DOLPHIN 9 GARRYOWEN 16, Musgrave Park
Scorers: Dolphin: Pens: Barry Keeshan 2; Drop: Barry Keeshan
Garryowen: Try: Willie Staunton; Con: Conor Murray; Pens: Conor Murray 2; Drop: Willie Staunton
2007 AIB Cup champions Garryowen, who are currently bottom of AIB League Division 1A, showed their cup pedigree as half-backs Willie Staunton and Conor Murray drove them to a deserved win over Dolphin.
Dolphin captain Barry Keeshan and Garryowen scrum half Murray exchanged early penalties but a strong five-minute spell from the visitors, which included a converted try and drop goal from Staunton, sent the Limerick men clear at 13-3.
Staunton capitalised on a handling error from his opposite number Keeshan to scoot in for the only try of an absorbing Munster derby.
A well-struck drop goal from Keeshan brought it back to 13-6 for half-time but Dolphin, who have only lost two league games so far this season, struggled to convert their scoring chances in the second half.
Their number 8 James Coughlan offered power and presence when on the ball but the Cork side, who were camped close to the visitors' try-line for a good chunk of the second period, just could not engineer a final push to break Garryowen's resistance.
Garryowen were supremely committed, putting in tackle after tackle with the likes of Paul Neville, Ed Mackey and Anthony Kavanagh competing for every ball.
A Murray penalty, five minutes after the resumption, made it 16-6 and it turned out to be the clinching score as disappointing Dolphin could only reply with another Keeshan penalty.
The victory, coming seven days after Garryowen's gritty league win over UL Bohs under the Thomond Park floodlights, has Paul Cunningham's men just 80 minutes away from an AIB Cup success.
They will face high-flying Cork Constitution in the January 30 final at Dubarry Park, with the trophy destined to rest in Munster once again.
Last season's winners, Ballynahinch from County Down, have been the only non-Munster champions in the AIB Cup's five-year history.
* Saturday's AIB Junior Cup semi-final ties - Tullamore v Armagh and Monivea v City of Derry - were postponed due to frozen pitches at Spollanstown and the Castle Grounds.