Bord Gais Energy All Ireland Under 21 Hurling Final
LIMERICK 0-17 KILKENNY 0-11
By Cian O’Connell at Semple Stadium, Thurles
Limerick underage teams are becoming accustomed to dealing with high expectations and a second title at this grade in three years was met by a great green and white roar in Thurles.
A huge Limerick support made up the majority of the 15,485 crowd and they gleefully celebrated a deserved success.
For much of the past decade Limerick’s Academy system has produced a raft of talented hurlers, who are beginning to acquire silverware on the national stage.
Pat Donnelly’s charges governed vast chunks of the opening period with their self sufficient forward line causing Kilkenny plenty of bother.
By the time the interval rolled around Limerick led 0-11 to 0-4 which was an accurate reflection of their supremacy when backed by a significant breeze.
There were streaks of Kilkenny defiance with Shane Walsh and Billy Ryan contributing good scores, but Limerick grated impressively.
It wasn’t all about hard work, though, because Aaron Gillane, Cian Lynch, and Barry Nash demonstrated some flashes of real class up front.
Shane Walsh rifled over an early point for Kilkenny, but Limerick responded impressively reeling off seven points on the spin.
That was a seriously damaging spell for Kilkenny, who were battling bravely, but Limerick, prompted by Gillane’s precise shooting, were in the groove.
Billy Ryan terminated an 18 minute search for a Kilkenny score, but Limerick struck four of the next six points to lead by seven at the turnaround.
Kyle Hayes was safe and sound anchoring the defence, while at centrefield Robbie Hanley buzzed about craving involvement.
While Limerick weren’t as efficient converting opportunities after the restart they were still doing enough and were 0-14 to 0-6 ahead by the 47th minute.
Kilkenny struck five points in eight minutes with Alan Murphy sharp from frees, but Limerick were still four clear as Conor Boylan raised a white flag in that stint.
Just as Kilkenny were posing some questions Limerick had the resolve and resilience to locate the answers with Gillane and substitute Oisin O’Reilly decorating the triumph with late grace notes.
Limerick weren’t going to be denied. All those weekend mornings at UL with the Academy had them prepared for days like these.
Scorers for Limerick: Aaron Gillane 0-7 (2fs), Peter Casey and Ronan Lynch (3fs) 0-3 each, Oisin O’Reilly, Cian Lynch, and Barry Nash 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kilkenny: Alan Murphy 0-5 (4fs, 165), Shane Walsh 0-3 (2fs), Liam Blanchfield, John Donnelly, Billy Ryan 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: Eoghan McNamara; Sean Finn, Darragh Fanning, Dan Joy; Ronan Lynch, Kyle Hayes, Thomas Grimes; Colin Ryan, Robbie Hanley; Tom Morrissey, Barry Nash, Cian Lynch; Peter Casey, Barry Murphy, Aaron Gillane.
Subs: Conor Boylan for Cian Lynch (40), Andrew La Touche Cosgrave for Tom Morrissey (47), Oisin O’Reilly for Barry Murphy (53), Lorcan Lyons for Barry Nash (60).
KILKENNY: Darren Brennan; Michael Cody, Conor Delaney, Niall McMahon; Huw Lawlor, Jason Cleere, Tommy Walsh; Luke Scanlon, Richie Leahy; Billy Ryan, Sean Morrissey, Liam Blanchfield; John Walsh, John Donnelly, Shane Walsh.
Subs: Alan Murphy for Sean Morrissey (25), Pat Lyng for John Walsh (HT), Eoin Kenny for Shane Walsh (40), Martin Keoghan for Billy Ryan (41), Darren Mullen for Richie Leahy (45).
REFEREE: Paud O’Dywer (Carlow).