Limerick 2-18 Kilkenny 0-15
Reporting by Marisa Kennedy in Nowlan Park
Limerick recorded their third win in a row with a stunning performance against Kilkenny in Nowlan Park this afternoon. While the game hung in the balance for large portions of the first-half, a blistering period just before the break in which Limerick scored 2-3 without reply, turned the game entirely in their favour.
The Treaty men tore apart the Limerick defence in the second half and are now firmly in control of Division 1A, though there are still two games remaining.
The game began at a frantic pace and all signs pointed towards it being a shootout. Billy Ryan opened the scoring after 20 seconds but on his first start of 2019, Shane Dowling got the All Ireland champions off the mark moments later with an incredible point from midfield.
The home side found themselves with a slim advantage throughout the first half but that was almost eliminated when Aaron Gillane found the blistering run of Kyle Hayes who quickly passed the ball to his left to Barry Murphy for what seemed like a certain goal. However, the Doon man was denied by the post. Kilkenny responded with intent immediately through a John Donnelly point.
There was a championship intensity to this game with both sets of forwards working extremely hard for possession, as displayed by Dowling who wandered into his own half-back line to turn over the ball and win a free. Two further points from Gillane and a superb strike from corner-back, Tom Condon brought Limerick level with the Cats.
Kilkenny were gifted numerous chances to regain their lead as Limerick were repeatedly pulled for fouling, however, they couldn’t translate that advantage into points as both Kevin Kelly and Eoin Murphy sent their efforts wide. Limerick added to their woes as Conor Boylan and Robbie Hanley nudged them into the lead.
This game was turned on its head in the last four minutes of the first half, and it was all due to the work rate of the Limerick forwards. Paddy O’Loughlin dropped a high ball into the forwards which was gathered by Graeme Mulcahy who batted the ball to Boylan. The Na Piarsaigh man found his club-mate, Dowling who blasted the ball past Murphy.
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Tommy Walsh gathered the resulting puckout but his attempted handpass was intercepted by Mulcahy and less than 30 seconds later, Boylan grabbed a second goal. Their confidence was telling in the next phase as Diarmuid Byrnes, after sending three attempts wide, sent a free sailing over the bar from inside his own 65. It was a different story however for Kilkenny, who sent three frees wide just before half-time to leave nine points between the teams at half-time.
Any hope that Kilkenny would rediscover their fight in the second half quickly disintegrated as Hayes and Gillane came roaring into this game. The Young Hurler of the Year repeatedly found his wiry teammate with stunning deliveries while Paul Murphy continued to struggle, operating at full-back, as Gillane won three frees which he pointed before Mulcahy added another.
Leahy did manage to scrape it back to three points, but Kilkenny were uncharacteristically poor and their work rate was no match for that of Limerick’s. James Maher had an opportunity for a point from the sideline but Hayes raced back to dispossess the St Lachtain’s man.
Limerick were operating with a one-man full forward line of Gillane, and yet, the Patrickswell man continued to wander to the wings to create chances. Twice he found Dowling who forced a wonderful save from Murphy on his second attempt.
Though Limerick were dominant throughout, winning both their own and Kilkenny’s puckouts, their lack of discipline continued to allow Leahy to keep Kilkenny in the game. Limerick went 14 minutes without a score before Gillane tapped over another free. However, Kilkenny were far from finished as they grabbed the next three scores from play through Ryan, and substitutes, Liam Blanchfield and Ger Malone. Typical of their day, they then sent their next three attempts wide.
Though Kilkenny went in search of a goal, they were continually denied by the fierce Limerick defence, though they could have been awarded a free on more than one occasions.
Dan Morrissey produced an on the line save to deny Leahy from a free in the dying seconds as Limerick recorded their first win in the Kilkenny ground for 22 years.
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy; Tommy Walsh, Conor Delaney, Enda Morrissey; Padraig Walsh, Paddy Deegan, Paul Murphy; Conor Fogarty, Martin Keoghan; Richie Leahy (0-4, 2f), Walter Walsh, James Maher (0-1); Billy Ryan (0-2), Kevin Kelly (0-2, 2f), John Donnelly (0-1).
Substitutions: Liam Blanchfield (0-1) for Kelly (25) Conor Browne for Fogarty (HT), Michael Carey for Morrissey (HT), Ger Malone (0-1) for Maher (50).
Limerick: Nickie Quaid; Tom Condon (0-1), Sean Finn, Richie English; Diarmuid Byrnes (0-1), Dan Morrissey, Paddy O’Loughlin; Robbie Hanley (0-1), Darragh O’Donovan; Kyle Hayes, Shane Dowling (1-2), Conor Boylan (1-2); Aaron Gillane (0-8, 6f), Graeme Mulcahy (0-1), Barry Murphy (0-1).
Substitutions: Tom Morrissey for Boylan (55) Peter Casey for Murphy (5&), Pat Ryan for Mulcahy (61), Gearoid Hegarty for Hanley (68)
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)