Cats’ minors double disappointment for Limerick

Throughout the course of Kilkenny’s eight-game minor hurling championship campaign, there hasn’t always been great optimism about the team.

Cats’ minors double disappointment for Limerick

[team1]Kilkenny[/team1][score1]2-24[/score1][team2]Limerick[/team2][score2]0-18[/score2][/score]

Throughout the course of Kilkenny’s eight-game minor hurling championship campaign, there hasn’t always been great optimism about the team.

They’re through to the All-Ireland final but have lost 25% of their games, and when they slipped to defeat to Wexford in the Leinster final, we suspected a short summer.

“Earlier in the year we probably mightn’t have thought we’d get to this stage,” admitted Kilkenny manager Richie Mulrooney.

Yet the one thing Mulrooney knew his team had, the thing that gave them a fighting chance of resurrecting their season, was pace.

And it was all on show on Saturday, particularly in the second half, as they overwhelmed a talented Limerick team that had streaked to Munster championship success.

Leading by a slender two-point margin at half-time, Kilkenny surged passed their opposition in the second half, outscoring them by 1-12 to 0-5 in that period and showing Limerick a clean pair of heels.

“We do have very, very pacy forwards, there’s a lot of pace throughout that team,” said Mulrooney, who guided Kilkenny to All-Ireland minor wins in 2008 and 2010.

“It was one significant strength that we picked out in the group back in January or February, that we have that pace. Maybe in some of the earlier games, particularly in the Leinster campaign, we forgot to use that pace at times.”

That’s one and a half games now that Kilkenny have been close to their best. They trailed Galway by 12 points late in the first half of their quarter-final group stage game but turned in a huge second half to lose by just three.

They brought that momentum to Saturday’s semi-final, netting through Jack Doyle after just 32 seconds. Top scorer Billy Drennan, who struck 1-8, man-of-the-match Timmy Clifford and midfielder Liam Moore were all terrific thereafter and drove the team to the August 18 final.

“I would say this performance came from that second half against Galway,” said Mulrooney. “It just provided massive confidence. The lads may have been unsure going through the Leinster campaign just how good they were.

"We kept telling them they were getting better and better all the time and to be back in the All-Ireland final with them is fantastic.”

Limerick, in their sixth game of the summer, recovered well from that early goal and the sides were level five times through the first half.

Diarmuid Mullins’ side moved ahead on several occasions though trailed Kilkenny 1-12 to 0-13 at the interval.

“We just didn’t get going at all in the second half to put any pressure on Kilkenny,” said Limerick manager Mullins.

“The game was over with 10 minutes to go. It isn’t an accurate indicator of where that Limerick group is. And it wasn’t for a lack of our effort by our lads, just things didn’t fall right for them whereas in previous games we’ve fought so hard and competed really, really well.

"You don’t want to be in this position, you don’t want to lose a semi-final, you want to be in an All-Ireland final.

"But if the lads are sensible about it, and if they can think about how they can get into a position like this again in the future and perform better, then that will be a good learning for them.”

Captain Cathal O’Neill was superb for Limerick initially, striking seven first-half points but he and his colleagues were powerless to prevent Kilkenny piling on the pressure from there on.

The young Cats opened up a five-point lead before Doyle played in Drennan for the 42nd-minute goal that ultimately put the game beyond Limerick’s reach.

Scorers for Kilkenny: B. Drennan (1-8, 5 frees); T. Clifford (0-6); L. Moore (0-4); J. Doyle (1-0); I. Byrne, P. McDonald (0-2 each); A. Tallis (1 free), J. Aylward (0-1 each).

Scorers for Limerick: C. O’Neill (0-9, 6 frees); A. O’Connor (0-3); P. Kirby (1 s/l), J. Quilty (0-2 each); E. Hurley, E. Stokes (0-1 each).

KILKENNY: A. Tallis; B. Reid, W. Halpin, T. Roche; P. McDonald, P. Moylan, Z.B. Hammond; L. Moore, J. Aylward; P. Blanchfield, T. Clifford, C. O’Sullivan; B. Drennan, J. Doyle, I. Byrne.

Subs: D. Walsh for Blanchfield (55); A. Hickey for O’Sullivan (58); S. Doyle for Byrne (61).

LIMERICK: J. Franklin; F. O’Connor, M. Cremin, R. Lyons; J. Quilty, E. Hurley, C. Coughlan; P. Kirby, A. Murrihy; E. Stokes, C. O’Neill, A. English; A. O’Connor, P. O’Donovan, L. Lynch.

Subs: P. Reale for Stokes (15); C. Casey for Murriny (44); D. Casey for Lynch (51).

Ref: L. Gordon (Galway).

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