Limerick claim dramatic victory at Croke Park
All Ireland SHC Semi-Final
LIMERICK 3-32 CORK 2-31 (After extra-time)
By Cian O'Connell at Croke Park
This is the hurling summer that simply keeps on giving. Another glorious, gripping, and memorable match was added to the 2018 collection.
Ultimately Limerick, who trailed by six points with 63 minutes on the clock, carved out a victory that was coated in character.
Despite Limerick’s flurry, prompted by Aaron Gillane, which yielded seven points in a row Patrick Horgan forced extra-time with a majestic free.
Limerick, though, seized control in the closing stages as substitutes Shane Dowling and Pat Ryan planted goals to earn a passage into the decider.
With the issue delicately poised Limerick’s replacements contributed 2-6 during a frenetic encounter that will be fondly recalled for the sheer courage and class exhibited.
From the outset it didn’t lack suspense or drama as two evenly matched teams thundered into the contest.
A captivated 71,073 audience gathered at GAA headquarters for what was a tight and tense opening period embellished by Cian Lynch’s gorgeous goal on the stroke of half-time.
Seamus Flanagan’s inviting delivery was expertly controlled by Lynch, who was sufficiently crafty to subsequently supply a crisp finish.
That moment of artistry ensured Limerick went in at the interval armed with a slender 1-12 to 0-14 advantage.
Limerick were that little bit slicker converting opportunities landing 1-12 from 21 attempts, while Cork registered 0-14 from 25.
Initially John Kiely’s charges, with Gearoid Hegarty prominent, edged 0-5 to 0-3 ahead by the ninth minute, but then it was Cork’s turn to enjoy a spell of supremacy.
Seamus Harnedy, Shane Kingston, and the hard working Daniel Kearney all contributed scores for the Munster champions, who edged 0-10 to 0-8 ahead by the 25th minute.
Graeme Mulcahy assumed centre stage for Limerick clipping three points in as many minutes, but Cork responded once more. It was that type of absorbing encounter.
Kingston, Mark Coleman with a delicious sideline cut, and Kearney all contributed scores as John Meyler’s outfit moved two clear, but Lynch made the Cork net dance and a guttural Limerick roar reverberated around Drumcondra.
After the restart, though, Cork flashed a reminder of their considerable skill and speed edging 0-20 to 1-15 in front by the 44th minute.
Limerick were squandering opportunities and Cork, with Kearney craving involvement and Lehane and Horgan potent, were beginning to inflict damage.
Cork were two ahead when Lehane burst through to blast a goal in the 53rd minute following a lapse in Limerick concentration.
Lehane added a point and Cork eventually led by 1-26 to 1-20 with seven minutes of normal time remaining, but Limerick came swinging again.
Gillane was instrumental, while substitute Shane Dowling also delivered as Limerick stitched a seven point sequence together.
The prolific Patrickswell clubman Gillane landed the leveller from play before drilling a free from an acute angle seconds after Nicky Quaid had denied Harnedy with a remarkable flick.
Under crushing pressure Cork stayed calm with Horgan ice cool converting a last gasp free meaning extra-time was necessary.
Following the first period Limerick’s 1-30 to 1-29 advantage was slender, but Dowling, so effective, burst through the Cork defence and referee Paud O’Dwyer deemed Mark Ellis made a foul.
Dowling buried the resultant penalty with trademark ferocity in the 84th minute and 90 seconds later another replacement Pat Ryan added a third Limerick goal.
A fortuitous goal from a Horgan free proved to be a consolation as Limerick weren’t going to be denied. It was a gritty Limerick comeback win and unsurprisingly it was celebrated furiously.
Scorers for Limerick: Aaron Gillane 0-13 (7fs), Shane Dowling 1-4 (1-0 pen, 1f), Graeme Mulcahy 0-4, Cian Lynch 1-1, Gearoid Hegarty 0-3, Pat Ryan 1-0, David Reidy, Barry Nash, Tom Morrissey, Darragh O’Donovan, Kyle Hayes, Seamus Flanagan, Diarmuid Byrnes (free) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork: Patrick Horgan 1-11 (1-10fs), Conor Lehane 1-3, Darragh Fitzgibbon 0-4, Shane Kingston and Daniel Kearney 0-3 each, Seamus Harnedy and Mark Coleman (1 sideline) 0-2 each, Luke Meade, Christopher Joyce, Jack O’Connor 0-1 each
LIMERICK: Nickie Quaid; Sean Finn, Mike Casey, Richie English; Diarmudid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, Dan Morrissey; Darragh O’Donovan, Cian Lynch; Tom Morrissey, Gearoid Hegarty, Kyle Hayes; Aaron Gillane, Seamus Flanagan, Graeme Mulcahy.
Subs: Peter Casey for T Morrissey (51), Shane Dowling for Flanagan (57), Pat Ryan for Mulcahy (63), William O’Donoghue for O’Donovan (70), Seamus Hickey for Byrnes (77), Barry Nash for Gillane (84), David Reidy for Hannon (87).
CORK: Anthony Nash; Sean O’Donoghue, Damien Cahalane, Colm Spillane; Christopher Joyce, Eoin Cadogan, Mark Coleman; Bill Cooper, Darragh Fitzgibbon; Luke Meade, Seamus Harnedy, Daniel Kearney; Patrick Horgan, Shane Kingston, Conor Lehane.
Subs: Robbie O’Flynn for Kingston (55), Mark Ellis for Kearney (60), Tim O’Mahony for Meade (65), Michael Cahalane for Cadogan (70), Daniel Kearney for M Cahalane (71), M Cahalane for Harnedy (77), Shane Kingston for Fitzgibbon (78), Jack O’Connor for Kearney (84).
REFEREE: Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow).