Limerick have secured their first win over Kilkenny since 1973 after a thrilling encounter in Semple Stadium this afternoon.
Kilkenny’s strategy of moving TJ Reid to full-forward paid dividends in the opening stages as the Ballyhale Shamrocks man caused havoc among a full back line that struggled in the Munster semi-final against Clare. His battle with Seán Finn was one of the more intriguing ones, as was the tussle between Pádraig Walsh and Seamus Flanagan with the latter setting up an early goal opportunity for Aaron Gillane with Eoin Murphy stretching to send the ball over the bar.
Richie Hogan’s late introduction proved to be a stroke of genius as he shone in the forward line for the Cats with his ability under the high ball proving very effective. If there was ever any question about fatigue among the Kilkenny camp, it was quickly dispelled as they dragged the Limerick defence far out of position with Colin Fennelly and James Maher knocking over points as a result.
Just when it looked as though Kilkenny were hitting their stride, especially with their dominance in midfield, the Limerick half-back line, led by Declan Hannon settled and began delivering ball to their forward line, with Gillane and Flanagan quickly levelling the game. The duo nearly created another goal chance but Flanagan over-hit his pass to Gillane and Murphy was able to clear. He was called into action just minutes later when Gearoid Hegarty shook off the challenge of Rob Lennon and ran at goal but had to settle for his second point of the day. Brian Cody brought on Liam Blanchfield before half-time hoping his height would counteract the impact of Hannon and Dan Morrissey but it was Limerick who pushed on through Tom Morrissey and Darragh O’Donovan to lead by three at half-time.
Paddy Deegan was lucky to remain on the field when he struck Aaron Gillane before the ball was thrown in for the second half but the incident went unnoticed by the officials. The Cats looked livelier in the middle of the field as Richie Hogan grew even more into the game but they wasteful with their shooting, hitting four wides within the first seven minutes of the second half. It took Limerick that period to settle into the game once more but eventually Hegarty and Kyle Hayes got them off the mark.
Kilkenny had a goal chance of their own when Billy Ryan was fed a ball into the Limerick square but found himself isolated and Mike Casey and Sean Finn were able to eventually save. It really was an end-to-end encounter as Eoin Murphy once again frustrated Gillane with yet another spectacular save to keep his side in the game.
Despite their 16 wides, Kilkenny showed that they were far from finished as Brian Cody’s substitutions proved to be a stroke of genius. Liam Blanchfield and two wonderful scores from Richie Leahy brought this thrilling game back to just a one point game with 15 minutes remaining. But Limerick had super-subs of their own as Peter Casey struck a brilliant point with his first touch of the ball.
With Kilkenny one point behind, substitute John Donnelly proved his worth. Just after scoring a point of his own, he caught the ball and fed Richie Hogan who hit a sublime shot past Nicky Quaid. Tom Morrissey hit back immediately, quickly followed by Shane Dowling and as the clock turned red, the game was level. Morrissey gathered the ball in his own half-back line and travelled the length of the field and finished superbly. A Gillane point, just Limerick’s second from a placed ball, secured the win and ensured John Kiely’s men battle on to the All Ireland semi-final.
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy; Paul Murphy, Pádraig Walsh, Paddy Deegan; Joey Holden, Cillian Buckley, Robert Lennon; Conor Fogarty (0-1), James Maher (0-4); Martin Keoghan, TJ Reid (0-7, 5f, 1 65′), Richie Hogan (1-3); Billy Ryan, Colin Fennelly (0-2), Pat Lyng.
Substitutions: Liam Blanchfield (0-1) for Lyng (34) Richie Leahy (0-4) for Keoghan (44) John Donnelly (0-1) for Fennelly (62) Ger Alyward for Ryan (72)
Limerick: Nicky Quaid; Sean Finn, Mike Casey, Richie English; Diarmaid Byrnes (0-1), Declan Hannon (0-1), Dan Morrissey; Darragh O’Donovan (0-3, 1sl), Cian Lynch; Gearoid Hegarty (0-3), Kyle Hayes (0-2), Tom Morrissey (0-4); Aaron Gillane (0-6, 2f), Seamus Flanagan (0-1), Graeme Mulcahy (0-3).
Substitutions: Peter Casey (0-2) for Flanagan (58) Shane Dowling (0-1) for Hegarty (58) William O’Donoghue for O’Donovan (63)