Lacklustre Limerick lose League title on Leeside

Limerick 1-15
Kilkenny 3-17

Limerick relinquished their Allianz League title, with a very uncharacteristic loss at the hands to Kilkenny, at SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Both sides would end the contest with 14-men, with Peter Casey’s straight red card a major concern – the Na Piarsaigh star is almost certain to miss the Munster Championship opener, against Clare.

While Limerick trailed from the 10th minute to the end, the decision to remove Aaron Gillane, Cian Lynch and Declan Hannon suggests that John Kiely and co weren’t overly concerned to lose this national title. Kilkenny, deserving winners, claim a first win over Limerick since 2019, after three Limerick wins, two in All Ireland finals and last years NHL final.
A lightning-fast start from John Kiely’s men gave them an early five-point advantage. Scoring the first 1-2 without reply. An early Diarmaid Byrnes free was added to by Aaron Gillane’s beautifully accurate goal and Cathal O’Neill’s long-range point.

It was clear throughout the contest that Kilkenny were hunting green flags and they hit two in just over sixty seconds. In fact, the 2-3 arrived in double quick time gave the advantage to the Leinster champions, which they wouldn’t relinquish.

Eoin Cody bagged the first, after TJ Reid had opened their account. The sides were level when Billy Ryan pointed.

Luke Hogan was sharpest to a Nickie Quaid save, to pull to the net, suddenly 2-2 to 1-2 in favour of the Cats. The turnaround was complete for the Leinster side when Mullan tacked on another point. All of this in just three minutes.

From here until the midway point, Limerick just managed a trio of Gillane points, and a second from O’Neill. Peter Casey, Gearoid Hegarty and all struggled to have a major impact in attack.

Limerick’s task was made harder with a third Kilkenny goal, as TJ Reid beat Aaron Costello to a long delivery a drilled low beneath Quaid in the Limerick goal.

At half-time it was 1-6 to 3-6 in favour of Derek Lyng’s men, who were playing near their best XV.

English made way at half-time, with David Reidy introduced, Cian Lynch moved to centre-forward. The game turned when Cody received a second yellow card, this for a wild pull on Declan Hannon. His earlier yellow, for a foul on Cathal O’Neill in the opening exchanges – Kilkenny would play almost all the second half with fourteen men.

Donnacha Ó Dálaigh, Reidy and Hegarty all got on the scoresheet, but TJ Reid was profiting from frees to keep the gap to at least two scores for long periods.

Casey received a straight red card which also seemed to end the game as a contest, with just over 10 minutes to play. Limerick emptied their bench, and didn’t really get  any closer as the winners closed the job in a professional manner.

Fourteen wides did little to help Limerick’s cause, who’ll return to the drawing board after a most flat display.

TJ Reid was awarded Man-of-the-Match. The positives for Limerick were few, but Seán Finn completing the contest unscathed was one, his first appearance of any kind since April 30th of last year.

Scorers for Limerick:
Aaron Gillane 1-5 (0-3 frees); Cathal O’Neill 0-2, Tom Morrissey 0-2 (0-2 frees),Diarmaid Byrnes 0-1 (frees); Donnacha Ó Dálaigh 0-1, David Reidy 0-2 (0-1 free) Peter Casey 0-1; Gearoid Hegarty 0-1,

Scorers for Kilkenny:
TJ Reid 1-8 (0-8 frees), Eoin Cody 1-0, Luke Hogan 1-0; Billy Drennan 0-3 (0-1 free, 0-1 ‘65); Adrian Mullen 0-2 (0-1 free);  Billy Ryan 0-1, Jordan Molloy 0-1, Cillian Buckley 0-1, Martin Keoghan 0-1.

Limerick:
Nickie Quaid; Barry Nash, Seán Finn, Aaron Costelloe; Diarmuid Byrnes, Declan Hannon (C), Cathal O’Neill; William O’Donoghue, Cian Lynch; Gearoid Hegarty, Adam English, Tom Morrissey; Aaron Gillane, Donnacha Ó Dálaigh, Peter Casey.

Subs:
David Reidy for English (half-time); Conor Boylan for Lynch (55); Seamus Flanagan for Gillane (59); Mark Quinlan for Hannon (61); Aidan O’Connor for Hegarty (67).

Kilkenny:
Eoin Murphy; Shane Murphy, Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; David Blanchfield, Paddy Deegan (C), Cillian Buckley; Cian Kenny, Jordan Molloy; Adrian Mullen, John Donnelly, Billy Ryan, Eoin Cody, TJ Reid, Luke Hogan.

Subs:
Richie Reid for Blanchfield (half-time); Martin Keoghan for Hogan (45); Darragh Corcran for Deegan (temp – 57 – 59); Billy Drennan for Reid (60); Timmy Clifford for Donnelly (69), Kevin Blanchfield for Kenny (71).

Referee:
James Owens (Wexford).

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