Fintan O’Toole reports from Nowlan Park
THEY ARE BACK on track but Kilkenny were pushed to the wire tonight in Nowlan Park by a gritty and young Limerick team.
The final whistle brought relief for Brian Cody’s men as their summer is prolonged and a victory was achieved in the wake of their recent Leinster exit.
They looked to be in a comfortable position with five minutes of normal time on the clock as they enjoyed a 0-18 to 0-13 advantage.
But then TJ Reid was unusually wayward from a free and Limerick stitched together three points in succession.
Reid and Shane Dowling swapped points but it was not until Lester Ryan lofted over a score from the right wing that the home fans could rejoice in the fact that Limerick had finally been put away.
Padraig Walsh was exceptional for Kilkenny at full-back, solving a lot of the problems that had been apparent against Wexford.
Michael Fennelly also made a welcome return to the engine room of midfield while Joey Holden, Cillian Buckley, Paddy Deegan and Walter Walsh all made vital contributions over the course of this battle.
Both teams will not reflect kindly on their shooting in the opening period. Creating chances was not a problem but converting them certainly was.
Limerick chalked up 13 wides, Kilkenny struck 10 shots astray. It was poor attacking play and left both sets of supporters in the attendance of 15,605 frustrated.
Limerick improved notably in that regard after the interval and after trailing 0-10 to 0-8 at the midway mark, they had drawn level at 0-12 apiece by the 44th minute.
Shane Dowling’s work rate was terrific in yielding points while Peter Casey was another threat but too often Limerick’s attack were serviced with long and aimless deliveries.
They didn’t come close to netting either with substitute Pat Ryan hooked on one occasion when he broke free while at the other end Limerick were thankful to Nickie Quaid’s brave block to thwart Chris Bolger.
Limerick failed to translate their possession control in the first-half to the scoreboard and were left to rue the fact that they were two points adrift. Kilkenny didn’t hit full speed in attack thereafter – both Richie Hogan and Colin Fennelly were held scoreless – but they defended heroically and survived in a tense finale.
They’ll be keeping a close eye on Monday morning’s qualifier draw while Limerick are left to reflect on a disappointingly short summer.
Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-8 (0-6f), Walter Walsh 0-4, Paddy Deegan 0-3, Kevin Kelly, Lester Ryan 0-2 each, Chris Bolger 0-1.
Scorers for Limerick: Shane Dowling 0-8 (0-6f), Peter Casey 0-3, Gearoid Hegarty, Kyle Hayes 0-2 each, Pat Ryan, Barry Nash 0-1 each.
1. Eoin Murphy (Glenmore)
2. Paul Murphy (Danesfort)
3. Padraig Walsh (Tullaroan)
7. Joe Lyng (Rower Inistioge)
5. Conor Fogarty (Erins Own)
6. Cillian Buckley (Dicksboro)
4. Joey Holden (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
8. Michael Fennelly (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
9. Paddy Deegan (O’Loughlin Gaels)
12. T J Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
13. Richie Hogan (Danesfort)
11. Walter Walsh (Tullogher Rosbercon)
10. Chris Bolger (Clara)
14. Colin Fennelly (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
15. Ger Aylward (Glenmore)
23. Kevin Kelly (St Patrick’s) for Aylward (44)
26. Liam Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge) for Hogan (52)
21. Lester Ryan (Clara) for Deegan (55)
1. Nickie Quaid (Effin)
2. Sean Finn (Bruff)
3. Richie McCarthy (Blackrock)
4. Mike Casey (Na Piarsaigh)
7. Seamus Hickey (Murroe-Boher)
6. Declan Hannon (Adare)
5. Dan Morrissey (Ahane)
8. Paul Browne (Bruff)
11. Cian Lynch (Patrickswell)
14. Shane Dowling (Na Piarsaigh)
9. Darragh O’Donovan (Doon)
15. Kyle Hayes (Kildimo-Pallaskenry)
13. Peter Casey (Na Piarsaigh)
12. Gearoid Hegarty (St Patricks)
10. David Dempsey (Na Piarsaigh)
22. Barry Nash (South Liberties) for Hegarty (45)
19. James Ryan (Garryspillane) for O’Donovan (50)
21. Tom Morrissey (Ahane) for Dempsey (54)
20. Pat Ryan (Doon) for Browne (59)
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly)