There were just two points between them at the break, the Kingdom ahead 1-6 to 1-4, and credit to Limerick, in that half they carried the fight to the visitors from the first whistle.
Three points apiece it was after 15 minutes, towering midfielder Ed Walsh and man-of-the-match Paul Geaney (2) with the Kerry points, full-forward Jack Donovan and free-taker Eoghan O’Connor (2) replying for Limerick.
Into the second quarter and it was hot favourites Kerry beginning to open a bit of a lead, Geaney alert in the 29th minute when Barry John Walsh’s shot came back off the upright, pouncing for the goal, which put them 1-6 to 0-4 ahead.
It was looking bad at this stage for the home team, especially given that Walsh had also earlier missed a penalty, his cracking shot rebounding off the crossbar then cleared to safety.
Just before the break, however, Limerick were awarded a penalty of their own, Patrick O’Donnell pulled back by centre-back Barry Sheehan just as he was about to pull the trigger inside the 13m line, and senior star O’Connor coolly slotted home. Just the tonic Limerick needed, and they trooped off to the dressing-room in good heart.
The second half, however, was a vastly different affair. It wasn’t the elements, no breeze to speak of, perfect conditions; it was simply that when Kerry upped it a couple of gears, Limerick were unable to stay with them. Mind you they didn’t help their own cause either, Limerick, trying to pass their way through the Kerry defence which simply gave a very pacy Kingdom side time to get back in numbers — in effect, it was quite literally playing into Kerry’s hands. Time and time again the final ball was intercepted by a grateful Kerry player, then a quick break followed. !
Kerry gradually began to build up an unassailable lead. A point from Barry John, the first of four for him in this half, then a goal from the superb O’Donoghue, Jonathan Lyne and Geaney setting him for a burst through the middle and a shot that near burst the net, Brian Scanlon given no chance.
Then came a sequence of points, O’Donoghue, Barry John Walsh and Geaney all prominent, the latter rounding off the Kerry scoring with the side’s third goal, first with a soaring catch, layoff and a one-two with Barry John, then a one-on-one with the unfortunate Scanlon.
Limerick did manage three scores in that second half, Donagh Kelly with a powerful shot that came down off the crossbar and was deemed by the umpires to have crossed the line, and !points followed from O’Connor and midfielder Tom McCarthy. That didn’t even put a dent in the Kerry lads however, and despite the best efforts of the solidly built James Kelly, there was never any real threat to Kerry for a finish.
A fine footballing side from right corner-back to left corner-forward, on this evidence they’ll take some beating in the final.
Scorers for Kerry: P Geaney 2-5 (0-1f); J O’Donoghue 1-3; BJ Walsh 0-5; E Walsh, J Walsh, 0-1 each.
Scorers for Limerick: E O’Connor 1-4 (0-4f, 1-0 pen); D Kelly 1-0; J Donovan, T McCarthy, 0-1 each.
B Kelly; P Crowley, M Griffin, P Kilkenny; J Sherwood, B Shanahan, J Lyne; C Moriarty, E Walsh; J O’Donoghue, BJ Walsh, A Fitzgerald; S O’Brien, D Casey, P Geaney.
Subs: J Walsh for Moriarty (42); D O’Leary for Kilkenny (55); K Hurley for Fitzgerald (55); N O’Shea for Casey (59).
B Scanlon; P Martin, M Sheehan, R O’Flaherty; P Sheehan, P Hannon, P Quinn; T McCarthy, P Horan; D Kelly, J Kelly, P Scanlon; E O’Connor, J Donovan, P O’Donnell.
Subs: E Cahill for Quinn (36); A O’Sullivan for P Scanlon (38); P O’Connor for Hannon (58); D Woods for Martin (58).
Referee: R Hickey (Clare).