Kyle Hayes dedicated Limerick's third All-Ireland SHC title in a row to Cian Lynch, "the heart and soul of our team", after the Treaty edged out Kilkenny in a pulsating final at Croke Park.

Lynch has endured an injury-riddled year. He was sidelined for 10 weeks with a hamstring injury but returned as a substitute in the semi-final defeat of Galway.

However he missed out on the decider after twisting his ankle in training last week, watching on from the dugout as his team-mates captured the Liam MacCarthy once again.

"Anyone who knows Ciano personally, he's an absolute gentleman," Hayes told RTÉ Sport.

"He's the heart and soul of our team for everything through his ability, his skill and his leadership. He had such an unfortunate year. That definitely was a performance for him."

Reflecting on the game itself Hayes said Limerick had to respond quickly to the Billy Ryan and Martin Keoghan goals that got the Cats back on level terms.

"It was kind of like the Galway game - very, very intense," he added. "We knew what Kilkenny would bring, they bring massive intensity to each game. We knew there was going to be a big challenge.

"They have a reputation for getting goals and goals and goals. Once they get one they seem to get more and just tip on. We had to reset and respond very quickly."

They did just that with Gearoid Hegarty proving inspirational when the game was in the mix.

As 'Dreams' by The Cranberries echoed around Croke Park, Hegarty soaked up a sweet success.

"That's what it means," he said with his arms outstretched. "It's absolutely incredible. I think it's the first time we've had a full crowd here in I don't know how long, but that was some battle.

"We have so much respect for those Kilkenny boys out on that field, what they've done... they have some of the best hurlers ever to play the game and we knew it was going to be as hard as it was. I'm just absolutely delighted. What a place. I love this place so much. What a day for Limerick fans."

Asked if the Limerick players appreciated these were the best days of their lives, Hegarty replied: "How could you not? Listen to Dolores (O'Riordan) here in Croke Park in front of 82,500 people. It does not get any better than that I can tell you."