Limerick prove too good for Kilkenny to claim U21 All Ireland Crown

Limerick lived up to their favourites tag as Pat Donnelly’s side engineered a 0-17 to 0-11 win over Kilkenny to claim their second title in the last three years and extend their 100\% record in u21 finals to 6 from 6.

In front of 15,485 supporters – the vast majority of which were supporting the green and white – Limerick dominated the early stages and aided by a strong breeze established a 7 point lead when wind assisted in the opening half before matching Kilkenny in the second half to end a memorable year for the team.

Limerick won the toss and decided to play with the wind at the first half. The kind of decision that can backfire if you don’t follow it with a significant flurry of scores. It was indicative of a Limerick side that have backed themselves right throughout the campaign and have confidence in abundance.

However it was Kilkenny who got out of the blocks faster with Shane Walsh wasting little time in pointing when Dan Joy failed to clear.

But Limerick soon settled and began to get into their rhythm and started to find their scoring range. Aaron Gillane was a constant threat opened Limerick’s account from a free before Barry Nash gave the Treaty men the lead after six minutes, it was a lead that Limerick would never relinquish.

Ronan Lynch had distance to spare when he pointed a mammoth free from his own 45 metre line after eight minutes. A free and a point from play by Gillane bookended a great score from Peter Casey as Limerick pulled five clear.

Alarm bells would have been sounding in the Kilkenny camp as despite playing into significant breeze they were struggling to get to grips with Limerick’s intensity and work rate. The Cats were taking an inordinate amount of time over puck outs and were exacting every last second of injury breaks in a bid to take the pace out of the game.

A foul from Richie Leahy allowed Gillane stretch Limerick’s lead to 0-07 to 0-01 after 16 minutes as Kilkenny’s problems deepened. Billy Ryan responded with a fine point for the Cats finishing off a well worked move.

It marked a period where the sides went score for score but Cian Lynch, Gillane and Ronan Lynch all added further points to give Limerick a 0-11 to 0-4 point lead at the interval.

Pat Donnelly and his backroom staff would have had slight concerns about their side’s efficiency in front of goal with uncharacteristic wide tally of eight. But try as they might, Kilkenny could simply not make inroads into their lead.

The second half’s first point arrived in the 40th minute as a surging run Robbie Hanley run set up Gillane for this sixth point. Liam Blanchfield notched Kilkenny’s fifth point three minutes later but it was immediately cancelled out by Peter Casey who showed exemplary skill and evasion to point from out on the left wing.

Now in charge of the free taking duties – following the withdrawal of Shane Walsh – Alan Murphy scored from his first placed attempt and followed it up with three more points to close the gap to 0-14 points to 0-8 approaching the final ten minutes. John Donnelly then pointed to cut the gap to just five.

Substitute Conor Boylan should have sealed the win with a great goal chance but his shot was turned over the bar by Darren Brennan. In one final kick, Murphy added two Kilkenny frees meaning there was only four points between the sides.

True to their form throughout this campaign, Limerick didn’t panic, didn’t devise from the plan, kept hurling and got the rewards. Gillane settled Limerick nerves with another super score from out left before sub Oisin O’Reilly clinched victory with a battling score after he was twice hooked in the build up.

It sparked huge celebrations from the Limerick supporters who rushed onto the pitch to greet their heroes. The final whistle marking a season where Limerick were favourites in every single game they played and lived up to their billing as the best u21 side in the country, of that there can be no argument.\_/status/906539616139923456

The have beaten the biggest names in hurling en route, Tipperary, Clare, Cork, Galway and Kilkenny. It marks a fantastic year for Donnelly, his team and backroom staff.

Remarkably, with 16 All-Ireland titles between them at the grade before today, the teams had never met in a final, but with wins over Galway, Clare, Cork and Tipperary en route to the decider

Limerick: E McNamara; S Finn, D Fanning, D Joy; R Lynch (0-03, 0-03f), K Hayes, T Grimes; C Ryan, R Hanley; T Morrissey (c), B Nash (0-01), C Lynch (0-01); P Casey (0-03), A Gillane (0-07, 0-02f), B Murphy.

Subs used: C Boylan (0-01) for C Lynch (39 mins), A La Touche Cosgrave for Morrissey (48), O O’Reilly (0-01) for Murphy (53), L Lyons for Nash (63).

Kilkenny: D Brennan; M Cody, C Delaney, N McMahon; H Lawlor, J Cleere, T Walsh; L Scanlon, R Leahy; B Ryan (0-01), S Morrissey, L Blanchfield (0-01); J Walsh, J Donnelly (0-01), S Walsh (0-03, 0-02f).

Subs used: A Murphy (0-05, 0-04f, 0-01’65) for Morrissey (25 mins), P Lyng (c) for J Walsh (h-t), E Kenny for S Walsh (40), M Keoghan for Ryan (41), D Mullen for Leahy (45).

Referee: Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow).

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