This was a senior hurling challenge with a difference in that the players were dressed up to the nines by occasion sponsor, J.P. McManus, but in black and white terms the result meant Kilkenny suffered their first defeat since being crowned National League champions when losing to Limerick (1-25 to 1-20) at the opening of the Staker Wallace GAA grounds last night.
The visitors were missing at least seven players, and manager Brian Cody was absent as he continues the recovery process after heart surgery. Still, Kilkenny chased hard to the finish and Limerick had to be on their toes throughout.
The 4,000 or so attendance was given something to cheer about when Seamus Hickey grabbed a goal for Limerick in the ninth minute. That helped them into an interval lead of 1-13 to 0-10.
Eoin Larkin, with five scores, was Kilkenny’s most productive forward during that period. After the turn Joe Brennan was introduced and he looked very lively as he helped himself to four points.
Two minutes from the end the Cats had a goal from Tomàs Breen to bring them within striking distance, but late points from Niall Moran and Tom Ryan wrapped up a Limerick win, which was a good boost before the June 9 Munster championship meeting with Tipperary.
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).