Kilkenny vs. Limerick Senior Hurling Reflections

Thrilling win for Kilkenny

A thrilling contest. A contest which went down to the wire, a contest where composure and calmness were tested to maximum, a contest where the physicality and work rate were at a different stratosphere. Kilkenny emerged victorious, dethroning Limerick from their All Ireland berth by the bare minimum. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the game the morning after.

Opening exchanges absolute key

Folks will point to the closing stages but this game was won in the opening quarter. Kilkenny as expected coming out of the traps superbly. Their play was incredible for the first opening twenty minutes. Kilkenny hunted in packs; they were ravenous in their appetite to chase and harry Limerick players with possession. Limerick particularly in the middle third could not settle into rhythm, tempo and the run game from deep was completely stifled. The four week hiatus appeared to be a factor for Limerick.

Kilkenny clearly benefited from the momentum built in recent weeks. That second half performance against Cork two weeks ago was the springboard for this early opening period salvo. With Reid, Fennelly causing massive issues with their pace, movement and scoring ability, Limerick were on the back foot, always chasing the game and as a result that poise and composure required to get over the line was constantly out of reach.

Credit to Limerick for the comeback, they could have easily folded in that opening quarter. The 1-8 to 0-2 deficit after the first quarter coupled with nine wides for the reigning All Ireland championship in that opening seventeen minutes were key factors to the overall outcome.

Limerick game plan derailed early

Kilkenny took the Dublin NHL semi-final and raised it up a few notches. Kilkenny management saw at first hand during the NHL that you give Limerick the time and space from deep to create their run game, it is curtains. This was not going happen yesterday.

The sheer intensity of the harrying and closing down Limerick’s key play makers in the middle third was a video exhibit on work rate. Everyone Kilkenny emptied the tank for the cause, once they could give no more, they were whipped off and the new player would come in with further gusto.

Nicky Quaid struggled to identify a primary ball winner in the Limerick half forward line throughout; sheer numbers and astute second ball winning pivotal by Kilkenny. The short puck out option was also negated by the early head knock to Declan Hannon who is the fulcrum for this Limerick side. He could not set any tempo from the half back line pocket.

Limerick Shot selection

You have to credit Kilkenny for the wide count tally for Limerick. It was the end result of pressure exerted from the Cats throughout. The nine wides at the start of the game, at least 2/3 of the wides came from rushed efforts with Limerick players under pressure to strike their effort. The pressure of getting back into the contest all too apparent with some misguided shot selection from long distance in the second half. It will be a sore video analysis from a Limerick perspective when they review the shot selection this week.

Cool heads were required at the death and two key cameos down the stretch come to mind. David Reidy went for the goal but given the angle, was a point a better option? The final sideline cut at the end. Was their sufficient time to look to create a chance better inside? Big moments down the stretch.

That 65

The post match reaction has centered on that final sideline cut. A couple of things to note on the play. Was Buckley back the sufficient distance? The cut was deflected but no one from the officiating crew saw it. It is a clear systems failure.

The ghost goal from last season between Tipperary and Waterford was supposed to be an one off but another key decision was missed. Can technology assist further on plays like this? Can a review system come into play where a team have two reviews during the contest, if a review is unsuccessful, loss a review.

Can VAR or the fourth official on the sideline not have access to replay footage and be alerted by officials if a decision such as this is missed? Big season call missed. The All Ireland final could have something similar.

There is the small matter that if the 65 was awarded, there may have been a chance that the effort could have gone wide. Given Limerick’s shooting from distance during the encounter, there was no guarantee that the game would have been level. A big call but the question is how Limerick got into that position before this incident?

There were other official decisions that can be scrutinized but the final play of the game has stuck out. The penalty call. The helmet shots which only saw yellow cards issued. TJ Reid handpass pinged. Swings and roundabouts but the 65′ miss is a bad one. GAA officialdom have to do something on stuff like that.

