©INPHO/James Crombie Henry Shefflin celebrates scoring his second goal yesterday.
# Post-Match Debate
Talking Points: Kilkenny v Limerick, All-Ireland SHC quarter-final
Here’s five issues that emerged from yesterday’s All-Ireland senior hurling quarter-final between Kilkenny and Limerick

The Cats backlash
In 2004 when Kilkenny were last stunned in the Leinster championship they emerged on the qualifier stage as a wounded animal and unleashed their rage. Dublin were crushed by 26 points and then Galway were swatted aside by 19 points. Eight years on they replicated the feat in those games by registering four goals in yesterday’s All-Ireland quarter-final against Limerick and just like those two matches it was Henry Shefflin who lead the way by raising a brace of green flags.

Yet there was no blast of fury to destroy Limerick which is a credit to the resistance posed by John Allen’s side and there was never a sense that they were on course to be humiliated. They stood up to Kilkenny and it was not until the second-half that Brian Cody’s side clicked into gear to put the game to bed. It was a positive response in the wake of their dismal Leinster final experience and a good starting point to build on. Which is what they will have to do if they find a way past Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final.

The role of Tommy and Henry
Whatever nerves existed about Kilkenny’s play in the first-half yesterday were eased by the contributions of the greatest defender and greatest attacker of their generation. Tommy Walsh was feisty and aggressive, hurling on the edge during the first-half. His positioning was excellent in cutting out some Limerick attacks, his deliveries forward had thought behind them while his 32nd minute point was a brilliant rousing score as he burst out of defence.

Limerick’s Shane Dowling ruefully pointed out afterwards that granting space to Henry Shefflin proved costly in that opening-half. He was on hand to despatch two goals at vital stages that helped take the sting out of Limerick’s early drive and in a period when Kilkenny were finding scores difficult to come by, Shefflin’s shooting was bang on the money. He took over the free-taking duties from Richie Power and ensured they were a more profitable avenue for Kilkenny as well. Ultimately when Brian Cody’s side needed to settle themselves, two of their leading lights stood tall.

Kilkenny’s Tommy Walsh in action yesterday. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

The ruthless edge that Kilkenny displayed
At half-time yesterday the game was there for Limerick to go and win. Their forwards were getting enjoyment out of their attacks, their defence lead by the outstanding Richie McCarthy was heroic and they showed their determination in the couple of withering shoulders that Richie Power received at opposite ends of the half. But Kilkenny’s ruthlessness came to bear in the second-half and settled this game.

It was evident in their defensive unit who snuffed out the threat of the Limerick defence by erecting a strong barrier across the half-back line and in an attack where Aidan Fogarty, Colin Fennelly and TJ Reid all started to shine. In the 42nd minute, Limerick were level at 2-8 to 1-11 but in the next 20 minutes they were outscored by 2-4 to 0-3 and the fact that they substituted three forwards during that time period indicated how the game had been swung in Kilkenny’s way.

The issues now facing Kilkenny
Kilkenny now turn to face their foes from the last three All-Ireland finals in Tipperary. They were far too good when the sides met in the league in February but Tipperary have changed the structure of their team, are battle-hardened after emerging from a testing Munster championship campaign and look to be improving with every outing. A replica of their first-half display yesterday will not suffice to overturn Tipperary but the second-half provided signs of better form.

They will not lack motivation as they return to the ground where they were humbled in early July. But in terms of team make-up will Brian Hogan recover from injury or will newcomer Kieran Joyce retain the number six jersey? Are Michael Fennelly and Michael Rice back to the requisite levels of sharpness after yesterday’s outing? And with Richie Hogan suspended and TJ Reid the obvious replacement, who can then provide the game-changing inspiration from the bench?

The immediate objectives for Limerick
They did not regress in defeat, they provided hope for their future and they can reflect on a campaign where progress was made. There will not be too many dissenting voices at that appraisal of Limerick hurling but moral victories are irrelevant for the county’s hurling squad at this juncture. They have the raw materials yet building on them is the next task and in that sense the disappointment at the recent Munster U21 semi-final defeat is now more acute.

The aim over the winter must be to build on John Allen’s first season in charge and the fact that he has the second of a two-year term to come is important as a young squad like theirs can ill afford another managerial change. The stabilising influence that Allen provides is vital and he will realise that Limerick badly now need to get out of Division 1B next spring. It is Clare who will benefit hugely from a series of games against the elite while Limerick strive to emerge from the second tier. But Offaly, Wexford and more pertinently Dublin will have similar aspirations in mind.

Talking Points: Cork v Waterford, All-Ireland SHC quarter-final

‘We’ll be back’ says Waterford chief Michael Ryan after defeat to Rebels