Sunday 17 December 2017

Limerick too strong for Kilkenny as Treaty County claim second U21 hurling title in three years

Limerick 0-17 Kilkenny 0-11

9 September 2017; Limerick captain Tom Morrissey and team-mates Cian Hedderman, left, and Barry Nash, right, celebrate with The James Nowlan Cup after the Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling All-Ireland U21 Championship Final match between Kilkenny and Limerick at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
9 September 2017; Limerick captain Tom Morrissey and team-mates Cian Hedderman, left, and Barry Nash, right, celebrate with The James Nowlan Cup after the Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling All-Ireland U21 Championship Final match between Kilkenny and Limerick at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Five minutes from the end, Kilkenny moved to within four points of Limerick, who were eight points clear at the three-quarter mark, and the ground felt the merest jolt.

Except for the opening minute, Limerick led for most of the game and rarely betrayed any sense of vulnerability. They had the stamp of champions-elect. Hurling, though, always carries the possibility of a twist.

Alan Murphy landed five second half points from dead balls to keep Kilkenny in the picture, just about admittedly, after the match favourites led by seven points at half time having played with a strong wind. Murphy’s fifth score brought Kilkenny as close as they were to get. Kilkenny’s threat proved a false alarm and the exceptional Aaron Gillane hit a defiant point in response, his seventh of the day, and within a minute the substitute Oisin O’Reilly, having been hooked twice, refused to give up on another Limerick possession and struck the final blow, the last score of the day.

Kilkenny fought and tried valiantly in the second half when with the wind to find a way back into the match, having gone in at half time 0-4 to 0-11 down.

But the quality wasn’t there. They managed only four points from play over the hour.

Limerick had leaders throughout the pitch and one of those, Cian Lynch, didn’t see out the match, going off injured in the 39th minute after a hefty challenge left him needing attention. He came back to his feet but clearly wasn’t right and Conor Boylan replaced him soon afterwards. At centre back Kyle Hayes was what you have come to expect, a powerful physical presence, dominant in the air, and they had a big performance from Robbie Hanley in the middle of the field.

Peter Casey scored three points from play and Ronan Lynch hit three frees from great distance, two from near his own 45 when with the wind in the first half. But their best player was Gillane, who scored seven points, five from play, one more than Kilkenny managed from play in total.

Even with Limerick puck outs landing in the opposing full forward line, Kilkenny managed to keep their goal safe. There were a few half-chances when ball broke around the square but Darren Brennan had no save to make in the opening half and only one in the second when substitute Conor Boylan struck a low shot into the ground which Brennan diverted over the bar. Unable to breach Kilkenny’s defence for a goal, Limerick relied on conceding little at their own end and hitting enough points.

By the 46th minute Limerick had stretched their lead out to eight, 0-12 to 0-4, and while Kilkenny outscored them 0-7 to 0-5 over the remainder, they hadn’t the quality to really hurt Limerick even with the wind. Unlike the minor final three years ago, Limerick made sure they delivered this time.

Scorers: Limerick - A Gillane 0-7 (0-2 fs); R Lynch 0-3 (0-2 fs); P Casey 0-3; C Lynch, B Nash, O O’Reilly, C Boylan 0-1. Kilkenny - A Murphy 0-5 (0-4 fs, 0-1 65); S Walsh 0-3 (0-2 fs); B Ryan, L Blanchfield, J Donnelly 0-1.

Limerick: E McNamara; S Finn, D Fanning, D Joy; R Lynch, K Hayes, T Grimes; C Ryan, R Hanley; T Morrissey, B Nash, C Lynch; P Casey, B Murphy, B Nash.

Subs: C Boylan for Lynch (inj 39 mins); A La Touche-Cosgrave for Morrissey (47); O O’Reilly for Murphy (53); L Lyons for Nash (62).

Kilkenny:: D Brennan; M Cody, C Delaney, N McMahon; H Lawlor, J Cleere, T Walsh; L Scanlon, B Ryan; L Blanchfield, S Morrissey, R Leahy; J Walsh, J Donnelly, S Walsh.

Subs: A Murphy for Morrissey (25 mins); P Lyng for J Walsh (half time); M Keoghan for B Ryan (42); D Mullen for Leahy (45).

Referee: P O’Dwyer (Carlow).

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