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Dublin: 12°C Monday 23 November 2020
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Brilliant Kilkenny slay champions Limerick to book first All-Ireland final since 2016

Brian Cody is back in another decider.

Kilkenny 1-21

Limerick 2-17

KILKENNY HAVE gone nowhere.

TJ Reid and Walter Walsh celebrate winning at the full time whistle. TJ Reid and Walter Walsh celebrate winning at the full time whistle. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

If they go on to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup, it may go down as Brian Cody’s greatest achievement in the game. His record in All-Ireland semi-finals now stands at 16 wins from 19 attempts. No manager will ever come close to that figure.

For the second game in succession, the Cats shook off their underdogs tag to stun Munster opposition. Two weeks after their victory over Cork, Kilkenny dethroned All-Ireland champions Limerick in a rip-roaring encounter.

This was a Kilkenny victory built on ferocious tackling and work-rate, the qualities that have defined the Cats under the great supremo.

They were a point in front in the 75th minute when Darragh O’Donovan sent a sideline cut wide at the near post. On second viewing Limerick were unfortunate not to have been awarded a 65 after it struck Cillian Buckley’s hurley, although Kilkenny were deserved winners overall.

Once Eoin Murphy struck the restart high into the evening sky, the final whistle sounded sending the Cats into their first decider since 2016.

The Treaty narrowly defeated Kilkenny in last year’s quarter-final in Thurles and this was another absorbing clash yet the Cats looked the hungrier team throughout the contest.

Dan Morrissey and William O'Donoghue tackle TJ Reid Dan Morrissey and William O'Donoghue tackle TJ Reid. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Shane Dowling’s goal seven minutes from time sparked late Limerick fightback, but Kilkenny defended desperately in the final minutes to deservedly take the win. 

Perhaps it was the four-week lay-off since the Munster final – whatever the issue was – Limerick started this game particularly poorly. They shot nine first-half wides and had just two points on the board inside the opening 17 minutes. 

By that stage, the Cats had raced nine clear but Limerick fought back with Aaron Gillane in stunning form up front. He finished with 1-9, yet equally, Limerick failed to handle Colin Fennelly at the far end. 

His tally of 1-3 from play was critical as was Padraig Walsh’s dominance on the half-back line, Adrian Mullen’s youthful exuberance or TJ Reid’s all-round brilliance in front of 55,001 in Croke Park.

John Kiely’s men weathered the early storm yet never managed to haul themselves on par with the Cats. They lost skipper Declan Hannon to injury at half-time, missed a number of scoreable frees and David Reidy saw a late goal chance saved. In a one-point game, those are the moments that proved costly. 

The midfield was a war zone and referee Alan Kelly allowed the game flow, which saw several lengthy periods of play take place as both sides tried to engineer enough space to take a pop at the posts. 

Kilkenny were happy to allow Reid drop deep from the centre-forward position and when he did corner-forward John Donnelly left his marker Sean Finn to pick up Declan Hannon.

Kilkenny’s intensity in the tackle and hunger for work all over the field was evident from the off. They raced into a 7-2 lead inside the opening 13 minutes as their forwards continually denied Limerick the opportunity to work the ball out of defence and set up attacks.

Padraig Walsh tackles William O'Donoghue Padraig Walsh tackles William O'Donoghue. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Reid, naturally, epitomised Kilkenny’s savage effort level when they didn’t have possession while he was continually fouled when he ran at Limerick.

Fennelly batted in his second goal of the summer after collecting a long Eoin Murphy puck-out to help them into a stunning nine-point lead by the midway stage of the half.

Paul Kinnerk was making regular incursions onto the field to relay tactical instructions to the Limerick players. Kyle Hayes had been largely anonymous to that point and he was sent back to track Reid, which allowed Hannon sweep in front of the full-back line. 

Richie English switched onto Fennelly after Mike Casey had endured a difficult start on the Ballyhale powerhouse. Slowly, Limerick forced their way back into the game.

