All-Ireland SHC Final: Limerick produce stunning second half display to retain title:

All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Final
Limerick 0-30 Kilkenny 2-15

By Cian O’Connell at Croke Park

When the need was greatest, with Kilkenny posing stern questions, Limerick found a way.

A dynamic second half performance was summoned by John Kiely’s outfit, who delivered with sheer substance and style.

Trailing 1-9 to 0-9 at the interval, Limerick leaked a second goal in the 42nd minute. The green and white team trailed by five then, 2-10 to 0-11.

By the end Limerick were nine point winners. Clinical and classy Limerick retained the Liam McCarthy Cup. It was a remarkable finish from Limerick.

A defence that encountered bother initially was suddenly inspired as Kilkenny only landed two scores from play in the closing 28 minutes.

Cian Lynch and David Reidy supplied gorgeous touches, while inside Peter Casey was splendid after the restart. The Na Piarsaigh clubman rifled five second half points, each one a beauty.

Key players were missing through injury, including Seán Finn and Declan Hannon, but Limerick were still able to survive and thrive.

At the outset Kilkenny, with Tom Phelan highly effective, thundered into the contest planting a 10th minute goal.

Conor Fogarty’s delivery caused a bit of panic with Eoin Cody reacting smartly to net an opportunistic major.

Phelan subsequently added a point to edge Kilkenny 1-2 to 0-2 ahead in the 11th minute.

Limerick, who only had two shots from play in the first quarter, trimmed the deficit down to 1-4 to 0-5 by the 19th minute as Aaron Gillane and Diarmaid Byrnes clipped frees.

Resilient and resourceful, Kilkenny enjoyed an encouraging burst with four points on the spin from TJ Reid (three frees) and brother Richie Reid.

That gave the striped team a 1-8 to 0-5 cushion, but Limerick finished the half strongly clipping four of the next five points.

Lynch and Gillane were effective in that spell for Limerick, who were 1-9 to 0-9 behind at the turnaround.

When the action recommenced Diarmaid Byrnes landed two long range frees reducing the gap to the minimum.

Kilkenny replied as Phelan mined a point from play before also being involved in the build up for Paddy Deegan’s 42nd minute goal. Eoin Murphy, Richie Reid, and Phelan all occupied roles with Deegan scoring from an acute angle.

Limerick were unperturbed. Five points without reply were struck by Kiely’s charges with Peter Casey, Barry Nash, Gearoid Hegarty, Byrnes (free), and Gillane raising white flags.

TJ Reid terminated a seven minute search for a Kilkenny score, but Limerick embarked on another spree. It was sufficient to steer them 0-21 to 2-11 ahead.

Under severe duress Kilkenny remained defiant with Limerick trimming the margin down to 0-22 to 2-14 with 10 minutes left on the clock.

In the dying embers, though, Kilkenny only managed to score once more, while Limerick were now very much in the groove.

Casey was drilling over points with real aplomb; Kyle Hayes scampered forward to provide a vital score, and substitute Cathal O’Neill was making an impact.

Limerick were admirably efficient, converting 0-21 from 26 chances in the second half. That was a vital statistic. There was passion combined with purpose, Limerick are still the standard bearers.

Scorers for Limerick: Diarmaid Byrnes 0-8 (7fs), Peter Casey and Aaron Gillane (3fs) 0-5 each, Cian Lynch, David Reidy, Cathal O’Neill, and Gearoid Hegarty 0-2 each, Barry Nash, Darragh O’Donovan, Kyle Hayes, and Tom Morrissey 0-1 each.

Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-7 (6fs, 165), Paddy Deegan 1-1, Eoin Cody 1-0, Tom Phelan 0-3, Adrian Mullen, John Donnelly, Richie Reid, and Eoin Murphy (f) 0-1 each.

Limerick: Nickie Quaid; Mike Casey, Dan Morrissey, Barry Nash; Diarmaid Byrnes, William O’Donoghue, Kyle Hayes; Darragh O’Donovan, Cian Lynch; Gearoid Hegarty, David Reidy, Tom Morrissey; Seamus Flanagan, Aaron Gillane, Peter Casey.

Subs: Cathal O’Neill for T Morrissey (55), Graeme Mulcahy for Flanagan (62), Conor Boylan for Hegarty (68), Barry Murphy for O’Donovan (70+1), Aaron Costello for M Casey (70+3).

Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy; Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; Conor Fogarty, Richie Reid, Paddy Deegan; Adrian Mullen, John Donnelly; Walter Walsh, TJ Reid, Tom Phelan; Billy Ryan, Martin Keoghan, Eoin Cody.

Subs: Pádraig Walsh for Fogarty (HT), Alan Murphy for W Walsh (48), Cian Kenny for Ryan (54), Cillian Buckley for T Walsh (64), Richie Hogan for Buckley (65, blood), Cillian Buckley for Donnelly (67).

Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow).