On this day back in 2000, the Limerick U21 footballers lost the All-Ireland final to Tyrone in Mullingar. We all remember the Limerick team and how this campaign would be the bedrock for many years of highs with arguably some of the best Limerick players ever to play the game, coming from this panel.
Despite the loss and the Limerick team beginning their journey, it is also interesting to look at the Tyrone team. They may have been unknown to us then, but in time the names such as Pascal McConnell, Cormac McAnallen, Brian McGuigan, Stephen O'Neill, Mark Harte and Eoin Mulligan would become known widely in football circles.
Original match report by John O'Shaughnessy
Tyrone 3-12 Limerick 0-13
LIMERICK'S great romance with the under-21 football championship series ended in tears at sunbaked Mullingar last Saturday.
A more stylish Tyrone, outnumbered on the terraces by about 8-1, outscored them by eight points. 3-12 to 0-13, with all their scores, apart from their opening point, from play.
The issue was decided in a crucial six minutes period at the start of the second half. Brian Begley hit the crossbar with a fierce shot inside 10 seconds, and Tyrone struck with two rapid-fire goals.
The well appointed Mullingar ground was a sea of green-and-white, and one was left to wonder at the end what the scenes would have been like had John Galvin lifted the trophy. When Limerick put their disappointment behind them and find time to reflect on what might have been, they will acknowledge that the northerners were masters of their craft and worthy of their third under-21 trophy inside a decade.
The system that had served them so well on their way to All-Ireland final day- a two-man full forward line, with the third given a roving mission-misfired this time. Tyrone had figured out how to deal with it, even if it took them a considerable time to get a meaningful return from the amount of possession which they enjoyed.
Brian Begley, deployed as targetman, yearned for support. The deliveries directed towards him were too predictable, and then when he broke down the ball there was nobody in the open spaces to make use of it. More variation was required, especially against a seasoned team like Tyrone. It was as if Limerick did not have a Plan B to put into operation. Yet, their commitment was admirable.
Fired by midfielder Jason Stokes, and taking inspiration from some fine scores by Colm Hickey and Pat Ahern, the Munster champions were very much in the picture at the break, when they trailed by just one point. 1-4 to 0-6.
That first half performance had warmed the hearts of their supporters
The signs were encouraging, even if Tyrone were twice denied goals, first when Pat Fitzgerald deflected a Stephen O'Neill effort for a 45. After 'keeper Michael Keogh had fumbled a shot from Joe Campbell, and later when Eoin Mulligan went off on a solo, only to drive wide from close range.
And when the new champions did find the net, in 14 minutes, there was an element of luck about it. That score had its origins inside the their own half. Conor Fitzgerald, under pressure, opted to give a short ball to Jason Stokes, who was having his own problems at that particular moment Stokes, surrounded by Tyrone players, was adjudged to have fouled the ball Tyrone took a quick free and raiding down the left, it was left to two-goal Richard Thornton to shoot past Keogh.
Limerick had realistic hopes as they entered the dressingroom They had. after all, kept the Northerners scoreless for th second quarter, a period during which they had hit three points themselves.
The opening six minutes though of the second half were to prove crucial to the outcome. The tide might well have turned Limerick's way, instead, it was Tyrone who swept to victory.
Referee Seamnus McCormack had just set the half in motion when Limerick won a free in midfield Jason Stokes, central to just about everything, wasted no time. The ball went to Begley who got inside his marker Darren O'Hanlon. Once the ball left Begley's foot it had 'goal' written all over it. Supporters were on their feet-then it was hands to faces in horror as the ball came back into play off the crossbar
A relieved Tyrone immediately took inspiration from Limerick's misfortune. They pulled down the shutters on what up to then had been an enjoyable game, with a scoring burst that Limerick could not answer
It started with Stephen O'Neill sending over a point. Then the Limerick defence lost concentration as Mark Harte cut in from the left and allowed Richard Thornton to snatch goal number two
By the 36th minute, the writing was on the wall. Eoin Mulligan carving the opening for Brian McGuigan to rattle the net. After the hall had fallen into his path off a post. It was now 3-5 to 0 6.
