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By Sean McGoldrick
Hugh Bourke of Limerick in action against Shane O'Connell of Tipperary during the Munster SFC semi-final at FBD Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Limerick bridged a 12-year gap in Thurles to reach their first Munster final since 2010. Regardless of the outcome of Saturday week’s decider against Kerry in Killarney this has been a hugely productive season for Billy Lee’s side.

They secured promotion to Division 2 for the first time this spring and now have two wins under their belt in the championship and regardless of the result of the Munster final they are through to the last 12 in the All-Ireland championship.

Midfielder Cillian Fahy as well as centre forward Brian Donovan were outstanding for Limerick but if they are to present any meaningful challenge to Kerry they will have to be far more clinical up front.

It was a disappointing night for Tipperary who will now be involved in the Tailteann Cup. Bidding to reach their second Munster final in three seasons, they were woefully understrength missing their first choose provincial championship half back line of Kevin Fahy, Robbie Kiely and Bill Maher all ruled out through injury.

Though they were level at half time and again with 20 minutes of normal time left they struggled to win primary possession after the break and had the visitors been more accurate – they hit seven second half wides – they would have won even more comfortably.

Such was the poverty of the Tipperary attack that none of their six starting forwards scored from play though the dead ball striking of Jack Kennedy – he contributed half their total – was exemplary.

The two sides set up in an ultra-defensive fashion pulling everybody behind the ball once they surrendered possession and then attempting to profit from turn-overs and quick counter-attacks. There were five shots on goal – including a 45 and a free – in the first ten minutes.

But Limerick’s patient play was finally awarded after 11 minutes when they finally split the Tipperary rear-guard with the quick hands of Peter Nash and Brian Donovan doing the damage. Tipperary goalkeeper brilliantly blocked the latter’s shot with his outstretched foot, but Josh Ryan hammered the rebound to the net.

Cillian Fahy followed up with a quick point after another assist from Donovan to 1-2 to 0-2 up. But Tipp halted the visitors’ momentum with the next two points with Jack Kennedy’s accuracy from long range frees a key factor.

Ten minutes from the break they had a chance to take the lead again after Iain Corbett punched an attempted clearance straight into the path of Mikey O’Shea but from less than ten metres’ range he blazed shot straight across the face of the goal.

Tipp did get level through Mark Russell after an assist from Conor Sweeney, but Limerick ended an 18-minute spell with a point from Hugh Bourke.

No Tipperary forwards scored from play in the first half but an excellent point from corner-back Shane O'Connell with the last kick of the first half levelled the contest at the break (1-3 to 0-6).

There was no improvement in the scoring rate in the third quarter, though Limerick tacked on two points via Ryan (free) and Adrian Enright as they began to turn the screw on Tipperary’s restart.

But they squandered a possible 1-4 during this spell of dominance and paid the price when a brilliant long range point from Sean O’Connell – his second of the night and a converted free from Kennedy level the tie after 51 minutes.

Limerick responded well to the crisis with substitute Robbie Bourke hitting a monster point; Tipp again failed to secure the re-start and they profited from attacking the left flank of the Tipp defence with Brian Donovan getting free and blasting to the net.

For the remainder of the tie Limerick played safety first, possession football and Tipp’s hopes of staging a comeback finally disappeared a minute from the end of normal time when Sean O’Connell was black carded. Limerick substitute Robbie Bourke made a big impact scoring 0-3 after his introduction in the 52nd minute.

Scorers: Tipperary - J Kennedy 0-5 (2 f, 3 45), Sean O’Connell (0-2), Shane O’Connell, S O’Connor (1f), M Russell 0-1 each. Limerick - J Ryan 1-1 (1f), B Donovan 1-0, C Fahy, R Bourke (1f) 0-3, H Bourke 0-2 (1f), A Enright 0-1 each.

Tipperary: M O’Reilly; Shane O’Connell, J Feehan, W Eviston; Sean O’Connell, C O’Shaughnessy, j Harney; C Kennedy, M Russell; L Boland, J Kennedy, T Doyle; M O’Shea, C Sweeney, S O’Connor. Subs: S O’Brien for Boland (ht), L McGrath for Sean O’Connor (45), M Kehoe for O’Shaughnessy (52), D Carew for Eviston (52), S Quirke for O’Shea (63).

Limerick: D O’Sullivan; S O’Dea, B Fanning, M Donovan; C Sheehan, I Corbett, P Maher; D Treacy, C Fahy; A Enright, B Donovan, J Naughton, P Nash, J Ryan, H Bourke. Subs: R Bourke for Nash (52), T Griffin for Ryan (61), K Ryan for Enright (71), P O Brun for H Bourke 70 + 3

Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon).

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Dive Deeper:
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Another weekend in the Leinster hurling round-robin, another easy win for Galway, another hammering for Laois.
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One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Sweet 16 from Tony Kelly helps brilliant Banner share spoils with Limerick and set up Munster final rematch
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