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.
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?