The All Ireland Senior Hurling semi-finals are now finalized. Three Munster teams will look to dethrone reigning All Ireland Champions Galway in the weeks to come after Clare and Limerick emerged victorious in contrasting fashion. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the Thurles encounter between Limerick and Kilkenny.
Limerick dump Kilkenny out
In this blog, two questions were raised of this Limerick hurling side prior to this fixture. Had Limerick evolved enough to win and were Limerick able to keep their composure when Kilkenny hit decisive scores? Those questions were emphatically answered today by Limerick.
When Richie Hogan hit Kilkenny’s goal after a glorious pass from John Donnelly on sixty-five minutes, Limerick looked like their race was run. Twelve months ago, that score would have killed off Limerick but this season has seen a new determination from John Kiely’s charges.
The response to Hogan’s goal was immediate and decisive. Tom Morrissey catching and hitting a glorious point from long range. Peter Casey then created the space to slot over a long range effort. Dowling scored another standout score after Gillane spot the Na Piarsaigh in space inside. However, the key score came in injury time from Ahane man Tom Morrissey again.
The composure from the Limerick back line to work the ball out from each line was impressive. The pass to Tom Morrissey into space saw the wing forward solo run with intent down the flank with James Maher for company but a deft jink opened up the space required to hit the game winning point. Kilkenny were facing down the barrel of championship elimination.
The fact that Limerick scored twenty-five scores from open play is a testament to the side’s composure and ability to make the right decision with the sliothar. A stark contrast to last season’s fixture in Nowlan Park when Limerick’s shot selection and general game management were exposed in a narrow loss to Kilkenny.
Limerick had huge performances on the day. The full back line were on point throughout. Finn, Casey and English set the tone in the opening fifteen minutes, marking tightly and not allowing their Kilkenny opposition a platform.
The half-back line of Byrnes, Hannan and Dan Morrissey roared into the game after twenty minutes starting to dominate aerial exchanges and driving forward. Dan Morrissey in particular a standout. The Ahane club man took his game to a new level today.
The Limerick midfield endured some nervy opening exchanges as Maher and Hogan enjoyed space and time to slot over some opening period scores.
O’Donovan and Lynch though helped by their defensive line came into the game. Lynch was so sharp with the sliothar; great distribution either in hand passing or stick work. O’Donovan had some highlight reel moments; the sideline cut and several long range efforts. The Doon native’s inclusion fully merited.
Limerick half-forward line refused to die today. Hayes, Hegarty were prominent throughout. Hegarty is such a tough opponent running at defenses; unlucky with his opening half shot which was superbly saved by Eoin Murphy (not for the first time on the day). Hayes’ work rate was on point throughout and contributed with some sharp passing and long range scores.
The Limerick full forward line showcased their pace and power due to impressive distribution from the side. Gillane accurate on the frees and was a serious threat in front of goal. On another day, the Patrickswell player would have bagged a brace of goals. Flanagan’s pace at full forward gives full back lines unique problems; constantly moving creating space. Prominent in scoring. Mulcahy was also key to this win; experience evident in game management and identify mismatches in the Kilkenny rearguard.
The Limerick sub bench as well came to the party. Dowling, Casey, O’Donoghue made massive contributions. Dowling provided key experience; calm first touch and slotted over a key score down the stretch. Casey’s brace was superb, his pace and movement to the fore. O’Donoghue won several key possessions and his distribution to Casey, Lynch and Hannan was smart game management. Na Piarsaigh’s contingent came to the party.
A date with Cork beckons in two weeks time. The performance today needs to be put aside and the fans alike need to calm down and let this side fully refocus for this key All Ireland fixture. Superb performances across the team but if you are critiquing the side, goal chance conversion was poor (0/5). Eoin Murphy certainly played a part but goal scoring execution needs to be improved upon against Cork.
Such a memorable victory today. Limerick hurling fans (some old and young) were emotional after the game. Incredible that it has taken forty plus years for Limerick Seniors to get over the line against Kilkenny. This is massive moment for Limerick hurling; to slay a hurling great like Kilkenny can only increase momentum for the rest of the season. Exciting times lie ahead for the side.
Kilkenny gallant in defeat
An incredible side. An incredible manager. Their success is unparalleled in the modern game. They left everything on the pitch today and the fixture schedule perhaps was a deciding factor. A third weekend on the trot. Kilkenny needed to freshen the side up and the squad depth issues reared their head. Lyng, Keoghan will have better days in the black and amber but it created issues for Cody and management.
Limerick defensively never gave Kilkenny a chance to settle throughout. TJ Reid was limited to one point from play; a superb feat from the likes of Richie English. Richie Hogan was the catalyst for Kilkenny today and late cameos from Donnelly and Richie Leahy who scored four second half points was not enough.
Kilkenny this season have progressed. They have blooded new talent in the side and bagged the NHL title this year, something many pundits never saw coming. However, there were personnel issues in this campaign. The bench was again inconsistent in contribution. Padraic Walsh at full back is something that needs to be reviewed. Walsh’s influence is minimized at full back. James Maher has being a standout for Kilkenny in midfield; his scores from play again today to the fore.
Walter Walsh today was missed. His aerial threat and physicality were required when Kilkenny started to rain long ball down on the Limerick full back line. Colin Fennelly struggled to make the desired impact. The talent is there but it will require a year or two for the likes of Blanchfield to become top inter-county stars. Kilkenny will continue to be a top team in this championship. Cody will continue to tweak the panel in search of finding more quality in all lines. An interesting off season beckons.
I hate to bring this up after an epic tussle but the officiating at times was so inconsistent. Limerick and Kilkenny fans were in despair at various stages during this contest. Kilkenny will rue some late calls that went against them. Donnelly surely had a free late on but was waved on. Limerick will point to the lack of frees anywhere near goal. Paddy Deegan was lucky not to walk after a clear butt of the hurl on Aaron Gillane. Gillane must have wondered why was he sent off against Cork in the Munster SHC given the officiating applied today? This was an epic encounter but the officiating styles of match officials is becoming harder to read in the hurling championship by the week. Physicality reigns supreme. Referees will allow things to go full on. All Ireland Semi-Final officiating will be interesting.