'We were ready. We have no regrets on anything we did' - Kiely loath to blame month long break for loss
Kilkenny ended Limerick's reign as All-Ireland champions with a stupendous show of hunger and hurling sorcery at Croke Park last night before a crowd of just over 55,000. Against the odds, Brian Cody has led his county back to another All-Ireland final, winning an epic match 1-21 to 2-17.
The wait for that final appearance has been only three years, but all these things are relative.
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"The basic thing is to go out with total honesty first of all," said Cody afterwards. "You can talk about all the other things you like. Essentially, they're in the county panel first of all because they're good hurlers and they've plenty of skill and all the rest of it. Then it's the application that they bring and the honesty that they bring and the sense of team."
Limerick died with their boots on and were complaining at the end when denied what looked a justified claim for a '65 after Darragh O'Donovan's point attempt from a sideline was waved wide. From Eoin Murphy's puck-out, referee Alan Kelly sounded the final whistle and the first Limerick team since the 1930s to hold All-Ireland, Munster and National League titles simultaneously was gone.
For the eighth-time now this decade, the Munster champions have fallen short at the penultimate hurdle.
"We have no regrets on anything we did. We gave the lads a week off, we trained hard," said John Kiely. "We were ready for tonight, we were absolutely ready. Kilkenny brought a ferocious intensity to the first 15 minutes but we responded to that in kind in the second quarter."
Kiely said they were aware O'Donovan's sideline had taken a deflection at the end, which should have presented them with an equalising opportunity from a '65.
Kilkenny led a thrilling contest all the way through, and by nine points midway through the first half after Colin Fennelly's 14th-minute goal. Fennelly finished with 1-3 and it was a memorable day for Ballyhale, with TJ Reid winning the man-of-the-match award, scoring 0-8, and the young Adrian Mullen adding four points from play. Limerick's forwards misfired and the team's 15 wides contributed to their downfall.
Limerick were never able to recapture the form which blew Tipperary off the park in the Gaelic Grounds in the Munster final. Kilkenny were much sharper and showed a voracious appetite and work rate.
A late first-half penalty from Aaron Gillane brought Limerick back in contention, just three points down at the interval. But they could never reach parity in the second half. Shane Dowling came on and scored a goal in the 63rd minute when Kilkenny looked to have weathered the storm. When Dowling added a point soon afterwards the momentum was with Limerick. But Reid set up a score for James Maher, and Diarmaid Byrnes' 65 in injury time wasn't enough to save the champions.
Wexford, the Leinster champions and only unbeaten team left in the competition, meet Tipperary this afternoon in the other semi-final.
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