All-Ireland SHC semi-final: Goal-den Limerick stun Waterford

August 12, 2007

Limerick's Brian Geary climbs above Seamus Prendergast and Stephen Lucy at Croke Park
Limerick produced an incredible display of goalpoaching to defeat Waterford by 5-11 to 2-15 in a thrilling All-Ireland SHC semi-final at Croke Park. The back door specialists belied their underdog status to turn the 2007 championship season on its head with a spectacular demonstration of heart and passion - not to mention clinical finishing. It was cruel on Waterford, who have been beaten at the penultimate stage for the fourth time this decade, but the Munster champions hit 17 wides as their semi-final hoodoo struck again. The Decies scored more often than the winners but Limerick's penchant for finding the net proved decisive. Andrew O'Shaughnessy (2-6) and Donie Ryan registered a brace of goal apiece as the Shannonsiders reversed the Munster final result to advance to an All-Ireland final date with Kilkenny - their first appearance on hurling's biggest day since those heartbreaking defeats to Offaly and Wexford in 1994 and '96 respectively. Ultimately, this particular bridge proved to be one big game too far for the national league and Munster championship winners, while Limerick built on their recent U21 successes at long last. They didn't come from nowhere either - let us remember that Cork only beat them by a point at Croke Park last year… Limerick made a swarming start and two goals in the space of ten minutes from Donie Ryan (5) and Andrew O'Shaughnessy (15) saw them open a massive eight-point gap. But Waterford kept at it and were within four points at the short whistle. There was a mini-brawl before the ball was thrown in as the pressure rose and both sets of players let off steam; O'Shaughnessy fired Limerick ahead from a second-minute free. Paul Flynn levelled from a free after Ollie Moran's attempt to double Limerick's lead drifted wide. But the match came alive on five minutes when Ryan drove the ball to the roof of the Waterford net, giving Clinton Hennessy no chance. Rattled, Waterford replied with two wides. Seamus Prendergast and O'Shaugnessy (free) traded points but the latter then struck a nice point from play to extend the Limerick lead to four after twelve minutes. Goalscorer Ryan was the provider this time. O'Shaughnessy's fourth score from four attempts came from a 65 and the underdogs led by 1-4 to 0-2 after 14 minutes' play. The Limerick No.12 was absolutely on fire and he then drove a fierce strike to the roof of the Decies net at the end of a surging 15th-minute run. 2-4 to 0-2; an eight-point gap. Flynn popped over a free for the shellshocked Munster champions and Brian Begley quickly supplied Limerick's second wide. However, Moran dropped over a lovely point on 18 minutes to give the Shannonsiders their seventh score from nine attacks. Keepers Hennessy and Brian Murray both made incredible catches under huge pressure before O'Shaughnessy calmly made it 2-6 to 0-3 with a 20th-minute free. O'Shaughnessy (free), Jack Kennedy and Moran were all on target as Limerick led by 2-8 to 0-4 after 23 minutes. Waterford got the break they desperately needed in the 27th minute when Stephen Molumphey slid in to knock the ball to the net off Murray's stick. Dan Shanahan had done the groundwork for the goal, drilling across the face of goal from the left corner. Substitute Eoin McGrath missed but Molumphey came in at the back post to convert. Shanahan then pointed when his shot was tipped over the bar by the Limerick netminder and Ken McGrath added another huge Waterford point from a distant free driven down the middle with uncanny accuracy. Just before that score, midfielder Mike O'Brien had fired Limerick's ninth point after good play by Begley out deep. Limerick may still have held a six-point advantage (2-9 to 1-6) with four minutes left in the first half but they were under siege as Justin McCarthy's charges tried to bring Shanahan more and more into the game. However, Dan the Man was so far not having his customary joy in front of the posts. Shanahan pointed 30 seconds into stoppage time and Flynn added a late point to close the gap to a mere four points at the interval: 2-9 to 1-8. Limerick almost netted for the third time 20 seconds after the restart but Seanie O'Connor drove his shot straight at Hennessy, who made a routine block. But Waterford's reprieve was short-lived as Ryan hammered home his second three-pointer in the 37th minute to make it 3-9 to 1-8. Flynn and Eoin Kelly missed the target as the Munster champions began to reel on the ropes. Had those two matches against Cork taken their toll? Was three All-Ireland championship matches at HQ inside 15 days too much to ask of these hearty amateurs? Brian O'Meara and Prendergast had a wide apiece at either end as the gap remained seven with half an hour left. Wobbly Waterford had five wides in the first six minutes of the second period, while Donal O'Grady added to Limerick's wides tally in the 42nd minute. Molumphey created a half goal chance for Flynn but the Ballygunner dynamo missed his pull. Waterford pulled back a point from a very soft free but they still trailed by two goals with just over a quarter remaining. The ineffective John Mullane and Flynn had been replaced. Shanahan popped over a point in the 52nd minute to close the gap to five, while Limerick hadn't scored in 15 minutes. Ryan's goal was their only score of the third quarter. But the men in white managed only two points in that same period. On 55 minutes, O'Shaughnessy found the range from a free and the gap was six again: 3-10 to 1-10. But a minute later, a slip-up in the Limerick defence allowed Eoin McGrath to pounce on Prendergast's delivery and the supersub stepped inside to bulge the net at the Hill 16 end with a powerful low drive. Now there was potentially one puck between them and Limerick seemed to be wilting. Eoin Kelly beautifully floated over his first point a minute short of the hour but Limerick replied instantly when substitute James O'Brien popped over after finding himself in acres of Croker space. Shanahan had the gap back to two with a sublime point on the hour to set up a grandstand finale. Six minutes from the end, former Hurler of the Year Tony Browne reduced the differential to the minimum with a whopping hit from distance. But there would be four between them again when O'Shaughnessy drove a penalty to the net on 65 minutes. Begley made a big catch and turned his man. He was pulled to the ground and - even though there was a question of steps - the referee had no choice but to award a penalty. O'Shaughnessy arrowed a rocket into the top corner to bring his tally to 2-6 from eight strikes at the area between the posts. There was a goal in it again, 4-11 to 2-14, when Kelly hit the target with a lovely shot from play in the 68th minute. Limerick full back Stephen Lucey stopped Eoin McGrath in his tracks with a frontal challenge and Kelly converted the free to put two in it with only seconds left. Amazingly, Begley struck Limerick's fifth goal five seconds into stoppage time to increase the gap to five points with time almost up. Waterford had the chance of an instant retort but Shanahan's blistering drive went inches outside the post. Limerick - B Murray, D Reale, S Lucey, S Hickey, P Lawlor, B Geary, M Foley, S O'Grady, M O'Brien 0-1, M Fitzgerald, O Moran 0-2, S O'Connor, A O'Shaughnessy 2-7, B Begley 1-0, D Ryan 2-0. Subs: N Moran for Fitzgerald, M O'Riordan for Foley, J O'Brien 0-1 for O'Connor, K Tobin for Ryan, P Tobin for M O'Brien Waterford - C Hennessy, E Murphy, D Prendergast, A Kearney, T Browne 0-1, K McGrath 0-1, B Phelan, M Walsh, J Kennedy 0-1, D Shanahan 0-4, E Kelly 0-3, S Molumphy 1-0, J Mullane, S Predergast 0-1, P Flynn 0-4. Subs: E McGrath 1-0 for Kennedy, S O'Sullivan for Mullane, S Walsh for Flynn Referee - S Roche (Tipperary)

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