It was forged through a gritty performance over the 70 minutes, with Mark Foley one of their stars at midfield and first-half goals from Andrew O'Shaughnessy and Michael McKenna proving vital in the end.
Kilkenny, surprisingly, never managed to come to grips with the home team's spirited challenge. With Eddie Brennan and the injured DJ Carey notable absentees from the attack, they lacked scoring power in depth with the bulk of their scoring coming from Henry Shefflin and James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick.
Limerick made the more lively start to the game, with their nippy forwards Donncha Sheehan in particular working hard to make openings. They gained an early advantage at midfield through a determined Mark Foley and Clem Smith and it was noteworthy that Ollie Moran was showing up well on the other flank.
Sheehan set up Andrew O'Shaughnessy for a seventh minute goal which put Limerick five points clear.
As the game developed, Niall Moran began to make headway on the right wing, where he was faced by James Ryall.
Kilkenny, with Mark Phelan and James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick coming in for JJ Delaney and Eddie Brennan, respectively, were playing against a reasonably straining wind and found it hard to make headway. However, Martin Comerford at full-forward had the chance to goal in the 15th minute except that he shot weakly into the side-netting. In general, the champions were not creating many openings and little ball came the way of Henry Shefflin at centre-forward.
Limerick also passed up a goal opportunity when Niall Moran hit a penalty wide in the 23rd minute, but they had the ball in the net four minutes later, courtesy of the opportunism of Michael McKenna. That was after James McGarry saved from Sean O'Connor.
Kilkenny were much more competitive in the period before the break, when they started to dominate at midfield (with Smith having gone off injured). And, three pointed frees from Shefflin improved their position
At the break, it was 2-6 to 0-8 for Limerick.
With team captain TJ Ryan continuing to impress after moving to centre-back, Brian Geary settling in at full-back and Peter Lawlor excelling at left half-back, Limerick soon regained the initiative. Again, Foley was seen to good effect in the middle, while good work from McKenna and Sean O'Connor complemented the efforts of the other forwards.
Kilkenny once again struggled in attack and were over-reliant on the Shefflin's free-taking. Fitzpatrick, however, did well in general play.
Scorers: Limerick: M. McKenna and A. O'Shaughnessy 1-1 each; S. O'Connor,
D. Sheehan and N. Moran (0-1 free) 0-3 each; M. Foley, O. Moran and J.P. Sheehan 0-1 each.
Kilkenny: H. Shefflin 0-8 (0-5 frees); J. Fitzpatrick 0-5; B. Hogan 0-2; M. Comerford and R. Mullally 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: A. Shanahan; D. Reale, TJ Ryan (capt), M. Cahill; O. Moran, P. Sheehan,
P. Lawlor; M. Foley, C. Smith; N. Moran, JP Sheehan, M. McKenna; A. O'Shaughnessy,
S. O'Connor, D. Sheehan. Subs: D. O'Grady for Smith (injured, 28th); B. Geary for P. Sheehan (injured 34th).
KILKENNY: J. McGarry; M. Kavanagh, N. Hickey, M. Phelan; S. Dowling, E. Mackey, J. Ryall; B. Hogan, R. Mullally; J. Hoyne, H. Shefflin, J. Fitzpatrick; C. Phelan, M. Comerford, J. Maher. Subs: A. Fogarty for Hoyne (second half); P. Mullaly for Maher (53rd).
Referee: Denis Richardson (Murroe-Boher).