In Limerick's case, a one point deficit had become an insurmountable eight points. On reflection, it was those two smash and grab goals which really decided the issue. Over the next 21 minutes, Tyrone hit a further seven points, the same as Limerick who, to their credit, and despite the enormity of their task, lifted their spirits and kept it going to the finish.
Even if such players as Mark O'Riordan, Stephen Lucey and Conor Mullane found themselves under a good deal of pressure in the first period, the response from colleagues in the other half of the pitch had Tyrone living life on the edge.
When Thornton's goal left a four points deficit to make up, the will was there to snap back and reduce it to one. While Tyrone's speed of play and skills on the ball were attractive to watch, Limerick, too, had their moments of excellence. They did not always take the right options.
Unlike Tyrone, whose passing game was at chest level, they floated the ball high into the air from defensive positions. In many instances, haul won possession was surrendered. The quick return was exploited by speedy Tyrone, who utilised the wings to their advantage.
Most of the time Tyrone had that extra bodv running into space to capitalise. Tyrone, comfortable for the must part had calm in their football. Their short passing game was effective in that it drew their markers out of position before releasing the ball.
There were occasions during the contest when they strung seven and eight passes together. That's what comes with experience. In a game of contrasting styles, a highly motivated Limerick did remarkably well in the first period.
After three minutes. Padraig Fitzgerald fouled Richard Thornton and Joe Campbell started the scoring. John Galvin and Jason Stokes were competing well with Cormac McAnallan and Kevin Hughes and between them, they set up Colin Hickey to open Limerick's account.
Followed a beauty from the industrious Pat Ahern, Mike Harte restored equality, in six minutes. Tyrone were making inroads on both flanks and Brian McGuigan put them ahead again. Tenacious Limerick were in no mood to surrender though and Ahern, with another marvellous effort on the right, from good build up by Stokes left the sides at three a-piece
The entertainment level was high.
It was Tyrone's turn again, this time on the double Stephen O'Neill was at the end of a four man move to fire over a point, and then came the killer blow.
Thornton beating Michael Keogh on 11 minutes. It was now 1-4 to 03.
That early flurry of scores was not maintained. The next eight minutes were barren. Limerick had to concentrate their energies on tightening up, when not losing their way. Tyrone were careless. In 22 minutes, Colm Hickey pointed a free and the Limerick roar was in full throttle.
Timrny Carroll handed the ball on a plate to Brian Begley, and duly obliged. The urgency was back Tyrone had that worried look, and four wides followed for them.
Just before the break Jason Stokes led by example, shaking off two tackles and leaving it 1-4 to 0-6
In the end, class told.
Limerick can take a lot of credit from their campaign They deservedly won the provincial title, and a 13 points haul in the All-Ireland final against a more traditional football county was no mean feat. Glory might have been denied them in Mullingar, but they can lake some solace in that they plaved with courage, discipline as well as a degree of finesse.
Thev had eight great scores from play. It was a demanding final played on a very hot day. The Tvrone manager Mickey Harte was complimentary to Limerick afterwards and agreed that those two goals early in the second half made life that easier for his side.
Limerick: Michael Keogh, Mark O'Riordan, Paudie Fitzgerald, Brian Geary, Conor Mullane, Stephen Lucey, Tommy Stack, Jason Stokes 0-1 John Galvin, Pat Ahern 0-2, Mark Culhane, Timmy Carroll 0-2, Conor Fitzgerald, Brian Begley 0-1. Colm Hickey 0-7. Sub: S Burns for Culhane
Tvrone: Pascal McConnell, Gavin Devlin, Darren O'Hanlon, Michael McGee. Cormac McGinley, Ciaran Gourley, Declan McCrossan, Cormac McAnallen, Kevin Hughes, Joe Campbell 0-2, Brian McGuigan 1-2, Stephen O'Neill 0-3, Mark Harte 0-1, Richard Thornton 2-1. Eoin Mulligan. Sub: A Ball for McCrossan.
Referee: Seamus McCormack (Meath) was an excellent referee
The attendance was 7.300