Kilkenny’s craft and goal scoring gets them home
Nicky English: Limerick conceded goals at the worst time and couldn’t goal themselves
Kilkenny’s Paul Murphy battles for possession with Limerick’s Graeme Mulcahy at Croke Park yesterday. Photograph: Inpho
It’s unusual a match ends up playing out as most people expected. Limerick were up to a point nearly as good as they could have been. They come up short in a really entertaining match but only after they had thrown everything at it.
They started well and made it clear they were going to try to redeem themselves after what happened in last year’s semi-final. Frustratingly for them though, their downfall was exactly as it was in this year’s Munster final. They conceded vital goals at the worst time and couldn’t come up with any themselves.
They went in at half-time after conceding a vital goal by Richie Hogan and then in the second half just as they looked to have taken over they conceded a second – I was convinced it was Richie Power and it would ultimately have been a fair reflection of the impact he had when he came on.
It wasn’t just his and Henry Shefflin’s impact in scoring terms but they worked unbelievably hard in hooking and blocking.
If Limerick had managed to sneak one at the very end I think most people would have agreed they weren’t undeserving winners. But they didn’t and you have to marvel at the performance given by Kilkenny. They showed the same desire and drive as Limerick did – incredible for a team who’ve been around as long as they have – and bettered them in crucial areas. They matched their hunger and were just that bit slicker and it showed in the goals scored.
Goal chancesLike in the Munster final against Cork, Limerick had chances of goals but didn’t take them when they fell to Shane Dowling, David Breen and Graeme Mulcahy – although Colin Fennelly got in an amazing block on Mulcahy.
They also decided to go for goals in some cases when maybe they shouldn’t have because given the conditions – the worst I’ve seen in Croke Park since the 1985 Galway-Cork semi-final – every point would have made a difference.
Paul Browne at the start of the second half went for goal optimistically although on that occasion it worked out because they got the 65 as a result. But Kilkenny stayed in touch. Richie Hogan in the middle of the field did a huge amount of hurling. He got a great goal and got on the ball a lot, showing again the days when Limerick are beaten are the days when they aren’t able to dominate midfield.
Kilkenny will be delighted with the work rate. The half forward line did a lot of damage, through Michael and Colin Fennelly, who was my man of the match, and Pádraig Walsh got a couple of points. Limerick’s half-back line improved a little but they still conceded eight points from play - seven in the first half.
Surprise positioningTJ Reid was very quiet and I was surprised he was stationed on Séamus Hickey in the corner forward position, a match-up I would have though Limerick would prefer and one they persevered with all the way into the second half despite struggling for a long period. Kilkenny will head for the final in great shape. They played well enough to hold off a serious challenge but they also have a number of things that can be improved.
They isolated Reid and Mark Kelly up front for instance which is unusual for them and there were times in the first half when they didn’t use the ball as well as they have been using it this year.
David Herity made a couple of good saves but he was questionable at times particularly under the high ball. Eoin Murphy was on the bench but heavily strapped which isn’t great for a goalkeeper and I’d be surprised if Brian Cody picks the same team next month.
Richie Power made a big impact and he’ll be in contention.
But the main thing from their point of view is that the hunger and desire is still there and you would have felt that they were the areas of most concern coming into this year.