Looking Forward Limerick

Incredibly proud of the Limerick side yesterday. The opening quarter start was horrendous; they could have been overwhelmed but they refused to give up and their comeback has to be applauded. The age profile of this squad means that this side should be contending for All Ireland honors for years to come. The loss yesterday is a tough one to take, it will add hunger and dog to the side next season. I am excited to see how the side develops next season.

Kilkenny and Cody Deliver Again!

What a credit Kilkenny are for hurling. Cody emerges from the contest with his reputation further enhanced (if that is possible). This squad have had their challenges this season but when it has come to the crunch in the last two weeks, Kilkenny provided cohesive performances to get over the line.

Eoin Murphy outstanding in the goals; shot stopping and then his puck out strategy was clinical providing platform for Kilkenny to prosper. The full back line stuck to their task throughout.

Lawlor at full back emerged from this contest with enormous credit. The penalty call was 50/50 at best but how Lawlor responded and then took the game to Limerick with several outstanding defensive clearances bodes well for Kilkenny in a problematic position.

The half back line were heroic. Deegan work rate and ability to burst through Limerick challenges were eye catching.

I was delighted for Padraic Walsh yesterday; his performance at half back was all action, some terrific catches aerially and stifled the influence of Kyle Hayes to the extent that the Limerick man was forced back into his half back line looking for primary possession. Mission accomplished. Fogarty is an unsung hero in this side. His versatility to play multiple positions in the half back and midfield emerged yesterday with an assured performance from wing back.

The youth and experience upfront was a decisive factor in the outcome. Mullen for such a young player is playing at a level of a seasoned professional. The leadership down the stretch was incredible and along with John Donnelly was standout.

TJ Reid — outstanding. The complete player. The complete package with his free taking and then his open play which saw some vital primary ball possession in the final quarter which shifted momentum back into Kilkenny’s favor. Hurler of the Year is locked down surely after yesterday.

Colin Fennelly inside in full forward provided key cameo moments. His goal provided Kilkenny with their rewards for a dominant opening quarter. His ability to turn Finn and then clinically dispatch the sliothar into the net was top class. The goal provided further impetus for Kilkenny.

Brian Cody. Incredible management performance yesterday. Sixteen All Ireland semi-final wins out of nineteen. The greatest manager the game will ever see. This victory will be a sweet one for Cody; the satisfaction on his face post game was all you needed to know. His side had gone to the well again and they delivered for him again. The Kilkenny juggernaut never went away you know?

Limerick vs. Kilkenny: Key Battles

Evening throw-in is setup to deliver fireworks

The summer is hurtling along at a rate of knots. Wimbledon, One Day Cricket World Cup are in the books for another year. The Tour is about to conclude at the weekend which means that the All Ireland series is getting to the business end of the championship.

Limerick after their impressive Munster Senior Hurling final victory over Tipperary four weeks ago face a Kilkenny with momentum aplenty after an eye catching second half display against Cork. Will the four week layoff hinder Limerick? Hawkeye Sidekick previews the action.

Curse of the Munster Senior Hurling Champions

In recent times, victors of the Munster inter-provincial senior hurling crown have struggled in the All Ireland semi-final fixture to get over the line. Limerick must be wary of the lay off effects today as they look for a second consecutive All Ireland hurling appearance.

The parallel for Limerick is when they entered the Munster SHC this season. After an excellent NHL campaign, John Kiely’s charges were caught cold at home to Cork; a performance which lacked composure all over the field. Limerick must start the game today on point; otherwise it could be a long evening at HQ.

Limerick run game

The intriguing pregame note is how Kilkenny look to stifle the Limerick run game. Limerick’s middle third when in full flow are incredibly hard to stop and was seen to full effect when the two sides met at Nowlan Park in the NHL. The running game from Limerick creating goal scoring opportunities which Kilkenny defensively had precious little answers on the day.

Their All Ireland quarter final fixture last season saw Limerick victorious and in the process creating several wonderful goal chances which only for Eoin Murphy would have seen Limerick win by a more handsome margin. The physicality and hard running lines of Limerick if on point will be extremely hard to stop.

