TWO goals midway through the second half put paid to any Limerick thoughts of toppling the might of Kilkenny in this All-Ireland quarter-final as Brian Cody’s side emerged 4-16 to 1-16.
Limerick had gone toe-to-toe with Brian Cody’s All-Ireland champions for over 45-minutes but then in a flash came two goals inside 60-seconds to all but seal the Kilkenny win.
The goals in the 19th and 20th minutes of the second half put Kilkenny 4-13 to 1-11 clear after they had held just a 2-7 to 1-9 lead at half time.
It was a most creditable performance from John Allen’s Limerick but ultimately it was also a reminder of the ruthlessness that is needed to win against the top sides.
It brings an end to a championship that saw Limerick beat Laois, Antrim and Clare and lose to Tipperary and Kilkenny.
Certainly many positives for Limerick but also much to work on.
All agreed pre-match that Limerick needed to find their feet early and so they did. Driven on by half back line dominance, Limerick set the tempo with great intensity and work rate across the field.
But the early scores came for Kilkenny with Henry Shefflin getting two points inside four points, after a Dowling free had opening the scoring inside 55-seconds.
Niall Moran had the opening Limerick score from play with a superb effort from the right sideline on seven minutes.
There was a let-off when an Aidan Fogarty effort crashed off the crossbar but and when the linesman over-ruled the umpires to signal a Richie Power free wide. It was to be one of seven Kilkenny wides in the half, compared to three for Limerick.
Then came the Limerick goal. Graeme Mulcahy possession in the right corner and passed to the in-coming David Breen, who finished coolly to the net.
Paudie O’Brien then had Limerick 1-3 to 0-3 ahead with 15-minutes played.
Then Shefflin snatched two goals inside four minutes.
The first he finished to the net after Nickie Quaid had saved an initial shot and then the second after a great run by Colin Fennelly though the heart of the defence.
That had ‘The Cats’ 2-4 to 1-5 clear with 19-minutes played.
But Limerick remained steady.
Dowling hit back with a free and Mulcahy added his second of the half to tie up the game with eight minutes to the break.
Tommy Walsh and Richie Hogan pointed for Kilkenny but again Limerick stood firm Dowling (free) replied .
Then Declan Hannon levelled again. The Kilkenny goalkeeper was penalised for stepping outside his square for a puckout and from the resulting 21-metre throw-in Hannon won possession and pointed – again thanks to the umpire, who deemed Herity caught the effort behind his crossbar.
But there was to be a late score in the half with Michael Fennelly giving Kilkenny a slender 2-7 to 1-9 interval lead.
Limerick had the wind to come in the second half but never matched the performance of the opening half.
From the change of ends, Limerick weren’t able to win any supply of ball in the forwards and possession simply rained down on the Shannonside defence, which despite the constant pressure were still superb.
David Breen and Sean Tobin had early points in the half to tie up the game but then Limerick were not to score again for over 15-minutes.
This was the period that Kilkenny turned the screw.
Nickie Quaid saved superbly from Sheffin in the 11th minute of the half but the goals were coming.
It was a short puckout from Limerick that was punished for their third goal. Wayne McNamara and Stephen Walsh worked the puckout up the right and when the move broke down, Kilkenny switched play to the far side where Aidan Fogarty was in acres of space and had all the time in the world to drive low past Quaid.
Limerick had now lost their shape and again paid the price for this just seconds later when Colin Fennelly found the net.
There was still 15-minutes to play but it was game over.
Hannon and subs Kevin Downes and Tommy Quaid pointed but it was never going to start any significant fight back.
And, that was despite the sending off of Richie Hogan in the game’s 56th minute.
SCORERS – Limerick: David Breen 1-1, Declan Hannon (2frees), Shane Dowling (3frees) 0-4 each, Graeme Mulcahy 0-2, Niall Moran, Paudie O’Brien, Sean Tobin, Kevin Downes, Thomas Quaid 0-1 each. Kilkenny: Henry Shefflin 2-6 (4frees), Aidan Fogarty, Colin Fennelly 1-2 each, Richie Power 0-2 (free, ’65), Richie Hogan, Michael Fennelly, Eoin Larkin 0-1 each.
LIMERICK – Nickie Quaid; Stephen Walsh, Richie McCarthy, Tom Condon; Wayne McNamara, Donal O’Grady, Gavin O’Mahony; James Ryan, Paudie O’Brien; Shane Dowling, David Breen, Declan Hannon; Graeme Mulcahy, Niall Moran, Sean Tobin. Subs: Seamus Hickey for Condon, inj (37mins), Kevin Downes for Breen (55mins), Paul Browne for Dowling (59mins), Thomas Quaid for Tobin (63mins).
KILLKENNY – David Herity; Paul Murphy, JJ Delaney, Jackie Tyrrell; Tommy Walsh, Kieran Joyce, Richie Doyle; Michael Fennelly, Michael Rice; Richie Hogan, Richie Power, Aidan Fogarty; Colin Fennelly, Eoin Larkin, Henry Shefflin. Subs: TJ Reid for Power (39mins), Cillian Buckley for Fogarty (65mins), Matthew Ruth for Larkin (65mins).
REFEREE - Michael Wadding (Waterford).