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Dublin: 9°C Thursday 22 April 2021

Cody's remarkable run, Limerick's slow start and the Ballyhale attacking class

Plenty to digest after an All-Ireland semi-final showdown.

Dejection for Limerick's Barry Nash as Kilkenny players celebrate victory.
Dejection for Limerick's Barry Nash as Kilkenny players celebrate victory.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

1. Officials in the spotlight after dramatic finale

A slender one-point defeat for the reigning All-Ireland champions but should they have had a late opportunity to salvage this game and grab a draw? Darragh O’Donovan’s sideline veered off target as Limerick chased a levelling score but the television replays indicated that Cillian Buckley seemed to deflect it wide of goal. The umpire at the Davin End and the linesman at the Cusack Stand side did not spot it and Limerick were denied the chance to land the ’65 that could have secured extra-time. It was a contentious note on which a thrilling game concluded.

2. Kilkenny dig deep to produce the goods in Croke Park

Yet while it’s true that Limerick were unfortunate with that late passage of play, there was no disputing the superior side here and the one entitled to advance to the decider on 18 August. It was another remarkable and heroic Kilkenny display as they staved off Limerick’s second-half onslaught in a stirring fashion.

Consider the run of the game. Kilkenny raced ahead with three early points, they were eight clear by the 13th minute and still had three to spare at the break after a Limerick recovery. In the second half Limerick attempted to hunt Kilkenny down and on five occasions cut the gap to a single point. But they could never draw level, Kilkenny ferociously protecting their advantage and ensuring this was an encounter where they never trailed. Their show of grit and refusal to yield was hugely impressive.

3. Limerick to rue slow start and costly wides

The 2019 season has seen joyous eruptions for Limerick hurling with their league victory in Croke Park and Munster triumph at the Gaelic Grounds but their hopes to land a third piece of silver were thwarted at the last four stage. Ultimately they saw Kilkenny race clear of them early on and it was a sluggish start that undermined their recovery operation. 

Kilkenny accelerated ahead by 0-6 to 0-1 inside ten minutes and had pushed nine clear by the close of the first quarter. Limerick put everything into bridging that gap but the deficit proved too sizeable to surmount. They came desperately close, approaching Kilkenny to within a point on five occasions after the break.

Limerick posted 2-17, the points total their lowest of the six championship ties they have played this summer. The wide count fell in their favour 15-8 and was reflective of their struggles in front of goal. Outside of Aaron Gillane, Limerick’s starting attack knocked over four points from play. It was an evening where their accuracy eluded them and that factor was telling.

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4. The Ballyhale attacking class key for Kilkenny

The spring saw half of Kilkenny’s starting forward line tonight marked absent from county duties. TJ Reid, Colin Fennelly and Adrian Mullen were tied up with Ballyhale matters. When they toasted a day of club glory on St Patrick’s Day, that trio weighed in with a combined haul of 2-18. Four months on, their contribution here was just as valuable as they notched 1-15 to propel another of their teams to another All-Ireland final date.

Reid was man-of-the-match as he bagged 0-8 to underline the immense leadership he provides as captain. Fennelly’s opportunism surfaced with 1-3, careering through for his latest critical first-half goal. Mullen’s emergence on the biggest stage continues with his 0-4 haul pushing him into the position of front-runner for Young Hurler of the Year. They may have missed the league but the Ballyhale factor has been a shining championship feature for Kilkenny.

5. Cody’s remarkable record continues

Three years on from being dismissed emphatically by Tipperary and four years on from last Liam MacCarthy Cup triumph, the shift in the hurling landscape and the changes in his dressing-room population have not altered Brian Cody’s ability to churn out winning teams. For the 16th time, he emerged victorious from an All-Ireland semi-final encounter today.

A pair of defeats to Galway (2001 and 2005) and a draw with Waterford (2016) are the only interruptions to a record of relentless wins at the last four stage. It’s a feat of astounding endurance and means Cody will take a side into the Liam MacCarthy Cup decider two decades on from his first as a manager. He’s departed with the silver on 11 occasions and Tipperary or Wexford will stand in his way as he will chase a 12th crown.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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