It was the ‘glamour game’ of the season to date with Kilkenny and Limerick kitted out in their finery by generous benefactor and match sponsor J.P. McManus, but while the National League and All-Ireland champions looked the part in a dress sense, they were far from the norm on the field.
A host of stars were missing, including J.J. Delaney, Paul Murphy, Walter Walsh, Michael Fenneally, Michael Rice, Colin Fennelly, Richie Hogan and Henry Shefflin. And, of course, manager Brian Cody was absent from the sideline. On the credit side, T.J. Reid returned.
In terms of the result, it means Kilkenny suffered their first loss since being crowned League champions.
For victors Limerick, who had all hands on deck besides Tom Condon (leg injury), the result was a pre-championship boost in a challenge game to mark the official opening of the Staker Wallace GAA grounds. Kilkenny won’t be unduly concerned, however.
John Allen’s Limerick deserved the win on a grounds that would be familiar to them from training. The Shannonsiders were up for the clash, and the 4,000 or so attendance cheered them to the echo as they unveiled a new playing style that featured fast diagonal ball into the attack.
The Kilkenny players had featured in club action earlier, so a few were leg weary at times, especially nearing the end of a testing 70 minutes. Still, they kept close enough to the opposition to keep them on their toes to the finish.
Limerick enjoyed the boost of a Seamus Hickey goal in the ninth minute to get them going. That helped carry them into a 1-13 to 0-10 half time lead.
Graeme Mulcahy and Sean Tobin both hit two points in the opening half, while Eoin Larkin claimed half the Kilkenny total, mainly from frees. The second half was littered with substitutions but once again Limerick had the upper-hand.
Shane Dowling replaced Declan Hannon and assumed the free-taking duties. He caught the eye with two points from play as well as those from placed balls. In attack, Mulcahy, Hannon and Tobin were the pick.
Joe Brennan looked the liveliest in the Kilkenny attack. He grabbed four points from play in the second half. Limerick looked comfortable when 1-19 to 0-12 clear entering the final quarter. A Kilkenny goal in the 68th minute added a bit of zest to things at the finish.
The goal was scored by Tomas Breen, who swept the ball into the net after Ger Aylward’s initial low drive was saved by goalie Nickie Quaid. However, late points from subs Niall Moran and Tom Ryan saw Limerick dock in safety as they enjoyed a boost ahead of the Munster championship outing against Tipperary on June 9.
Scorers: Limerick - Shane Dowling (0-7, four frees, one 65); Declan Hannon (0-6, four frees, one 65); Graeme Mulcahy (0-3); Seamus Hickey (1-0); Paul Browne, Sean Tobin (0-2 each); Paudie O’Brien, David Breen, Niall Moran, James Ryan, Tom Ryan (0-1 each). Kilkenny - Eoin Larkin (0-8, six frees); Joe Brennan (0-4); Tomas Breen (1-1); Aidan Fogarty, Matthew Ruth (0-2 each); Cillian Buckley, Paddy Hogan, T.J. Reid (0-1 each).
Limerick - Nickie Quaid; Stephen Walsh, Richie McCarthy, Mark Carmody; Paudie O’Brien, Wayne McNamara, Gavin O’Mahony; Paul Browne, Cathal King; David Breen, James Ryan, Seamus Hickey; Sean Tobin, Graeme Mulcahy, Declan Hannon. Subs - Alan Dempsey for S. Walsh (ht); Donal O’Grady for C. King (ht); Shane Dowling for D. Breen (ht); Kevin Downes for D. Hannon (ht); Paudie Ahern for S. Tobin (52 mins); Niall Moran for G. Mulcahy (55 mins); Tom Ryan for S. Hickey (61 mins); David Reidy for J. Ryan (66 mins).
Kilkenny - David Herity; Padraig Walsh, Kieran Joyce, Jackie Tyrrell; Paddy Hogan, Brian Hogan, Conor Fogarty; Lester Ryan, Cillian Buckley; T.J. Reid, Mark Kelly, Matthew Ruth; Joe Brennan, Eoin Larkin, Aidan Fogarty. Subs - Tommy Walsh for P. Hogan (ht); Tomas Breen for M. Kelly (ht); Ger Aylward for C. Buckley (39 mins); Willie Phelan for M. Ruth (52 mins); John Tennyson for L. Ryan (55 mins); Matthew Ruth for E. Larkin, inj (56 mins); Brian Kennedy for J. Tyrrell (61 mins); Tomàs Keogh for Ger Aylward (69 mins).
Referee - Cathal McAllister (Cork).