Cyril Farrell: Limerick would have been out of sight but for Murphy's heroics in Cats' goal
It is fair to say this Limerick team came of age yesterday. Teams usually fold when Kilkenny get a late goal like that but Limerick got the next three points, really kept their composure, and that was the big difference from previous days.
To beat Kilkenny in the championship for the first time in 45 years is a big thing to get off their backs and a big step to take for a very young team.
They scored 27 points and only two of those came from frees. All their forwards scored, their midfield scored, Declan Hannon scored and so did subs like Peter Casey and Shane Dowling. But it wasn't just that, it was that they were able to create space upfront throughout the game.
Limerick's combination play was what made the difference. They are very relaxed on the ball, they look around and always seem to have options.
Cian Lynch and Darragh O'Donovan both played well in midfield. They didn't panic. They were there all the time for the 'out' ball from the half-backs. You could see that was a very strong tactic; they worked it out, they didn't just bang it forward.
Kilkenny set the pace early on but the pace of Limerick, with a younger team and the cross-field ball they used, told in the end.
They were working the ball out of defence with 15 or 20-yard passes, working it up the pitch and then hitting low ball, criss-crossing across the pitch with their forwards getting out first.
It's very hard for backs to defend that ball to the outside because if you go out first and miss it the lad is gone.
In fairness Kilkenny didn't go down without a fight. Richie Leahy came in and scored four points but when they got Richie Hogan goal they were holding on really.
But for Eoin Murphy's heroics in goal Kilkenny wouldn't still have been in it. If it wasn't for him, Limerick would have been out of sight by then.
You could ask why aren't Limerick able to put a team away when they have so many chances like that? But, if it was any other goalkeeper, two or three of those goal chances would have gone in. He was unreal.
Against Clare, when Sean Finn got injured early in Ennis, that seemed to disrupt Limerick but Mike Casey going full-back and Finn and Richie English going well in the corners meant they looked much more settled in defence also.
Kilkenny scored 1-22 but you'd still have to say that the Limerick defence played well.
They had a spell towards the end where Kilkenny threw caution to the win and the kitchen sink at them. That's typical Kilkenny and you'd have to admire them for it.
Coming out I could hear Kilkenny supporters and they realise just how much this team has come on already, saying 'we had a great year, you couldn't fault them.' They know some of these guys are replacing icons and won't be as good for a while, but they certainly died on their shields yesterday.
Limerick are now in the last four, with a settled team and good subs. They won't fear Cork after drawing with them the last day with only 14 men. I think that game really set them up for their season.
This will bring them on again in leaps and bounds but Cork are still unbeaten and Munster champions so they will be slight favourites.
Yesterday's game was a way better standard than Clare versus Wexford.
Clare looked to have been back to themselves. David McInerney was absolutely fantastic. Tony Kelly with five points, Shane O'Donnell, Podge Collins, they set the pace from the very start, but Wexford were very disappointing.
At this level you have to get the basics right; you have to score your frees and get your line-balls and cut out the unforced errors.
Wexford showed some spirit and fought back eventually to get that goal but the best team won. Clare had 10 separate scorers and the final score really didn't reflect their dominance.
They made sure to go down the wings to keep the ball away from Shaun Murphy and when he did get the ball and had no one on him at times, he hit the ball to Clare lads, a cardinal sin when you're the sweeper. But it was just one of those nights when nothing went right for them.
I had the sense that Wexford were all het-up about what Clare were going to do and too concerned with that. You can prepare all the plans you want but sometimes lads need to hurl by instinct and throw off the shackles and they never did. It was a terrible game for lads that have been training all year. You should at least have a cut off it.
The last four now are definitely teams who do that; who will all go toe-to-toe with each other. They'll all come deep with their half-forward lines but won't be dropping in extra defenders, they'll be going up and down the pitch.
The key difference with these teams is that everyone is expected to win their own ball.
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