By Mike Fitzpatrick
Limerick 0-25, Kilkenny 3-15
In what was without a doubt the best game of hurling seen this season at Gaelic Park, and few would argue whether there was a more exciting match up in football either, favorites Limerick scraped through to the senior hurling championship final with a hard fought one-point victory over Kilkenny.
With Henry Shefflin and Charlie Carter brought over to help the Cats’ cause, and Limerick bringing Ollie and James Moran, it was clear before a whistle was blown that this game was being taken very seriously by all concerned.
The opening minutes were fought on a razor’s edge, with Davie Simms hitting a double, and Ollie Moran grabbing a point to give the greens a three point early lead. Shefflin hit a fine free under the bar to level matters, and it was clear this early on that Limerick had a game on their hands. Simms hit another to regain the lead, followed by James Moran’s first of the afternoon until Markie Kennedy capped a fantastic individual performance with a well taken point to bring the Cats within one.
A high-scoring first half ensued with Simms hitting another couple, followed by efforts from the two Morans.
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Kilkenny hit back with two under-the-bar efforts from Charlie Carter and Peter Breen.
Limerick led by four points going into the break.
Limerick attacked again after the break with Tadhg O’Callaghan and James Moran hitting two points to give them a healthy six point lead.
Then it was Kilkenny’s turn to get the crowd roaring. Two Carter points and a Fitzgerald effort brought the tie to within three, and a fabulous shot from Shefflin eluded the Limerick backline to sneak under the bar, thus making it all equal.
Both sides swapped point for point over the next 10 minutes until Limerick grabbed a three-point lead.
With three minutes to go, and the near capacity crowd at Gaelic Park going crazy, Kilkenny levelled, and a Shefflin point put the Cats in front.
Butler equalized for Limerick, and within the space of a minute, Ollie Moran hit the third score in the sixty second spell to give Limerick a hard fought victory. The leaps, bounds and yells of Eamonn Shields, playing his 20th season at Gaelic Park, said it all. Limerick were through to yet another senior hurling final, where they’ll meet old rivals Tipperary.
Limerick: Finbarr Flood, Barry Fitzgerald, Tom Simms, John Riordan, Ollie Moran (0-5), Sean Og O’hAilpin, Eamonn Shields, James McSweeney, Seamus Carey, James Moran (0-6), Dave Simms (0-7), James Butler (0-4), Tadhg O’Callaghan (0-3). Sub: Ray Hourican, Callaghan McCarthy.
Kilkenny: James Joyce, Dave Stafford, John Nolan, Brendan Ryan, Peter Barry (0-1), Owen Mullally, Vinnie Norton, Mark Kennedy (0-1), Henry Shefflin (2-2), Peter Breen (1-0), Kevin Corbett, Charlie Carter (0-7), James Fitzgerald (0-3). Subs: Richie Hogan, Brian Barcoe.