Kilkenny have claimed a first ever All-Ireland U20 hurling title with the closest of close-run things against Limerick in Thurles on Sunday afternoon. Their last success at this level was back in 2008 when it was still an U21 grade.
This one was in the melting pot from first minute to last, not least because neither side managed to find the best of themselves on the day, and with Billy Drennan and Aidan O’Connor stitching the majority of the scores for their respective sides.
O’Connor came out top in that particular tete-a-tete by two points but Drennan’s influence was arguably greater given the manner of his scores from play and they merited this on the balance of play and the volume and nature of scores they left behind.
Adam English got the game off to a flying start with a superb over-the-shoulder point from near halfway while under pressure. Only 13 seconds had gone when the sliotar cleared the Kilkenny crossbar but this wasn’t a sign of things to come.
A scrappy first-half meandered on with neither side managing anything like a rhythm. Eight times they drew level through that opening 32 or so minutes of play with Kilkenny holding a 0-10 to 0-9 advantage at the end of it.
The Leinster champions had to score the last two just to take that slender lead into the tunnel but they would have been allowed feel aggrieved that it wasn’t more as they had squandered at least eight other scores one way or another.
It was a difficult day for it, to be fair. A blustery wind was blowing more in less Kilkenny’s favour in that period and a heavy squall that descended about eight minutes from time made it all the harder for both teams.
Limerick can’t have been happy with their efforts approaching the restart, three of their points having come from Aidan O’Connor dead balls and with the only sniff at a goal coming when their own keeper Conor Hanley-Clarke had denied Timmy Clifford.
The second-half mirrored the first, right down to the opening gambit when Colin Coughlan scored a superb point for Limerick from halfway, and it was Kilkenny who came closest to raising a green flag. Twice, in fact, and in the space of a minute.
Ian Byrne had both opportunities midway through the period but he was denied both times by Hanley Clarke. Drennan and O’Connor continued their own personal duel all through this but with neither able to pull their teams clear single-handedly.
Kilkenny finally engineered a two-point lead inside the final ten minutes and it proved to be enough. Just. Colin Coughlan had the chance to equalise just as the last of three added minutes elapsed but his effort soared high and wide of the posts.
Next to nothing in it but it deserved to be Kilkenny’s day.
B Drennan (0-8, 2 frees, 1 ‘65’); T Clifford (0-3); D Walsh and I Byrne (0-2 each); P Langtron, A Hickey and G Dunne (all 0-1); A Tallis (0-1 free).
A O’Connor (0-10, 7 frees); P O’Donovan and A English (0-2 each); C Coughlan, E Stokes, S O’Brien and P Kirby (all 0-1).
A Tallis; N Rowe, S Purcell, P Lennon; J Fitzpatrick, P Moylan, P Langton; K Doyle, A Hickey; D Walsh, T Clifford, P McDonald; B Drennan, G Dunne, I Byrne.
J Walsh for Hickey (43); E O’Brien for Fitzpatrick (50); J Doyle for Dunne (58).
C Hanley-Clarke; C Thomas, F O’Connor, E O’Leary; C Scully, E Hurley, C Coughlan; J Quilty, J Kirby; A English, A O’Connor, E Stokes; S O’Brien, P Kirby, P O’Donovan.
D O Dalaigh for O’Donovan (50); P Reale for O’Leary (55); J Sweeney for Scully (58).
T Walsh (Waterford).