John Kiely’s Limerick side lost out to Kilkenny in their Championship showdown at Nowlan Park on a 0-20 to 0-17 scoreline in a game that sometimes lacked quality but wanted for nothing in terms of intensity.
It was the Cats ninth championship victory over Limerick as TJ Reid scored eight points for Kilkenny in what was a fine individual performance.
Reid opened the scoring from a free after two minutes. Seconds later, midfielder Paddy Deegan got on the end of a superb Richie Hogan pass to fire over the bar to give Kilkenny a 0-2 to 0-0 lead.
Limerick’s first score of the match came in the sixth minute as Na Piarsaigh’s Shane Dowling opened his account from a free.
Reid responded with a free of his own before the impressive Kyle Hayes got one back for the visitors after getting on the end of a knock-down by captain Gearoid Hegarty. Limerick now trailed 0-3 to 0-2 in the 10th minute.
Kilkenny had glorious goal chance a minute later when Chris Bolger opened the Limerick defence only to shorten his grip and tap the ball over the bar.
Limerick levelled as Hegarty and Dowling (free) raised white flags to tie the game at 0-4 apiece in the 22nd minute.
The home side then squandered another goal chance when Michael Fennelly’s goal bout shot was denied by Nickie Quaid who saved the initial shot, then almost bundled the ball into his own net before finally clearing his lines.
The imposing Walter Walsh grew into the game towards the end of the half contributing three brilliant scores from play with Deegan and Reid both striking fine points to keep Kilkenny to the fore.
In what was the most disappointing aspect of Limerick’s performance, their efficiency in front of goal was way below what is required of the top championship sides.
Despite wasting a number of opportunities in the first half Limerick managed to notch further scores through Peter Casey, Hayes, Dowling (free) and Hegarty as the Shannonsiders went in at the break 0-10 to 0-8 behind.
Casey got the first score of the second half to slash the deficit to just a point before Brian Cody’s men stretched their lead as Deegan shot his third point before Reid chipped over his fifth of the evening to give Kilkenny a 0-12 to 0-9 lead after 39 minutes.
Back came Limerick with three scores on the bounce. The impressive Casey scored his third point before Dowling scored the next two as Limerick desperately tried to extend their summer by at least another week.
Up stepped Reid with another two points to edge Kilkenny back in front. Limerick again had Quaid to thank as the goalkeeper produced a stunning save to deny Bolger a goal in the 56th minute.
The replays shoed Bolger’s rocket was on target but was bravely stopped courtesy of Quaid’s helmet.
Cody’s substitutes paid dividends as both Kevin Kelly (2) and Lester Ryan both shot points off the bench. Walter Walsh added his fourth point of the evening to give Kilkenny a five-point lead with seven minutes to go.
To their credit Limerick refused to go away as points from Dowling and substitutes Barry Nash and Pat Ryan closed the gap to two points with a minute remaining.
Late scores from Reid and Lester Ryan either side of Dowling’s eighth point proved vital for Cody’s men as they held on for a three point victory and into Monday’s draw for next week’s round of games.
And so it was, Limerick’s season is over on the first of July. A bitter disappointment but the players gave their all for the cause. John Kiely and his backroom team certainly have the raw materials at their disposal to built a side capable of making progress. Now comes the difficult task of turning potential into tangible results.
Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, P Walsh, J Holden; C Fogarty, C Buckley, J Lyng; M Fennelly, P Deegan (0-3); C Bolger (0-1), W Walsh (0-4), TJ Reid (0-8, 0-6f); R Hogan, C Fennelly, G Aylward.
Subs: K Kelly (0-2) for Aylward (44), L Blanchfield for Hogan (52), L Ryan (0-2) for Deegan (55), M Bergin for Bolger (64).
Limerick: N Quaid; S Finn, R McCarthy, M Casey; D Morrissey, D Hannon, S Hickey; P Browne, D O’Donovan; D Dempsey, C Lynch, G Hegarty (0-2); P Casey (0-3), S Dowling (0-8, 0-6f), K Hayes (0-2).
Subs: B Nash (0-1) for Hegarty (46), J Ryan for O’Donovan (50), T Morrissey for Dempsey (54), P Ryan (0-1) for Browne (59), G Mulcahy for Lynch (68), G O’Mahony for Hannon (74).
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly)