Flashback: 2007 All Ireland SHC Semi-Final - Limerick v Waterford
By Cian O'Connell
It was a year of draws and drama. Down south Limerick's enthralling three match saga with Tipperary went the distance. Eventually after extra time in the second replay Limerick prevailed. Just about.
Next on the agenda, though, was Waterford, who had planted five goals when defeating Cork.
Dan Shanahan was in his pomp, Eoin Kelly, John Mullane, and Paul Flynn supplied further potency in attack.
The Munster final belonged to Shanahan, who struck a hat-trick of majors. Limerick, fatigued from the Tipperary saga couldn't cope. Five green flags had been raised by Shanahan in Munster so the Deise ventured for Croke Park armed with that vital Championship ingredient: momentum.
Despite the setback in the provincial decider Limerick responded at the quarter-final stage. That year eight teams participated at the quarter-final stage.
Andrew O'Shaughnessy's 0-11 contribution combined nicely with Donie Ryan's 1-2 ensuring Limerick proved too strong for neighbours Clare.
At the time Waterford's rivalry with Cork captured the imagination. The Munster standard bearers drew a 3-16 each thriller against Cork with Shanahan inevitably rattling the rebel net.
A second instalment was necessary with Shanahan's brace of majors proving decisive. Waterford survived to book a place in the last four.
That the match was a repeat of the Munster showpiece simply added another layer of intrigue and excitement.
From the outset Limerick were primed for a battle with Ryan and O'Shaughnessy plundering first half goals. O'Shaughnessy finished the contest with a 2-7 haul and immediately following the game stressed the value of being so firmly focused.
"It's all about the top six inches," O'Shaughnessy reflected. "We knew we had the get the head right first and foremost. We have matured. Most of us are now up around 26, 27 and we realise you only have a short time at this level. We are a step closer to our goal."
The gifted three in a row All Ireland Under 21 winning crop were beginning to deliver at the highest level. Possibilities existed and Limerick produced at GAA headquarters.
"We got our chances today and we took them," O'Shaughnessy added.
"In the Munster final we didn't take them. Well, they didn't go in. Waterford, what with the matches against Cork, their first touch, have been the highlight of the year."
Bennis, a totemic figure in Limerick, brought passion and purpose on the sideline. Suddenly Limerick were feeling good about themselves under Bennis' watch.
Appointed midway through 2006 Bennis connected with a team, who summoned brave and feisty performances for the remainder of that campaign. Such defiance was brought into the next year with the Waterford triumph illustrating the distance that had been travelled.
"Unbelievable," Bennis remarked at GAA headquarters within minutes of toppling the Allianz Hurling League and Munster champions.
"It's what we dreamed of. We set out at the start of the year and we wanted to get to the All-Ireland semi-final and when we got there we got a small bit greedy. And we're still going to get greedy. I'm involved with teams all my life.
"I'm 62 years of age and I've never met a more honest bunch. You can't ask any more than that."
Ultimately it was another addition to Waterford's collection of near misses on the Jones Road. Justin McCarthy's panel dripped with flair and characters, but this was one of those harrowing losses.
"The ultimate goal was always our aim," McCarthy accepted. The busy schedule which agitated Limerick entering the Munster final was now a factor for Waterford.
"Three games in 14 days was always going to be tough going," McCarthy remarked. "Maybe it is a jinx in semi-finals. We were chasing the game for long periods. I knew we would get back but in fairness to Limerick they never faltered.
"We had a very successful year. Won two trophies, which is unusual for Waterford and we have been building the team. Players have come through. Others might have to look at it now, but we just have to keep going."
That is what Waterford did, but that afternoon hurt Waterford deeply. The joy was Limerick's.