'It's just a testament to the fella again. When we needed leadership he stood up'
MATCH REACTION:Kilkenny manager Brian Cody has only once before had to reflect on a season where his team had to recover from a defeat. The ferocious setback at the hands of Galway in the Leinster final had raised questions about the champions, and ultimately they did what they had to at a well-attended Semple Stadium yesterday afternoon.
One Kilkenny man suggested last week that the Leinster final had been a serious blow to the head, so it must have been concerning to see the team again on the ropes for much of the first half when, despite playing with the wind, they led by just a point and were lucky to do so.
“It was a really competitive game and Limerick brought everything to it we thought they would,” said Cody. “We expected a phenomenal challenge from Limerick.
“You go back to Limerick v Tipperary – they did something similar to Tipp in that game as well. That’s the level they’re at and the quality of the opposition. They outhurled us in many areas in the first half and we were lucky to be a point ahead at half-time so the response had to be serious and thanks be to God it was.”
An unanswered 2-5 between the 42nd and 55th minutes blew apart Limerick’s challenge but there were also clouds on the horizon, with Richie Power taken off in the first half with a serious-looking shoulder injury and Richie Hogan red- carded in the second half.
The manager didn’t sound distraught about Power: “I don’t know, to be honest, but I don’t think it’s too bad. I’m not sure where he is but we’ll soon find out and he’s in capable hands.”
He said he hadn’t seen the sending-off incident properly.
“I think Richie had the ball and after that I don’t know what happened – except he got a red card. I don’t know the ins and outs of it. The linesman spoke to the referee. It was a serious decision – that’s for sure.”
On the more familiar subject of another barnstorming display by Henry Shefflin – this year chasing a record ninth All-Ireland medal on the field of play – he was more upbeat: “The contribution was massive, absolutely massive, as it always has been. It’s just a testament to the fella again. When we needed leadership he stood up.”
He also paid tribute to Shefflin’s clubmate TJ Reid, who played his part in the second-half improvement. Having been dropped for the match, he replaced Power and used the ball well rather than attempting optimistic shots.
“He had a decent second half,” said Cody. “He is a very instinctive player and he has a very good understanding of team play, so it is something that is there in him.”
Looking ahead to the semi-final with Tipp, he said: “Whatever happens, it is going to be a huge challenge, a huge battle and it has the makings of a great All-Ireland semi-final; two great semi-finals, in fact.”
Limerick manager John Allen praised his side’s conquerors, and, as his team have also faced Tipperary this summer, he was asked to make comparisons.
“Having played both of them I think Kilkenny are probably better than Tipperary at the moment. Tipperary are improving. That was a very workmanlike performance by Kilkenny and they’ll be very hard to beat on that form.”
He was positive about Limerick’s progress. “We have made a lot of progress. Limerick hurling is going in the right direction, but moral victories are no good any more.
“There are a lot of young players on the team, there are a few more to come into it and it’s a matter of knuckling down for all the hard work that it takes to get up there with Kilkenny and Tipperary.”