs: Paul Hogan (0-1), John Slattery, Willie Hackett, Declan O’Meara.
Limerick: Finbarr Flood, Liam Walsh, Tom Sims (1-3), Aidan O’Connor, Tom Canty, John Riordan, James McSweeney, Eamonn Shields (0-1), Cathal Kenny (1-2), Niall Rigney (0-5), Patrick Peacock, Dave Sims (0-1), Brendan Cagney. Subs: Morgan Burns (1-0), Danny Grealish, Justin Daly.