LIMERICK’S minor hurlers suffered All-Ireland final heartbreak this Sunday with a 2-17 to 0-19 defeat to Kilkenny in Croke Park.
The Leinster side hit two second half goals to deny Limerick a fourth ever All-Ireland MHC title.
The four point loss means that the wait stretches into another year with 1984 still the last success for Limerick at U-18 level.
The loss also means that 1973 remains the last time that a Limerick inter-county hurling team was successful on All-Ireland final day in Croke Park.
While Brian Ryan’s Limerick never reached the heights of their Munster champions success, much was down to the Kilkenny performance. A big strong physical side, clearly had their homework done on Limerick. They never allowed the Shannonside teenagers a chance to grow into the game.
Kilkenny led 0-12 to 0-10 at half time after playing with the wind.
It was a nervy start from Limerick and Kilkenny made the early in-roads to lead 0-3 to 0-1 after six minutes.
Vice-captain Ronan Lynch had Limerick’s opening score in the fourth minute.
Limerick were operating with a two man full forward line but it was midfielder and captain Cian Lynch that had the second score for Limerick in the seventh minute.
But The Cats maintained their lead with John Walsh the scorer in chief. He was to end that half with five points from play.
Two from fellow Kilkenny attacker Ronan Corcoran had the Leinster champions 0-6 to 0-3 clear with 14-minutes played.
Limerick reacted swiftly on the sideline with introduction of Conor Fitzgerald to the attack and the switch of Colin Ryan to wing back.
Finally Limerick hit some heights with Tom Morrissey, Barry Nash and Cian Lynch pointing in succession to level the game at 0-6 each.
But already Limerick were looking in trouble at the back with Sean Finn needing to be alert with a hook to prevent a shot on goal in the 21st minute.
Nonetheless Kilkenny surged back two points into the lead.
All could have been different with Conor Fitzgerald’s 25th minute chance just going wide after Morrissey had passed inside to the sub.
But Limerick were finding some confidence and Morrissey, Nash and Ronan Lynch (free) had Limerick ahead for the very first time in the 27th minute, 0-9 to 0-8.
But it was the teenagers in black and amber that would lead at the break.
Although Seamus Flanagan was on target the eventual winners found four points in the final four minutes of the half for the interval advantage.
Limerick needed to find some second half spark and made two half time changes.
But Limerick always looked to be playing catch-up in the second half after Kilkenny had the first two scores of the half for a 0-14 to 0-10 lead.
Cian Lynch, Ronan Lynch (free and ‘65) cut the lead back to a single point but at the other end of the field, Eoghan McNamara had to be alert to deny Alan Murphy a 35th minute goal.
But a goal wasn’t far away.
Up the field went Limerick and twice in just over five minutes Peter Casey was denied chances.
Cruelly it was Kilkenny that went up the field and John Walsh found the net in the ninth minute of the half for a 1-14 to 0-13 lead.
To be fair the Limerick reply was impressive with Flanagan and two Lynch frees with minutes of the green flag.
But Limerick couldn’t get back on level pegging or indeed ahead.
With 10-minutes to play it was 1-16 to 0-17 but Limerick were now relying heavily on Ronan Lynch scores from placed balls.
Then with nine minutes to go John Walsh scored his second goal of the game to all but seal the victory.
They were now 2-17 to 0-17 clear and Limerick needed a miracle.
Ronan Lynch tried for goal from a 21-metre free and Nash also had an opportunity but a strong Kilkenny defence stood firm.
Sub Barry Murphy’s rising shot flew over the crossbar and with it went any lingering hopes of late dramatics.
SCORERS: Limerick: Ronan Lynch 0-9 (6frees 2 ‘65), Cian Lynch 0-3, Tom Morrissey, Barry Nash, Seamus Flanagan 0-2 each, Barry Murphy 0-1. Kilkenny: John Walsh 2-5, Alan Murphy 0-6 (4frees, 1 ‘65), Ronan Corcoran, Liam Blanchfield 0-2 each, Luke Scanlon, Eoin Kenny 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: Eoghan McNamara (Doon); Sean Finn (Bruff), Paddy O’Loughlin (Kilmallock), Lorcan Lyons (Monaleen), Conor Byrnes (Murroe-Boher), Andrew La Touche Cosgrave (Monaleen), Thomas Grimes (Na Piarsaigh); Cian Lynch, capt (Patrickswell), Robbie Hanley (Kilmallock); Colin Ryan (Pallasgreen), Tom Morrissey (Ahane), Seamus Flanagan (Feohanagh-Castlemahon); Peter Casey (Na Piarsaigh), Barry Nash (South Liberties), Ronan Lynch (Na Piarsaigh). Subs: Conor Fitzgerald (Claughaun) for Conor Byrnes (16mins), Edward Doyle (Monaleen) for Conor Fitzgerald (h-t), Jamie Porter (Monaleen) for Lorcan Lyons (h-t), Barry Murphy (Doon) for Thomas Grimes (53mins). Remainder of panel: Cian Hedderman (Ballybrown), Darragh Fanning (Pallasgreen), Brian Ryan (South Liberties), Conor McSweeney (South Liberties), Dylan Dawson (Blackrock), Aaron Gillane (Patrickswel), Shane O’Connell (Doon), Eoghan Costello (Adare), Conor Moroney (Tournafulla), Conor Boylan (Na Piarsaigh), Tom Hayes (Doon), Conor Houlihan (Na Piarsaigh), Darragh Carroll (Kilteely-Dromkeen), Adam O’Brien (Ahane), Cian O’Brien (Mungret).
KILKENNY: Darren Brennan; Tommy Walsh, Conor Delaney, Cathal McGrath; Pat Lyng, Jason Cleere, Darragh Joyce; Conor Browne, Luke Scanlon; Sean Morrissey, Ross Butler, Ronan Corcoran; Alan Murphy, Liam Blanchfield, John Walsh. Subs: Billy Ryan for Ross Butler (h-t), Eoin Kenny for Luke Scanlon (37mins), Andrew Gaffney for Ronan Corcoran (58mins).
REFEREE: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).