Kilkenny claim first intermediate hurling title in 35 years

Kilkenny 1-16 Limerick 0-13

Paddy Hogan top-scored with 1-06, as Kilkenny claimed their first All-Ireland Intermediate Hurling title since 1973, following a comfortable six-point win over Limerick at Semple Stadium.

The sides were level on three occasions inside the opening 12 minutes, but the Cats ran rampant at led by 0-08 to 0-05 at the end of the opening quarter, with captain Alan O’Connor keeping Limerick in touch.

Kilkenny led by 0-11 to 0-08 at the break, with Hogan’s 50th minute goal paving the way for a historic success.

The Danesfort clubman’s strike was the turning-point in this game, as it propelled the Cats into a 1-14 to 0-11 lead, at a stage when Limerick were making in-roads into the game, and placing the Kilkenny defence under severe pressure.

Hogan’s goal was certainly opportunistic as half-time substitute Eoin Hennebry had sent in a speculative shot from over 65 metres out, which Limerick goalkeeper Barry Hennessy was under to try and set up a clearance.

However an eager Hogan doubled on the ball, to place it in the back of the net – as Kilkenny built up a six-point lead as the game entered the closing ten minutes.

Scores were vital in the second-half for Limerick, but they misfired on seven occasions during the closing half an hour, including a trio of misses from former Senior star Mark Keane for the Shannonsiders in the third quarter.

Although the final score-line finished in Kilkenny’s favour, Limerick showed great brilliance throughout the field, especially in the opening half. 38-year old Ciaran Carey’s search for a first All-Ireland medal still proving elusive, but the former Senior player gave a strong display at full-back in this game.

Limerick settled quickest and took the lead on two occasions inside the opening minute and a half, as this game began at lightning pace, with David O’Neill slicing the ball between the posts after 10 seconds, easily one of the quickest scores ever witnessed in Thurles.

35 seconds later, Damien Fogarty equalised at the opposite end, but Limerick captain Alan O’Connor restored his sides lead with a point from a placed ball.

Level on five occasions inside the opening ten minutes, Kilkenny then broke free from Limerick, scoring three quick points, with Noel Doherty, Bill Beckett and Hogan on target; as the Cats opened up a 0-08 to 0-05 lead at the end of the opening quarter.

Limerick failed to give up with the likes of full-forward Paudie McNamara and midfielder Andrew Brennan excelling, with both taking fine scores.

Despite Limerick cutting the gap to the minimum by the 28th minute, following a third-point of the game from O’Connor, Kilkenny finished strongest before the break with points from Noel Doherty and Hogan ensuring a 0-11 to 0-08 half-time lead.

The Kilkenny management weren’t totally happy with their sides performance in the opening half, and introduced Niall Doran and Eoin Hennebry for the second half, both had been influential earlier in the campaign, and these switches proved key to ensuring success.

Limerick matched Kilkenny well in the nine-minute period following the restart, with the Cats holding a slight edge by 0-04 to 0-03 over that spell.

Hogan’s 39th minute point ensured a four-point lead, but the Cats weren’t to score for another 12 and a half minutes, with Hogan’s well-placed goal their next score.

However Limerick only managed a point during that period, but Mark Keane having an off day in front of the posts for the Shannonsiders. The Limerick attack continued to place sustained pressure on the Kilkenny defence, but the Cats held that extra edge as a 60th minute Hogan point sealed a gloss on a six-point win.

After the game Kilkenny captain Conor Phelan accepted the cup from fellow Kilkenny man, GAA President Nickey Brennan.

KILKENNY: L Tierney; M Phelan, S Cummins, S Prendergast; P Lonergan, P Hartley, K Joyce (0-1, 1f); N Walsh, D Fogarty (0-2, 1f); B Beckett (0-2), C Phelan, P Hogan (1-6, 5f); M Grace (0-2), P Cleere, N Doherty (0-3). Subs: N Doran for Lonergan (HT); E Hennebry for Walsh (HT); J Nolan for Grace (53); A Healy for Doherty (56); D Prendergast for Fogarty (58)

LIMERICK: B Hennessy; T Condon, C Carey, G O’Leary; R O’Neill, M Keane (0-1, 1f), S Walsh; A Brennan (0-1), P O’Brien; D Moloney, P O’Reilly (0-1), M McKenna; D O’Neill (0-1), P McNamara (0-3), A O’Connor (0-6, 4f, 2 65’). Subs: P Browne for O’Neill (BS 18-19); D Stapleton for O’Brien (33); P Harty for McKenna (40); P Browne for Moloney (45); N Maher for D O’Neill (57); D Moloney for Brennan (63).

REFEREE: James McGrath (Westmeath)

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