By Jackie Cahill at Semple Stadium, Thurles
KEN Hogan’s Tipperary U21 hurlers produced a polished display against Limerick in last Friday’s Bord Gáis Energy provincial quarter-final, played at Semple Stadium.
Tipp won by seven points to set up a home semi-final showdown with Cork on July 17.
Jason Forde was the star of the show with a haul of 1-8 but overall, this was another hard-working display from Tipp, along the lines of what we saw from the 2012 crop.
Last year, Tipp scored an impressive victory over Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds and the Shannonsiders arrived in Thurles determined to gain revenge.
With former senior star TJ Ryan at the helm – and current stars Declan Hannon and Shane Dowling leading the attack – the Shannonsiders arrived with a big reputation.
But Tipp blew the visitors away in the first half and at the break, the hosts led by 1-11 to 0-4 in front of 2,519 spectators in Thurles.
Tipp’s victory extends an unbeaten run against Limerick that stretches back to 2002, when the Treaty men won a replayed final before going on to win the All-Ireland.
But Tipp have now recorded five successive U21 championship victories against their neighbours, those wins coming in 2004, 2005, 2008, 2012 and last Friday.
The nature of this latest win was most encouraging as doubts surrounded the availability of captain Niall O’Meara, Brian Stapleton and Liam McGrath before throw-in.
Tipp also lost tigerish defender Joe O’Dwyer to injury in the second half and Hogan admitted: “We had a number of serious injuries but youth takes its course because they recovered very well and we took a chance with a few of them.
“We went against the laws of medical science but we’re delighted to get through the game. I thought our first half was massive, particularly when Limerick came down with a good reputation. We knew they were smarting after last year and we rated Limerick quite highly. From our point of view, to come out of the blocks like we did was brilliant.”
Hogan revealed: “Joe O’Dwyer suffered a dislocated finger. He got a bad belt in the back in the first half but you saw what he did.
“He was down on his knees but still got up to block the ball – that epitomised the spirit of our effort.”
Forde, who could feature against Limerick in next Sunday’s senior Munster semi-final, grabbed the headlines with his high-scoring exploits.
The Silvermines star and former Tipp minor captain, who was an All-Ireland colleges medallist with Nenagh CBS in 2012, scored 0-6 in the first half before adding 1-2 after the break.
Forde was at the heart of everything good that Tipperary did and while he may have blazed a 17th minute penalty over the crossbar, he remained positive after that and laid off a sharp pass for Aidan McCormack’s goal four minutes before half-time.
Hogan smiled: “Great player (Forde) but those guys are very genuine fellas. We hear great things about Cork but our second half was scrappy. We’ve got to work on a few things defensively and at the end of the day, we’re seven weeks away. Michael Breen and these guys have Leaving Certs to complete – he was awesome tonight. We’re looking forward to the senior game now on Sunday – that’s in the Gaelic Grounds, and the minors as well. We have to be happy with tonight’s result.”
Limerick did fight back to within five points in the second half but Forde’s 52nd minute goal, finished into the bottom corner of the Town End netting from Liam McGrath’s pass, ended any hopes of a Shannonside revival.
Tipp pulled away to lead by ten approaching the finish before Shane Kenny drilled home a superb consolation goal in the 58th minute for the Shannonsiders.
Limerick, despite boasting Hannon and Downes in attack, had offered little in the way of first half resistance.
Hannon and Dowling bagged a point each as Limerick struggled but wing-back Kevin O’Donnell, with two, was the leading marksman for the Shannonsiders before half-time as Tipp opened up a comfortable ten-point lead.
Scorers and teams
Scorers for Limerick: S Dowling 0-5 (3f), M Ryan & S Kenny 1-0 each, D Hannon 0-2, K O’Donnell 0-2 (1f), D Reidy & S Kenny 0-1 each.
Scorers for Tipperary: J Forde 1-8 (0-4f, 0-1 pen), A McCormack 1-3, D McCormack & B Stapleton 0-2 each, N O’Meara, B Walsh & L McGrath 0-1 each.
Darragh Mooney (Éire Óg Annacarty); Cathal Barrett (Holycross-Ballycahill), Michael Breen (Ballina), Andrew Ryan (Toomevara); Joe O’Dwyer (Killenaule), Tomás Hamill (Killea), Seamus Kennedy (St Mary’s, Clonmel); Niall O’Meara (Kilruane MacDonagh’s), Justin Cahill (Kilruane MacDonagh’s); Jason Forde (Silvermines), Dan McCormack (Borrisoleigh), Brian Stapleton (Templederry Kenyons); Aidan McCormack (Thurles Sarsfields), Bill Walsh (Carrick Swan), Liam McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney).
Subs: Conor Kenny (Borrisoleigh) for Walsh (46), Bill Maher (Kilsheelan-Kilcash) for O’Dwyer (51), Tommy Heffernan (Éire Óg Nenagh) for McCormack (55), John Meagher (Loughmore-Castleiney) for Barrett (60+1).
Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork)
Owen Webb O’Rourke (Kilmallock); Alan Dempsey (Na Piarsaigh), Mark O’Loughlin (Kilmallock), Mark Carmody (Patrickswell); Dan Morrissey (Ahane), Barry O’Connell (Kildimo/Pallaskenry), Kevin O’Donnell (Kilmallock); Thomas Ryan (South Liberties), Shane Kenny (Ballybrown); Declan Hannon (Adare), William Hickey (South Liberties), David Reidy (Dromin/Atlacca); John Fitzgibbon (Adare), Shane Dowling (Na Piarsaigh), Adrian Breen (Na Piarsaigh).
Subs: Kevin O’Brien (Patrickswell) for Hickey (25), Barry Lynch (Feohanagh/Castlemahon) for O’Connell (h.t.), Michael Ryan (Murroe/Boher) for Fitzgibbon (h.t.), Robbie Egan (Kilmallock) for Reidy (45).