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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 5 December, 2019

Extra-time epic, Limerick's brilliant subs and Cork's semi-final regrets

There was plenty to digest after another thriller in Croke Park.

Cork and Limerick fans on Hill 16 during today's clash.
Cork and Limerick fans on Hill 16 during today's clash.
Image: INPHO

1. Another extra-time epic in Croke Park

The thriller served up last night by Clare and Galway set the entertainment bar extremely high for today’s protagonists in Croke Park. Cork and Limerick accepted the challenge and they started as they meant to go on by sharing out four points inside the opening couple of minutes.

It was relentless stuff with Cian Lynch’s goal and then a strike from Conor Lehane, seeing the momentum shift between the teams. Cork accelerated clear, Limerick mounted a remarkable revival and it needed Patrick Horgan to hold his nerve to push this contest to extra-time.

A goal rush in the second half of extra-time from Limerick proved crucial in finally settling the issue. It made for enthralling viewing and rounded off a riveting weekend’s action.

2. Limerick’s brilliant subs propel them over the line

There was a strong sense before the game that those held in reserve could have a crucial impact in determining the outcome here. Limerick illustrated that vividly. Their subs scored 2-6 with 1-4 from Shane Dowling, a goal supplied by Pat Ryan and a point apiece registered from Barry Nash and David Reidy. William O’Donoghue mopped up a lot of possession while Peter Casey was terrific in winning frees and laying on points.

Dowling’s impact was remarkable. In extra-time alone he set up Aaron Gillane for a point, scored a point, won a free that was converted and was fouled for the penalty that he subsequently lashed to the net. By the end Limerick’s super subs had proved key.

3. Injuries hit Cork as they tire at the finish

When Darragh Fitzgibbon clipped over a 62nd minute point, Cork were 1-26 to 1-20 clear and in pole position. But they slumped after that in normal time, reliant on Horgan’s last-gasp free to save them, and struggled for scores in extra-time. Cork’s players had hurled with huge energy yet faded in the finale as Limerick’s bench injected their team with extra sharpness.

Injuries hampered Cork’s cause. Daniel Kearney, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Seamus Harnedy – who hit combined total of 0-9 – were probably Cork’s three best performers but they all limped off. Kearney’s loss at the end of normal time was a particular setback given his super, all-action showing before then.

4. Chance to end 45-year wait for Limerick

Another one to post in the win column for Limerick as Cork join Tipperary, Waterford and Kilkenny on the list of sides that John Kiely’s men have conquered in the 2018 championship. It’s been a rapid rise for a team founded on 2015 and 2017 All-Ireland U21 winners and for this squad it is a major stride forward to have stood up and triumphed on semi-final day.

An All-Ireland final is unchartered territory for the current squad but for the county’s hurling fraternity, it is the end of an 11-year wait for an appearance in the decider. They have suffered plenty since succeeding in 1973 and anticipation will grow amongst supporters that they can finally end that barren spell on 19 August.

5. Cork’s semi-final regrets surface again

For the third time in five seasons, Cork have landed in All-Ireland semi-final as Munster champions and reached the end of their season by the final whistle. This was their best display in a last four outing since their most recent victory at this stage in 2013 against Dublin. But it is of scant consolation to their setup to have improved on their showings in 2014 against Tipperary and 2017 against Waterford. It’s a results business.

The match churned out plenty regrets for them. That six-point advantage slipped out of their grasp in normal time. Patrick Horgan’s lobbed shot which brushed the upright in the 68th minute, could easily have been an insurance point as it would have sent them three clear.

Nickie Quaid denying Seamus Harnedy a goal moments later is another episode they will agonise over. Another hurling season ends with Cork as Munster kingpins but the big prize has eluded them again.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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