DON’T BE FOOLED by Kerry’s three-point winning margin, this EirGrid Munster U-21 semi-final was much closer than that.
Two 65th minute points put daylight between the teams and it took that long for a fancied Kingdom to shake off a courageous and skilful Limerick side.
So impressed was the Limerick contingent in the 1,714 crowd that they applauded their team off the pitch but the Limerick players will take no comfort from this moral victory.
They came to play and they came to win and they came oh so close to pulling off what would have been a major upset.
Having held their own to reach the interval just 0-5 to 0-7 behind, Limerick took Kerry for two great goals in the second half, the first coming less than two minutes after the restart through Killian Ryan’s superb individual effort.
The problem was Limerick had no time to build on that momentum. Killian Spillane point a minute later and a minute on from that Tony Brosnan slapped Jack Savage’s pass to the net.
Within five minutes Limerick had their second goal, Sean Murphy and Hugh Bourke doing the spade work for Brian Fanning to finish with aplomb to nudge Limerick 2-6 to 1-8 ahead.
From there to the end, 25 minutes later, it was a battled of nerve as much as anything, with Limerick matching Kerry in deed and character, but two Spillane points in the 45th and 48th minutes gave Kerry back a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
Bourke and Savage swapped frees, and when Fanning cancelled out Jordan Kiely’s effort it was 1-12 to 2-8 with three minutes to play. Limerick hunted an equalising point or even a winning goal but Kerry kicked on, Barry O’Sullivan and Kiely getting the insurance scores.
The first half had been an equally tight, but no less entertaining affair, with Limerick taking the game to Kerry in the first quarter before the hosts got their noses in front in the second. With Limerick full back Stephen Cahill playing on the half forward line, Limerick attacked with purpose and pace from the start.
Brian Donovan had their first point in the first minute and by the 10th minute Bourke had added two more (play and a free) matched by two Savage frees and a neat score from Spillane for Kerry.
Brosnan and Savage extended Kerry’s lead before the former rattled a 16th minute shot off the Limerick crossbar.
Kerry, despite playing collectively very well in defence, coughed up two frees, which Bourke converted to make it 0-5 apiece, before Savage and Spillane showed good skill to point Kerry into a two-point half time lead.
That Ryan goal gave Limerick hope and a platform but Kerry toughed it out to set up a Munster Final with Cork, when the Kingdom will chase their first U-21 provincial title since 2008.
Scorers for Kerry: Jack Savage (0-5, 23f), Killian Spillane (0-5), Tony Brosnan (1-1), Jordan Kiely (0-2), Barry O’Sullivan (0-1)
Scorers for Limerick: Hugh Bourke (0-6, 5f), Brian Donovan (1-1), Killian Ryan (1-0), Brian O’Donovan (0-1).
1. Eoghan O’Brien (Churchill)
2. Brian Ó Beaglaoich (An Ghaeltacht)
3. Cathal Ó Lúing (An Ghaeltacht)
4. Tom O’Sullivan (Dingle)
5. Brian Sugrue (Renard)
6. Andrew Barry (Na Gael)
7. Gavin White (Dr Crokes)
8. Barry O’Sullivan (Dingle)
9. Matthew O’Sullivan (St Michaels-Foilmore)
10. David Foran (St Senans)
11. Micheál Burns (Dr Crokes)
12. Brian Ó Seanacháin (Ballydonoghue)
13. Tony Brosnan (Dr Crokes)
14. Killian Spillane (Templenoe)
15. Jack Savage (c) (Kerins O’Rahillys)
18. Eanna O Conchuir (An Ghaeltacht) for D Foran (41)
21. Jason Foley (Ballydonoghue) for C O Luing (43)
24. Jordan Kiely (Dr Crokes) for T Brosnan (44)
17. Greg Horan (Austin Stacks) for M O’Sullivan (50)
19. Dan O’Donoghue (Spa) for B Sugrue (54, inj)
22. Conor Geaney (Dingle) for B Ó Seanachain (57)
1. Andrew Ruddle (Newcastle West)
2. Sean O’Dea (Kilteely-Dromkeen)
3. Stephen Cahill (Mountcollins)
4. Maurice O’Sullivan (Galtee Gaels)
5. Michael O’Donovan (Galbally)
6. Sean Flanagan (Feohanagh-Castlemahon)
7. Gordon Brown (Na Piarsaigh)
21. Jack English (Adare)
9. Tommie Childs (Galtee Gaels)
10. Sean Murphy (Newcastle West)
11. Killian Ryan (Mungret St Pauls)
12. Brian Fanning (Pallasgreen)
13. Hugh Bourke (Adare)
14. Cian Sheehan (Newcastle West)
15. Brian Donovan (Monaleen)
19. Stephen Brosnan (Newcastle West) for English (17 min, inj)
23. Shane Costello (Adare) for T Childs (47)
17. David Connoly (Adare) for M O’Sullivan (49)
20. Kieran Daly (Na Piarsaigh) for S Murphy (59)
18. Cormac Flanagan (Crecora) for S Flannagan (64)
Referee: A Kissane (Waterford)
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