Billed as the clash of the champions, this evening’s Allianz HL Division 1 opener between Limerick and Tipperary didn’t disappoint.
John Kiely’s reigning league champions produced a brilliant second-half fight-back to overturn a nine-point half-time deficit and claim the two points that were up for grabs.
Goals from Aaron Gillane and substitute Gearoid Hegarty turned the tide in Limerick’s favour and secured a victory which looked unlikely after Jake Morris’ third point had given the home side a 10-point cushion early in the second-half.
With conditions ideal for hurling and the Semple Stadium pitch in immaculate condition, the travelling supporters amongst the 11,867 attendance were left scratching their heads during the half-time break as their team never showed up in the opening 35 minutes.
With Padraic Maher marshalling the defence, All-Ireland champions Tipperary hit the ground running and raced into a six-point lead (0-8 to 0-2) during a profitable opening quarter.
Up front, Jason Forde was Limerick’s main tormentor-in-chief and pick-pocketed the reigning league champions to the tune of 0-7 (6 frees) in the opening period as Liam Sheedy’s men established a 0-13 to 0-4 gap by the halfway stage.
John McGrath (2), Jake Morris (2), Willie Connors and debutant Paddy Caddell also made the scoresheet in the first-half while Dan Morrissey, Tom Morrissey, Aaron Gillane (free) and David Dempsey contributed a point apiece for the visitors.
Tipperary’s work-rate was a key ingredient in their impressive first-half showing and Limerick took a leaf out of their book for the second-half.
Like his fellow substitute Hegarty, Will O’Donoghue exerted a huge influence on proceedings and he created the opening for Gillane’s 50th minute three-pointer that reduced Tipp’s lead to four points (0-15 to 1-8).
The Treaty County were back on level terms five minutes later thanks to Hegarty’s green flag, which was also set up by O’Donoghue.
Forde and Gillane traded frees but the momentum was very much with the team in green and white at that stage and Gillane converted another free to give them the lead for the first time in the 62nd minute.
Late scores from Diarmuid Byrnes and substitute Seamus Flanagan gave Limerick some breathing space and they could afford the luxury of losing O’Donoghue to a second yellow card in stoppage time.
They breathed a sigh of relief at the final whistle after a late Forde free deflected off the crossbar via Tom Condon’s hurl and away to safety.
Limerick - B Hennessy; T Condon, M Casey, R English; D Byrnes (0-2, 1f), D Morrissey, B Nash; R Hanley, C Lynch; D O'Donovan, T Morrissey (0-2), D Reidy; A Gillane, G Mulcahy (1-6, 0-6f), D Dempsey (0-3). Subs: S Finn for M Casey, W O'Donoghue for R Hanley, G Hegarty (1-0) for D Reidy, S Flanagan (0-1) for G Mulcahy.
Tipperary - B Hogan; C Barrett, R Maher, S O'Brien; A Flynn, S Kennedy, P Maher; P Cadell (0-1), M Breen; W Connors (0-1), J McGrath (0-3), B O'Mara; M Kehoe, J Forde (0-10, 8f, 1sl), J Morris (0-3). Subs: D Quirke for M Kehoe, P Flynn for W Connors, C Morgan for A Flynn, C Darcy for M Breen, J Moloney for S Kennedy.
Referee - P Murphy.Tweet