Do Kilkenny deploy sweepers in the half back line to combat the run game of the likes of Lynch, Hegarty, Morrissey and the marauding Hayes at half-forward? Given the full back line vulnerabilities, this option looks likely at some points during the contest. I would expect John Donnelly to hover around the half back and midfield for a good chunk of this contest but by doing so could leave someone like Diarmuid Byrnes in acres of space to score from long range at will.

Kilkenny look to their experienced forwards

Kilkenny’s team selection is do or die from the first whistle. Zero room for error. A squad bench which has potential if unproven. The fact that Walter Walsh starts an indication that Kilkenny are looking to establish early momentum and a primary ball winner in the air in the opening period.

Kilkenny will look to go for the throat early as they typically do. TJ Reid has been wonderful this season. 5-52 so far this season. His contribution on the scoreboard a major factor for Kilkenny negotiating the Leinster SHC this season. His free taking unerring and his ability to score from play and provide stealth assists to the fore in recent fixtures.

Richie Hogan provided a timely cameo of his class last time out. A superb goal and a couple of instinctive points showing that Hogan is hitting form at the right time of the championship year. Given Limerick’s fitness and conditioning, can he play the entire contest?

Limerick man marking decisions

A couple of key decisions for John Kiely, Paul Kinnerk and management to get right this evening. Who will pick up TJ Reid? I suspect that it will be a collective responsibility player call, some zonal marking mixed with William O’Donoghue looking to track Reid at various times to throw different looks.

The Fennelly man marking job inside will be Mike Casey with Sean Finn providing support if required inside. Declan Hannon at half back will look to sit in the pocket and dictate play from just inside his half back line. Hannon cannot be moved around the field like what happened against Cork at the start of the championship.

Hannon dictates the run game for Limerick from deep. Hannon establishes tempo. Hannon is a primary game player from deep for Limerick. It will be interesting to see how Kilkenny look to negate Hannon’s influence as if unaffected, Limerick will be in prime position to win this fixture with a bit to spare.

Can Limerick convert goal chances?

The Kilkenny full back has been under the microscope this season. The full back position is an area where Huw Lawlor, Joey Holden have been exposed due to lack of defensive shape in front of them. Galway this season ran at Kilkenny from deep and created several goal scoring chances.

It is a day where Aaron Gillane could flourish if given the opportunity. His 2-36 tally has been excellent again and there have been spurned goal scoring opportunities as well. Gillane’s pace, power and ability to pick off full back’s with his pace and movement could be seen yet again today.

If Kilkenny decide to negate Gillane’s influence, Peter Casey and Graham Mulcahy also come into the reckoning. Casey’s performance last time out was sensational. His scoring prowess, work rate to the fore. Mulcahy has quietly gone about his business this season and I believe is primed for a huge performance today. His pace and eye for a score is never in doubt.

The Kilkenny full back line are in for an arduous task provided their colleagues can stifle Limerick’s run game and quick ball distribution inside. The threat from Limerick attacking line is relentless; their pace and power has caused endless issues for teams this year and I don’t see that changing today.

Verdict

The four week hiatus is the only concern I have for Limerick today. The bench impact is huge for Limerick in the final quarter of games, something that Kilkenny have yet to prove. If Limerick can get into tempo and scoring form early, they are well placed to win this fixture.

Kilkenny must start with gusto and go for the throat early. A couple of early goals to rattle Limerick confidence, build the lead heading into the final quarter where the Limerick bench impact will come to the fore.

The verdict rests in the defensive lineups. Given that Limerick have a more settled feel and look to the defensive units, they get my vote. Kilkenny’s full back line is a concern and Eoin Murphy will need to produce a top quality performance in the goals for Kilkenny. Limerick if on form will get goal chances and this time will convert.

An interesting throw in time. A fixture which needs to light up the championship. Kilkenny to provide a serious challenge but if this Limerick side are to be considered in the elite team ranks of recent times, they need to deliver a dominant, classy performance today. This group of players want more, want more silverware. Limerick by four points.