By John Markey
Kilkenny 0-17, Limerick 1-5
The long wait for Kilkenny fans is over. Sunday heralded their first piece of silverware in quite some time, after coming so close in recent seasons. When they eliminated current holders and old adversaries Tipperary in the semifinal, one had the feeling that this would be their year.
From the throw-in of Sunday’s final at Gaelic Park, it was clear who was going to prevail. The Cats’ clearly were more determined and committed than Limerick.
With Ritchie Hogan tormenting the Limerick rearguard throughout the hour and the Cats’ halfback line, which welcomed back John Nolan to its ranks, snuffing out any Limerick threat and propelling their side forward, it was virtually all one-way traffic. Limerick failed to rise to the occasion and may have taken too much out of themselves in overcoming Westmeath in the semifinal. They afford their opponents too much time and space, in particular Richie Hogan, and their lack of fitness didn’t help matters.
Despite Kilkenny’s early strength, the opening 10 minutes did suggest that we may have a close affair, but once Mark Kennedy put Kilkenny ahead after 12 minutes, there was to be no looking back. A succession of unanswered points had them comfortably in the driving seat by the interval, holding a 6-point advantage.
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On the restart, there was no letup from Kilkenny, who continued to besiege the Limerick goal. They increased their lead with a Dave Simms goal giving Limerick some reprieve. Their insistence on seeking goals only didn’t help matters and, with Kilkenny pulling even further ahead in the closing stages, the final whistle proved to be a welcome one. Vinnie Norton, captain of the Cats, accepted the trophy to bridge a long gap in Kilkenny history.
Kieran Gaughan, Vinnie Norton, John Nolan, Kevin Corbett and Richie Maher had a fine hour for the victors. Eamon Shields, John Riordan, Tom Canty, Paul Caldwell and Danny Grealish tried hard for Limerick.
R. Hogan 0-10, K. Corbett 0-3, M. Kennedy 0-2, A. Ryan and M. Collins both 0-1.
Limerick: D. Simms 1-1, T. Kelly, L. Neenan, B. Cagney and D. Grealish all 0-1.