Limerick refuse to yield to Kilkenny in epic All-Ireland showdown

Treaty completed the three-in-a-row at Croke Park led by the unstoppable Gearóid Hegarty 
Limerick refuse to yield to Kilkenny in epic All-Ireland showdown

Gearóid Hegarty of Limerick and Paddy Deegan of Kilkenny battling at Croke Park. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Limerick 1-31 Kilkenny 2-26

LIMERICK'S era of hurling dominance was sealed with a third successive All-Ireland after a pulsating clash with Kilkenny at Croke Park.

It was a superb game, helped by Nemo referee Colm Lyons letting such a physical contest flow as much as possible, especially in the second half.

Gearóid Hegarty, as he had in last year's demolition of Cork, relished the big occasion, this time firing 1-5 from play but also winning possession in every sector of Jones Road and dropping deep when Kilkenny pushed hard coming down the stretch. Declan Hannon, captaining his county to Liam MacCarthy for the fourth time, was immense at centre-back with Diarmaid Byrnes maintaining his Hurler of the Year form alongside him and Dan Morrissey thundering into the game late on.

Limerick’s Diarmaid Byrnes celebrates a score. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Limerick’s Diarmaid Byrnes celebrates a score. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Kilkenny didn't give the favourites an inch but the Treaty didn't blink, denying the Cats the third goal they were going to need. Will O'Donoghue and Darragh O'Donovan ran themselves into the ground at midfield and Mike Casey, back from injury this season, was the most prominent of their exceptional full-back line.

Further up Tom Morrissey sliced over 0-4 from each wing as he roved dangerously when the second half opened up and Kyle Hayes matched him while Aaron Gillane, despite the best efforts of Huw Lawlor, rifled over from wonderful points. The energy subs Conor Boylan, Peter Casey, David Reidy and Cathal O'Neill brought reflected the depth of a Limerick squad even without playmaker Cian Lynch. Former UCC hurler Boylan lanced a wonderful score in the last quarter.

Kilkenny got plenty from their bench too, John Donnelly hoovering up loads of ball, veterans Walter Walsh and Richie Hogan thrilling their supporters with electric points, while David Blanchfield out-fielded Hegarty on a puck-out to trim the gap coming into added time.

Richie Hogan of Kilkenny celebrates after scoring a point. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Richie Hogan of Kilkenny celebrates after scoring a point. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Lawlor was a powerhouse at full-back in a Cats rearguard that fought as ferociously as you'd expect from a Brian Cody side, with TJ Reid his usual all-action self, securing possession and off-loading for points. 

Martin Keoghan and Billy Ryan took their second-half goals clinically, Eoin Cody and Walsh doing brilliant work to engineer the opportunities. Yet Cody's charges never got ahead and there was never really a sense that they were going to bring the silverware back to Noreside.

There were periods in the first half when Limerick threatened to put the boot down and accelerate towards their fourth title in five seasons. Hegarty was to the fore in those opening 37 minutes, following up his blockbusting goal of the season contender with three soaring points from play, each one better than the last. 

Each half-back line contributed 0-3 from play in the first half, including two from Paddy Deegan, when he wasn't trying to keep a handle on Hegarty. Limerick were finding more pockets of space in front of their inside line, Gillane and Seamus Flanagan pilfering their trademark points. Gillane kicked a point when a goal was on if he hadn't lost his hurley.

Limerick's Aaron Gillane was a threat throughout at Croke Park. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Limerick's Aaron Gillane was a threat throughout at Croke Park. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Kilkenny, as per, had TJ Reid as a go-to outlet in the forwards for dirty ball but Adrian Mullen and Eoin Cody were surviving on scraps. They were doing well to only be four behind at half-time, 1-17 to 0-16, given how difficult they found grabbing primary possession on puck-outs.

That changed in the second half when Walter Walsh was brought in but it wasn't enough to deny Limerick another day of glory at Croker.

Scorers for Limerick: G Hegarty 1-5, A Gillane 0-7 (0-4 f), D Byrnes 0-5 (0-3 f, 0-1 65), T Morrissey, K Hayes 0-4 each, S Flanagan 0-2, D Hannon, D Morrissey, C O’Neill, C Boylan 0-1 each.

Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-9 f, M Keoghan 1-1, B Ryan 1-0, A Mullen 0-3, P Deegan, P Walsh 0-2 each, E Cody, R Reid, M Carey, W Walsh, J Donnelly, R Hogan, T Walsh, A Murphy, D Blanchfield 0-1 each.

LIMERICK: N Quaid; S Finn, M Casey, B Nash; D Byrnes, D Hannon (c), D Morrissey; W O’Donoghue, D O’Donovan; G. Hegarty, K Hayes, T Morrissey; S Flanagan, A Gillane, G Mulcahy.

Subs: P Casey for Mulcahy (49); D Reidy for O’Donovan (52); C Boylan for Flanagan (60); C O’Neill for T Morrissey (64).

KILKENNY: E Murphy; M Butler, H Lawlor, T Walsh; M Carey, R Reid (c), P Deegan; C Kenny, C Browne; A Mullen, P Walsh, E Cody; TJ Reid, M Keoghan, B Ryan.

Subs: C Fogarty for Browne (temp 17-25); W Walsh for Kenny (h-t), J Donnelly for P Walsh (47); D Blanchfield for Browne (53); R Hogan for E Cody (59), A Murphy for Deegan (71).

Referee: C Lyons (Cork).

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