Kilkenny 2-24 Limerick 0-18
Reporting by Marisa Kennedy in Croke Park
Kilkenny are through to the Electric Ireland minor hurling final after a 12-point win over Munster champions, Limerick, in Croke Park this afternoon.
Despite a strong first-half showing, Limerick registered only five points in the second half as goals from Jack Doyle and Billy Drennan in either half proved decisive as the Cats marched on to another All Ireland decider.
It was an ideal start for Kilkenny when Ronan Lyons was dispossessed in his own half and the ball was coolly worked through the hands from Tommy Clifford to Jack Doyle who buried it into the Limerick net. The Treaty responded well with two successive points from captain, Cathal O’Neill and another from Patrick Kirby.
Limerick soon began to find their rhythm in midfield where they created abundant space to their advantage but poor errors in defence kept Kilkenny in the lead through the innovative Pierce Blanchfield. O’Neill levelled the game in the 11th minute with a free after an industrious run into the square by Eddie Stokes and they took the lead minutes later when Kirby floated over a wonderful sideline cut.
Limerick could not shake off the challenge of Kilkenny, however, as Ian Byrne pointed before O’Neill and Timmy Clifford swapped scores. Despite being against the wind, Kilkenny scored a number of long-range scores through James Alyward and Clifford to steal into the lead and their advantage could have been doubled had it not been for a terrific save from Jack Franklin to deny Doyle his second goal. O’Neill, who was almost unmarkable throughout the game, sent over the final score of the game to leave the gap at two points at the break.
The game was slow to ignite in the second period with both sides guilty of hitting aimless wides but Ethan Hurley eventually got Limerick off the mark once more with a superb long-range effort but Drennan soon responded with another free. Though Diarmuid Mullins’ men created plenty of opportunities for themselves, they failed to convert, hitting three wides in a row. Kilkenny soon punished them on the scoreboard with points from Clifford and Moore.
The decisive moment of the match came in the 41st minute when Drennan buried his side’s second goal past Franklin from a difficult angle to open up a seven-point lead. With the momentum fully in their favour, the Cats began to play with freedom and knocked over a brace of well-worked long-range scores from Clifford and Peter McDonald.
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Bodies began to tire as the game entered its closing stage and despite their dominance, Kilkenny’s wide count also crept up to nine though Drennan and Clifford kept the scoreboard ticking over. After 10 minutes without a score, Quilty knocked over Limerick’s final score to leave the final score 2-24 to 0-18.
Kilkenny: Adrian Rallis (0-1); Billy Reid, William Halpin, Tristan Roche; Peter McDonald (0-2), Padraic Moylan, Zach Bay Hammond; Liam Moore (0-3), James Aylward (0-1); Pierce Blanchfield, Colman O’Sullivan, Jack Doyle (1-0); Billy Drennan (1-8, 5f), Timmy Clifford (0-6), Ian Byrne (0-2).
Replacements: Denis Walsh for Blanchfield (55) Andy Hickey for O’Sullivan (57) Seanán Doyle for Byrne (60)
Limerick: Jack Franklin; Ronan Lyons, Michael Cremin, Fergal O’Connor; Jimmy Quilty (0-2), Ethan Hurley (0-1), Colin Coughlan; Patrick Kirby (0-2, 1 s/l), Adam Murrihy; Eddie Stokes (0-1), Cathal O’Neill (0-9, 6f), Adam English; Aidan O’Connor (0-3), Patrick O’Donovan, Liam Lynch.
Replacements: Patrick Reale for Stokes (14) Cian Casey for Murrihy (44) Darragh Casey for Lynch (50)
Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway)