A first championship win over Kilkenny in 45 years progressed Limerick to an All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Cork after this pulsating contest.
Having trailed throughout the second-half, Kilkenny looked to have hit the front at the perfect time when Richie Hogan, fed by influential sub, John Donnelly, drilled a shot past Limerick ‘keeper Nickie Quaid on 64 minutes. 1-21 to 0-22 read the scoreboard.
Limerick’s response, though, was the winning of the game. Tom Morrissey and subs Peter Casey and Shane Dowling fired over three in quick succession to return them in front.
A fine John Donnelly catch set up Kilkenny sub Richie Leahy for his fourth from play. Level pegging, 1-22 to 0-25, as we headed for three minutes of injury-time.
Thirty-four seconds into stoppages, Tom Morrissey burnt off James Maher when soloing down the Ryan Stand side of the field before throwing over a score befitting of the lead. It was followed by a Gillane free.
Triumph for Limerick. A 45-year wait over. An All-Ireland semi-final to look forward to. No wonder they were lining up to give manager John Kiely a kiss on the cheek at the final whistle.
The edge-of-the-seat finish would not have come to pass but for Kilkenny ‘keeper Eoin Murphy's inspired form. On top of his three first-half interventions, he stopped second-half efforts from Gillane and Seamus Flanagan. Mind you, Kilkenny were similarly wasteful in front of goal, clocking seven wides within 11 minutes of the restart. They finished with 15 in total.
Limerick led 0-15 to 0-12 at the break, the Treatymen outscoring their opponents by 0-12 to 0-5 from the 18th minute onwards.
Limerick were nervous in the opening exchanges and struggled at midfield and in their own half-back line where Kilkenny’s James Maher and Richie Hogan didn’t hang about in asserting themselves. Hogan was responsible for three of their opening six points, with Colin Fennelly also threatening each time he was fed.
At the other end, Kilkenny had their goalkeeper Eoin Murphy to thank for preventing a 13th minute Limerick goal. Aaron Gillane rose above Paddy Deegan to fetch a Seamus Flanagan delivery, his kicked effort tipped over by Murphy.
He made another superb stop on 29 minutes, this time touching over a Gearoid Hegarty bullet. That point nudged Limerick into the lead for only the second time, 0-11 to 0-10 they were ahead. There followed three more white flags from Graeme Mulcahy, Darragh O’Donovan and Morrissey to shove Limerick into a four-point advantage. Morrissey’s score meant all starting six forwards had found the target from play.
Their starting six forwards finished contributed 0-17 over the 70 minutes.
Scorers for Limerick: A Gillane (0-5, 0-2 frees); T Morrissey (0-4); G Mulcahy, K Hayes, D O’Donovan (0-1 sc), G Hegarty (0-3 each); P Casey (0-2); S Dowling, S Flanagan, D Byrnes, D Hannon (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kilkenny: R Hogan (1-3); TJ Reid (0-7, 0-4 frees, 0-2 ‘65s); R Leahy (0-4); J Maher (0-3); C Fennelly (0-2); L Blanchfield, C Fogarty, J Donnelly (0-1 each).
Limerick: N Quaid; M Casey, S Finn, R English; D Byrnes, D Hannon, D Morrissey; D O’Donovan, C Lynch; G Hegarty, K Hayes, T Morrissey; A Gillane, S Flanagan, G Mulcahy.
Subs: P Casey for Flanagan, S Dowling for Hegarty (both 59); W O’Donoghue for O’Donovan (63)
Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, P Walsh, P Deegan; J Holden, C Buckley, R Lennon; C Fogarty, J Maher; M Keoghan, R Hogan, P Lyng; B Ryan, TJ Reid, C Fennelly.
Subs: L Blanchfield for Lyng (34); R Leahy for Keoghan () ; J Donnelly for Fennelly (62); G Aylward for Ryan (71)
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).