Kilkenny survived a Semple Stadium battle with Limerick to progress to the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship semi-finals on a scoreline of 4-16 to 1-16.

David Breen drilled in a first-half Limerick goal, but Henry Shefflin responded with two Kilkenny goals in the space of three minutes.

The Cats led by 2-07 to 0-09 at half-time, and added further goals through Aidan Fogarty and Colin Fennelly.

Kilkenny had Richie Hogan sent off, but staged a dominant finish.

This was not vintage Kilkenny, but with a mouth-watering semi-final clash with Tipperary to look forward to, Brian Cody’s men appear to be the team to beat.

In front of a bumper crowd of 38,116, Shefflin swept over two early wind-assisted points from play, and Aidan Fogarty smashed a shot against the crossbar, but Limerick remained on level terms with points from Shane Dowling and Niall Moran.

And the Shannonsiders stunned the All-Ireland champions with a 12th-minute goal. It was Graeme Mulcahy who carved the opening for David Breen to give David Herity no chance with an angled finish.

But that man Shefflin responded with two Kilkenny goals. In the 17th minute, he pounced to drill the ball to the net after goalkeeper Nickie Quaid had failed to gather.

Three minutes later, Colin Fennelly created the opening for Shefflin to spin a delicate shot past Quaid for a one-point lead.

Limerick responded with scores from Dowling and Mulcahy to bring the sides level for the fourth time, and they denied the Cats with some excellent defending from Stephen Walsh and Richie McCarthy.

Breen’s shot was stopped by Herity but was adjudged by an umpire to have gone over the bar for another leveller, but Kilkenny, with Tommy Walsh lifting his game, went in at the break with a slender 2-07 to 0-09 lead.

They had lost Richie Power to injury just before the interval, but Eoin Larkin, Aidan Fogarty and Colin Fennelly added their names to the scoresheet, while Shefflin was denied his hat-trick by Quaid’s excellent stop.

Walsh was now in defiant form at the back for the Cats, and Limerick, with the wind now in their backs, were struggling to get through a tenacious Kilkenny defence which had tightened up significantly.

The Cats opened up an 11-point lead by the 55th minute with two quick-fire goals.

Michael Fennelly found Fogarty in acres of space and he blasted in his side’s third goal. And less than a minute later, Colin Fennelly, a star performer in the second half, smashed home a magnificent goal, leaving no way back for John Allen’s side.

Richie Hogan received a straight red card in the 57th minute for a wild swing across Sean Tobin, and Limerick responded with a run of scores, three of them from Declan Hannon.

But the Kilkenny defence closed up again, and they finished the job off with Shefflin bringing his personal tally to 2-06 with an injury-time free.

Kilkenny scorers: H Shefflin 2-06 (0-04f), C Fennelly, A Fogarty 1-02 each, R Power 0-02 (2f), R Hogan, E Larkin, M Fennelly, T Walsh 0-01 each.

Limerick scorers: D Breen 1-03, S Dowling 0-04 (3f), D Hannon 0-03 (2f), G Mulcahy 0-02, S Tobin, N Moran, K Downes, T Quaid 0-01 each.

Kilkenny: D Herity; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, J Tyrell; T Walsh, K Joyce, R Doyle; M Fennelly, M Rice; E Larkin, R Power, H Shefflin; C Fennelly, R Hogan, A Fogarty.

Subs used: TJ Reid for Power, C Buckley for Fogarty, M Ruth for Larkin.

Limerick: N Quaid; S Walsh, R McCarthy, T Condon; W McNamara, D O’Grady, G O’Mahony; J Ryan, P O’Brien; S Dowling, D Breen , D Hannon; G Mulcahy, N Moran, S Tobin.

Subs used: S Hickey for Condon, K Downes for Breen, P Browne for Dowling, T Quaid for Tobin.

Referee: Michael Wadding (Waterford).