Kilkenny survive titanic Treaty test to reach All-Ireland Final
Kilkenny 2-13 Limerick 0-17
Kilkenny overcame torrential conditions and an almighty test of their credentials to defeat Limerick in the All-Ireland hurling semi-final in Croke Park today.
Brian Cody's side eventually saw off a gallant Limerick effort thanks a second-half fight-back when the Treaty men looked the more likely team to take on either Cork or Tipperary in an all-Munster decider next month.
Much was made of Limerick's direct play this season which was reaping benefits and that game plan quickly became evident on a wet afternoon in Croke Park as they raced out of the traps to take the early advantage against the Cats.
Declan Hannon and Donal O'Grady picked off the first scores of the day while their third from David Breen was a clear illustration of the aerial trouble they were causing the Kilkenny defence.
Colin Fennelly got himself on the scoresheet while TJ Reid popped over a free but it was Limerick's all-action attacks that were catching the eye on Jones' Road during the early stages.
Graeme Mulcahy got his rewards for his industrious play while Shane Dowling fashioned his own score by making a great catch before shooting over from close range.
The Fennelly's were more than doing their bit up front, but the Leinster champions struggled to impose their game on the Munster finalists.
On the half hour mark we witnessed one of the individual scores of the 2014 championship with a brilliant piece of improvisation from Dowling. Kevin Downes fed his corner forward and under severe pressure managed to one-handedly strike the ball over the bar to give TJ Ryan's side a three-point cushion.
Downes was in fact the only starting Limerick forward yet to score from play but Brian Cody's side showed their famed resilience to reel off the next three scores before the break, one of which was an expertly taken goal from in-form Richie Hogan.
Michael Fennelly and Padraig Walsh had reduced the deficit before Hogan pounced to give the Cats a two-point cushion. Showing wonderful control, he burst through the Limerick defence for the final score of the half to edge in front 1-09 to 0-10 at the interval. It transpired to be a crucial turnaround in the overall context of the game.
The sides exchanged scores before was forced into making a save from David Herity as David Breen as he bore down on the Kilkenny goal, with corner forward Fennelly not shirking his defensive duties to clear to the danger.
As the rain began to pour down and thunder and lightning filled the skies, the Treaty men yet again took the game to Kilkenny with relentless attacking yielding five successive points as Hannon, substitute Seanie Tobin and Dowling pressing home their advantage in torrential conditions in the capital.
Yet again the Cats responded when put to the pin of their collar when a long-range free from Richie Hogan was touched to the net by substitute Richie Power. The Ballyhale man showed his worth off the bench when Reid tapped over a point soon after when Power was fouled deep in Limerick territory.
Hogan then looked set to wrap up proceedings as he bore down on goal before Donal O'Grady made a late lunge with his hurley to trip the forward in full-flight, escaping with just a yellow card for the professional foul as the Cats restored the two-point cushion with three minutes remaining.
Limerick however just couldn't bridge the gap in what was an absorbing game of hurling and it is the Cats who march on to yet another All-Ireland decider next month.