Kilkenny 4-16 Limerick 1-16
All-Ireland champions Kilkenny survived a scare from Limerick at Semple Stadium this afternoon before sealing an All-Ireland semi-final showdown with Tipperary on August 19.
The Cats were just a point ahead at half-time – 2-7 to 1-9 – before winning by nine.
But the scoreline flatters the Noresiders somewhat as a devastating run of 2-5 without reply from the 43rd to 55th minutes sealed victory.
And Brian Cody’s kingpins must plan for the Tipperary tie without Richie Hogan – who was sent off with 12 minutes remaining following an off the ball incident at the Old Stand side of Semple Stadium.
Hogan walked off without complaint, indicating that he had little issue with referee Michael Wadding’s decision.
Overall, Kilkenny huffed and puffed without ever hitting the heights of which they are capable.
Limerick hit Kilkenny hard and often and one massive challenge from Wayne McNamara on the stroke of half-time forced Kilkenny forward Richie Power out of the game injured.
The sides were level four times in the opening half and it was Limerick who scored the opening goal in the 12th minute when David Breen cracked home a fine effort at the Killinan End following good work from Graeme Mulcahy.
But it wasn’t long before that master marksman Henry Shefflin was causing havoc in the Limerick defence.
Shefflin netted two goals in four minutes to shake Limerick’s resolve as Kilkenny moved 2-4 to 1-5 clear but the Shannonsiders responded with two points to draw level again.
Approaching half-time, Limerick suffered a blow when Tom Condon went down with the knee injury that had threatened his participation in the game.
The corner back would eventually go off early in the second half but Kilkenny had lost Power by then following that crunching hit from McNamara.
Power’s replacement was TJ Reid, incidentally, and the Ballyhale Shamrocks man could well have earned a semi-final starting place with a hard-working second half performance.
Limerick left the field to a huge ovation, with some spectators in the 38116 attendance sniffing an upset as the Treaty men would have the breeze in the second half.
But ultimately, they were undone by that devastating scoring blitz from Kilkenny as Aidan Fogarty and Colin Fennelly bagged goals within a minute of each other to send Kilkenny into a 4-13 to 1-11 lead.
What was turning into a good day for Kilkenny then turned sour with Hogan’s sending-off and if Power is also ruled out through injury, the Cats will go into battle against Tipp without two of their marquee forwards.
Kilkenny: H Shefflin 2-6 (0-4f), A Fogarty & C Fennelly 1-2 each, R Power 0-2 (1f, 1 65), T Walsh, M Fennelly, E Larkin (f) & R Hogan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Limerick: S Dowling 0-4 (3f), D Breen 1-1, D Hannon 0-4 (2f), G Mulcahy 0-2, P O’Brien, N Moran, S Tobin, K Downes & T Quaid 0-1 each.
KILKENNY: D Herity; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, K Joyce, R Doyle; M Fennelly, M Rice; E Larkin, R Power, H Shefflin; C Fennelly, R Hogan, A Fogarty.
Subs: TJ Reid for Power (inj, 35), C Buckley for Fogarty (66), M Ruth for Larkin (66),
LIMERICK: N Quaid; S Walsh, R McCarthy, T Condon; W McNamara, D O’Grady, G O’Mahony; J Ryan, P O’Brien; S Dowling, D Breen, D Hannon; G Mulcahy, N Moran, S Tobin.
Subs: S Hickey for Condon (inj, 37), K Downes for Breen (56), P Browne for Dowling (60), T Quaid for Tobin (64),
Referee: M Wadding (Waterford).