Kilkenny were pushed all the way by a sticky Limerick team before advancing to the second round of the All-Ireland qualifiers, writes John Fogarty.
The Cats will join Dublin, Tipperary and Waterford in the draw for next Saturday's game after doing enough to keep the visitors at bay in front of a 15,605 Nowlan Park crowd.
Kilkenny were never behind but their biggest lead was just five points on an evening where both teams were guilty of some sloppy play, while the home team’s reluctance to commit more players forward saw the ball come back at them with regularity.
Substitutes Lester Ryan and Kevin Kelly made a difference and it was the latter who scored to push his side five points up with six minutes of normal time remaining. However, a Shane Dowling free cut the margin to two in additional time before Ryan stepped up to point.
The only count Kilkenny lost on in the opening 38 minutes was the number of wides, their considerable 10 beaten by Limerick’s 13. Yes, it was that bad but then given both teams were at it they made it mildly entertaining.
Bar Paul Murphy’s fetching, Walter Walsh’s point-taking (although he hit one short) and the craft of Gearóid Hegarty and Kyle Hayes, there was little to be excited about although the fact the teams were never more than three points apart kept things interesting.
It was only in the final minutes of the half that Kilkenny stretched their lead to three, first through Walsh’s third point of the affair. Dowling, guilty of three wides in the first half – his team-mate Darragh O’Donovan hit one more, cancelled that out with his third free only for TJ Reid to score having fielded Eoin Murphy’s subsequent puck-out.
They were half chances of goals for both teams, Dowling failing to latch onto a through ball from David Dempsey in the fourth minute and Michael Fennelly having a shot comfortably saved by Nickie Quaid in the 23rd, but it neither side truly did enough to raise a green flag.
Kilkenny eventually went into the break 0-10 to 0-8 and with the wind advantage to come it seemed at that stage the game seemed to be theirs to take. And they did. Just about.
Scorers for Kilkenny: T.J. Reid (0-8, 6 frees); W. Walsh (0-4); P. Deegan (0-3); K. Kelly, L. Ryan (0-2 each); C. Bolger (0-1).
Scorers for Limerick: S Dowling (0-8, 6 frees); P. Casey (0-3); K. Hayes, G. Hegarty (0-2 each); B. Nash, P. Ryan (0-1 each).
KILKENNY: E. Murphy; P. Murphy, P. Walsh, J. Lyng; C. Fogarty, C. Buckley, J. Holden; M. Fennelly, P. Deegan (c); T.J. Reid, R. Hogan, W. Walsh; C. Bolger, C. Fennelly, G. Aylward.
Subs for Kilkenny: K. Kelly for G. Aylward (45); L. Blanchfield for R. Hogan (52); L. Ryan for P. Deegan (56); M. Bergin for C. Bolger (64).
LIMERICK: N. Quaid; S. Finn, R. McCarthy, M. Casey; D. Morrissey, D. Hannon, S. Hickey; C. Lynch, D. O’Donovan; S. Dowling, D. O’Donovan, K. Hayes; P. Casey, G. Hegarty, D. Dempsey
Subs for Limerick: B. Nash for G. Hegarty (46); J. Ryan for D. O’Donovan (50); T. Morrissey for D. Dempsey (54); P. Ryan for P. Browne (59); G. Mulcahy for C. Lynch (68).
Referee: B. Gavin (Offaly).