Kilkenny 2-13 Limerick 0-17
Brian Cody’s Kilkenny saw past Limerick by two points in this afternoon’s All-Ireland senior hurling championship semi-final at Croke Park.
In front of 45,478 spectators at GAA HQ, the Leinster champions needed goals in either half from Richie Hogan and Eoin Larkin to break Limerick’s brave resistance.
The Shannonsiders went toe to toe with the Cats in a riveting encounter that was played out in dreadful conditions.
But ultimately, Limerick’s brave effort fell just short as Kilkenny survived to book their place in a first final since 2012.
Kilkenny will now play Cork or Tipperary in the September 7 final, with Henry Shefflin chasing his tenth All-Ireland medal as a player, and Cody looking to mastermind that tenth success.
But Limerick, beaten Munster finalists, gave it everything before falling just short.
After Shane Dowling fired Limerick into a 0-16 to 1-11 lead in the 55th minute, the Treaty men would manage just one more point in the game.
Kilkenny cut loose with a crucial Larkin goal and two pointed TJ Reid frees to close the game out.
Hogan was the provider for Larkin’s goal, firing in a free that Larkin flicked to the net in a forest of hurleys.
And it was Hogan, the leading contender for the Hurler of the Year award at this point in time, who registered a vital first half goal.
Kilkenny clung on grimly in a finish that could have seen Donal O’Grady sent off.
The Limerick captain desperately hauled down Richie Power when the Kilkenny sub was through on goal but referee James McGrath opted not to flash a second yellow card.
It was a bizarre call from the referee, who also issued no card in the first half when Kilkenny full-back JJ Delaney pulled at Shane Dowling’s helmet, an offence now deemed worthy of a red card.
Overall, Kilkenny just about shaded a gripping contest that was made difficult for both sets of players by dreadful weather conditions.
Bar a break early in the second half, heavy rain fell throughout and the floodlights came on well before half-time.
Declan Hannon finished with five points from play for Limerick on a day when Colin Fennelly flashed over four for Kilkenny.
All of Fennelly’s points were scored from play, with TJ Reid notching five frees.
But it was the goals that proved decisive and they came at the most opportune times, when Kilkenny were behind.
The sides were level at 0-02 apiece and again in the 13th minute, when Kilkenny’s Pádraig Walsh tied the scores at 0-04 each.
Shane Dowling then produced one of the game’s highlights, producing a magnificent catch and point in the 15th minute, before further scores from Hannon and Dowling (free) opened up a 0-07 to 0-04 lead.
And Limerick were 0-10 to 0-07 in front on the half hour mark when Dowling scored a brilliant point, improvising with a one-handed strike.
But Kilkenny would finish the half with an unanswered 1-02 as Michael Fennelly and Walsh flashed over points before Hogan’s brilliantly-taken goal.
Hogan’s goal, a classy solo effort, had Kilkenny 1-09 to 0-10 in front at the break.
Colin Fennelly fired Kilkenny 1-10 to 0-10 clear after the restart before David Herity, who pulled off some decent saves while also enduring a couple of jittery moments, denied Paul Browne.
Limerick cut loose with a rush of scores to move into a 0-16 to 1-11 lead but Kilkenny, being Kilkenny responded with the Larkin goal, when it was needed most.
KILKENNY: D Herity; J Tyrrell, JJ Delaney, P Murphy; J Holden, B Hogan, C Buckley; R Hogan (1-00), C Fogarty; M Fennelly (0-02), C Fennelly (0-04), P Walsh (0-02); M Kelly, TJ Reid (0-05f), E Larkin (1-00).
Subs: H Shefflin for Kelly (52), R Power for Walsh (54).
LIMERICK: N Quaid; T Condon, S Hickey, R McCarthy; P O’Brien, W McNamara, G O’Mahony; J Ryan, P Browne; D Breen (0-01), D Hannon (0-05), D O’Grady (0-01); S Dowling (0-07, 4f, 1 65), K Downes, G Mulcahy (0-02).
Subs: S Tobin (0-01) for Downes (41), T Ryan for Breen (62), N Moran for O’Grady (62).