Saturday 23 March 2019

Limerick crush Kilkenny with ruthless two-goal burst as All-Ireland champions fire another warning shot to rivals

Kilkenny 0-15 Limerick 2-18

Shane Dowling of Limerick shoots to score his side's first goal during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1A Round 3 match between Kilkenny and Limerick at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Shane Dowling of Limerick shoots to score his side's first goal during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1A Round 3 match between Kilkenny and Limerick at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Barring a highly unlikely results sequence in the last two rounds, including defeats by Cork and Clare, Limerick will feature in the knock-out stages of the Allianz hurling League.

They reeled off a third successive win in impressive style in Nowlan Park, easily beating reigning League champions Kilkenny, a result which leaves the Cats with one win and urgently in need of points in the final two games against Tipperary and Wexford.

Limerick’s strength in depth was crucial as they won their first League game in Nowlan Park since 1997 against a Kilkenny team that failed to make use of the strong wind in the second half.

Limerick, who lined out with nine of last year’s All-Ireland starting 15, led by 2-10 to 0-7 at half-time, a scoreline that looked most unlikely on the half-hour mark when the sides were tied at 0-7 each. All changed between then and the interval as Limerick scored 2-3 without reply.

The goals from Shane Dowling and Conor Boylan came within a minute of each other as a previously secure Kilkenny defence lost their way.  Aaron Gillane, Diarmuid Byrnes (free) and Robbie Hanley, a pre-match replacement for Cian Lynch, added points to leave Limerick nine clear.

The turnaround came as a huge shock to Kilkenny supporters in the 11,283 crowd, as up to then the home side had been marginally the better side. They negated Limerick’s wind avantage quite comfortably and with Walter Walsh, back in the side for his first competitive game since last year’s Leinster final replay, doing well in attack, Kilkenny led for much of the way before the All-Ireland champions drew level in the 26th minute.

It was a sign of things to come and as they raised the tempo on the run-in to half-time, Kilkenny came under a level of pressure which broke their defensive systems. Limerick’s spurt set them up for a controlled second half performance where their commanding lead was never really threatened.

They extended their lead to 14 points after 47 minutes and while Kilkenny out-scored them by 0-7 to 0-2 from there on, they rarely looked like getting the goal they badly needed to ignite a real comeback.

Scorers: Limerick: A Gillane 0-9 (6f), S Dowling 1-2, C Boylan 1-1, B Murphy 0-2, P O’Loughlin, R Hanley, D Byrnes (f), G Mulcahy 0-1 each.

Kilkenny: R Leahy 0-7 (4f), B Ryan, K Kelly (2f) 0-2 each, J Maher, J Donnelly, G Malone, L Blanchfield 0-1 each.

Kilkenny: E Murphy; T Walsh, C Delaney, E Morrissey;  P Walsh, P Deegan, P Murphy; C Fogarty, M Keoghan; R Leahy, W Walsh, J Maher; B Ryan, K Kelly , J Donnelly.

Subs: L Blanchfield for Kelly (26), C Browne for Fogarty (ht), M Carey for Morrissey (ht), G Malone for Maher (51),

Limerick: N Quaid; T Condon, S Finn, R English; D Byrnes, D Morrissey, P O’Loughlin; R Hanley; D O’Donovan; K Hayes, S Dowling, C Boylan; A Gillane, G Mulcahy, B Murphy.

Subs: T Morrissey  for Boylan (55), P Casey for Murphy (56), P Ryan for Mulcahy (62), G Hegarty for Hanley (69).

Ref - F Horgan (Tipperary)

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