Their full-forwards started to get some joy after the supply line from out the field improved considerably thanks, in part, to Hayes’s presence further back. Huw Lawlor handed the Treaty a major boost heading into half-time after he was penalised for fouling Gillane as they contested a Diarmaid Byrnes free that dropped into the area.

Colin Fennelly celebrates scoring a goal Colin Fennelly celebrates scoring a goal. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Gillane smashed home the penalty, leaving John Kiely’s men trailing by just three. Hayes was restored to his usual centre-forward role as Barry Nash replaced Hannon on the half-back line.

On three occasions in the third quarter, Limerick had the lead down to a single point but Kilkenny never allowed them the psychological boost of getting back on level terms. 

Four scores in-a-row, including two from Fennelly, moved the Cats five clear after 60 minutes. Reid missed a chance from a free to extend that lead to six and within a minute, Shane Dowling rattled an unorthodox finish past Eoin Murphy to give Limerick hope.

David Reidy sent over a score and then forced a vital save from Murphy after he was sent through by Dowling. James Maher hit back with a crucial white flag off the bench for the Cats. Limerick admirably were back to just a point behind but they couldn’t find that equaliser in the final, dying moments.

Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-8 (0-7f, 0-1 sideline), Colin Fennelly 1-3, Adrian Mullen 0-4, Walter Walsh 0-2, Padraig Walsh, John Donnelly, Richie Hogan and James Maher 0-1 each.

Scorers for Limerick: Aaron Gillane 1-9 (0-6f, 1-0 pen), Shane Dowling 1-0, Graeme Mulcahy and Diarmaid Byrnes (0-1f, 0-1 65) 0-2, Tom Morrissey, Peter Casey, Barry Nash and David Reidy 0-1 each.

Kilkenny

1. Eoin Murphy (Glenmore)

2. Paul Murphy (Danesfort)
3. Huw Lawlor (O’Loughlin Gaels)
4. Joey Holden (Ballyhale Shamrocks)

5. Conor Fogarty (Erin’s Own)
6. Pádraig Walsh (Tullaroan)
7. Paddy Deegan (O’Loughlin Gaels)

8. Conor Browne (James Stephens)
9. Richie Leahy (Rower Inistoge)

10. John Donnelly (Thomastown)
11. TJ Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks – captain)
12. Walter Walsh (Tullogher Rosbercon)

13. Adrian Mullen (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
14. Colin Fennelly (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
15. Richie Hogan (Danesfort)

Subs

20. Cillian Buckley (Dicksboro) for Leahy (34)
23. Bill Sheehan for Hogan (46)
22. Billy Ryan (Graigue0Ballycallan) for Donnelly (51)
24. Liam Blanchfield (Bennettsbridhe) for Fennelly (64)
19. Conor Delaney (Erin’s Own) for Holden (blood sub, 66-69)
21. James Maher (St Lachtain’s) for Fogarty (67)

Limerick 

1. Nickie Quaid (Effin)

2. Sean Finn (Bruff)
3. Mike Casey (Na Piarsaigh)
4. Richie English (Doon)

5. Diarmaid Byrnes (Patrickswell)
6. Declan Hannon (Adare — captain)
7. Dan Morrissey (Ahane)

8. Cian Lynch (Patrickswell)
9. William O’Donoghue (Na Piarsaigh)

10. Gearoid Hegarty (St Patricks)
11. Kyle Hayes (Kildimo-Pallaskenry)
12. Tom Morrissey (Ahane)

13. Aaron Gillane (Patrickswell)
14. Graeme Mulcahy (Kilmallock)
15. Peter Casey (Na Piarsaigh)

Subs 

21. Barry Nash (Saor Theas) for Hannon (ht)
19. Shane Dowling (Na Piarsaigh) for Hegarty (56)
22. Darragh O’Donovan (Dun Bleisce) for O’Donoghue (58)
24. David Reidy (Droimin Athleacach) for Tom Morrissey (64)
26. Pat Ryan (Dun Bleisce) for Casey (67)

Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway)

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien  / reports from Croke Park

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