THE major concern for Kilkenny manager Brian Cody after this fine NHL contest in Nowlan Park yesterday wasn’t how close his side had come to losing to a well-drilledLimerick team — it was the well-being of the two players simultaneously stretchered off the field after a sickening accidental collision.
Gangling Limerick newcomer David Breen had troubled Kilkenny stand-in full-back Brian Hogan through all of the first half, and both went hard but fair into the first high centre towards the Kilkenny goal after the restart. The impact was enormous and after several minutes, and to generous applause, both were removed by ambulance to hospital.
“I’m waiting to hear how Brian Hogan is,” was Brian Cody’s immediate post-game reaction. “It’s a big worry, he’s potentially got a serious injury, as has the Limerick chap, which is very unfortunate.”
Fortunately the news on both was not as serious as had been first feared. Breen was released from hospital with chest bruising and not a punctured lung as had been feared while x-rays confirmed that Hogan’s leg was not fractured.
On the hurling front, Kilkenny gained two precious league points they should have lost, while Limerick again looked very impressive, following their defeat of Clare in the opening round.
Kilkenny opened well, and with centre-forward Richie Power rifling over four points (two each from play and frees), Aidan Fogarty and Tommy Walsh also getting in on the act, they led 0-6 to 0-1 after 14 minutes — Breen with Limerick’s reply.
Gradually, Limerick began to take over and a succession of points – including a brace from the enigmatic Donie Ryan – had the deficit back to the minimum on the half-hour mark, (0-8 to 0-7). Kilkenny did finish out the half the stronger, and with Eddie Brennan now on the 40, coming in with two well-taken points, they led by four at the interval, (0-11 to 0-7).
Nevertheless Limerick had now flagged their presence, and with the breeze at their backs for the second half, the disappointing attendance of just 3,359 knew they were in for fireworks on the changeover. A consequence of that clash of Hogan and Breen was that the ball ran free to the lurking Ryan, who rushed his shot and missed the target. It was to be the first of many. Nine wides Limerick notched in the second half, one worse than the other, with three major culprits – Donie Ryan, Andrew O’Shaughnessy and Niall Moran would normally be the sharp-shooters for Limerick, but even as that outstanding half-back line and midfield continued to win the battle in the middle third, the hard-working Mike O’Brien also doing his bit in the half-forward line, those three squandered ball after ball. Three wides for Niall, two each for the two others, though those misses were interspersed with just enough points to keep the scoreboard ticking over. The biggest miss of all was probably a 20m free from dead centre for Limerick, from which Shaughs opted to go for goal; problem was his intent was telegraphed, the shot was saved, point missed. It would prove crucial.
One team you can’t afford to let off the hook is Kilkenny, and though Limerick did continue to dominate the second half, recovered from that miss to add two points (one a huge effort from beyond halfway by O’Shaughnessy, now operating at wing-forward), leaving them tied in the 66th minute (0-13 apiece), it was the Cats who finished ahead. Deservedly so? Hardly, said Limerick manager Justin McCarthy. “We should have won by at least four points. There was a bit of poor shooting here and there. There were too many scores lost. It’s always hard to win a game down here. It was a different game to last week (the win over Clare, opening round); last week was more physical, this one was a bit slow to get off the ground but when we got going there was a bit of bite in it. We’re giving lads a chance to establish themselves, get a bit of experience, which is important. As the weeks go on we’ll know better where we stand with the team. A lot of young lads in there again today, give them another chance, and no better team to play against than Kilkenny, give them that experience.”
Next up for Justin’s improving Limerick, a home tie against Dublin, surprise conquerors of Galway yesterday. “Yeah, Dublin can always surprise, we’ll have to be on our guard.”
Scorers for Kilkenny: R Power 0-8 (6f); E Brennan; A Fogarty 0-2 each; T Walsh, M Rice, M Grace, 0-1 each.
Scorers for Limerick: A O’Shaughnessy 0-5 (3f); D Ryan 0-3; D Breen, B O’Sullivan, M O’Brien, J O’Brien, G Mulcahy, G O’Mahony (65), 0-1 each.
KILKENNY: PJ Ryan; J Dalton, B Hogan, J Tyrell; J Ryall, J Tennyson, JJ Delaney; T Walsh, D Fogarty; W O’Dwyer, R Power, M Rice; R Hogan, E Brennan, A Fogarty.
Subs: S Cummins for B Hogan, 38; M Grace for R Hogan, 57; M Comerford for D Fogarty, 68; J Mulhall for O’Dwyer, 75.
LIMERICK: B Murray; D Reale, S Lucey, T Condon; S Walsh, S Hickey, G O’Mahony; W McNamara, P Browne; J O’Brien, M O’Brien, B O’Sullivan; A O’Shaughnessy, D Breen, D Ryan.
Subs: N Moran for J O’Brien, 35; G Mulcahy for Breen, 38; P O’Brien for McNamara, 57; R McCarthy for Ryan, 75.
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork)
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved