Limerick manager TJ Ryan has backed Kilkenny to win their 10th All-Ireland title under Brian Cody next month.
The Cats edged out Ryan’s side in a thrilling semi-final at Croke Park and now he is backing them to finish the job.
Limerick have played each of the three teams that remain in the hunt for the Liam MacCarthy Cup in Championship action this summer.
They beat Tipperary in a Munster semi-final, lost to Cork in the provincial decider and ended their season with a loss to Kilkenny.
“Next week’s game is very tight as well - even the bookies have it very even,” said Ryan.
“But this drive for 10, the effort they showed today, it would be very difficult to count against them.”
Limerick lost a semi-final to eventual champions Clare last year having suffered a bout of stage fright on the big day.
Against the Cats they got everything out of themselves and came up just short.
The two goals they conceded - one in each half - just as they were getting on top - were the difference in the 2-13 to 0-17 defeat.
“There isn’t a lot between a few of the teams,” said Ryan. “We felt we deserved to be in the last four and our goal was to get to the last two.
“We came very, very close to doing that. In time we might say that we have stuff to build on, but at the moment that seems like a long, long time away.
“I’m sure in time we’ll sit down and say there’s a lot to build on, but right now, leaving Croke Park, we’re bitterly disappointed.”
Kilkenny weren’t at their fluent best against Limerick, but their work rate and intensity - particularly in defence - saw them through.
“That’s a given,” said Ryan. “I wouldn’t ever be surprised by anything that Kilkenny do. They’re not going for 10 titles for no reason.
“What they have done is incredible and what they do every single day is incredible.”
“I’m sure in time we’ll sit down and say there’s a lot to build on, but right now, leaving Croke Park, we’re bitterly disappointed.” - TJ Ryan
Victorious Kilkenny manager Brian Cody wasn’t surprised by his team’s application either - he expects nothing else.
“No, because that's what you do,” he stated. “If you start thinking about something you won before, what good is that to you today, or this year?
“Our previous victories mean nothing right now.”
Late in the game Limerick captain Donal O’Grady, who was already on a yellow card, fouled Richie Power as he zeroed in on goal.
It happened just outside the square and he was fortunate to escape a second yellow card. Neither manager was worried by the cynical nature of the foul though.
Ryan said: “These things happen in hurling and I wouldn't change a single thing.”