The pain of defeat was there for all to see, but there was room for a little gallows humour when Limerick manager T.J. Ryan was asked how close Limerick had been to overturning the Cats.
“Two points,” he said with a hint of a mischievous smile that also had a hint of pain about it.
“It’s hard to know; from our point of view I thought we weathered the storm in the second half, especially when we got those five points in a row but they got a good goal to get back into the game. We threw the kitchen sink at them, but they still came out on top,” he said.
“You’d have to give Kilkenny credit for the way they came back into the game,” Ryan added. “They’re an incredible team, but you could say the game was decided because they got two goals and we got none, like the Munster final.
“Goals win matches,” he said. “We had a few half-chances but needed a break which didn’t happen.
“I thought we responded well to the first goal, but the second was a sucker punch as we had been going well up to that time.”
The result was hard to take, but Ryan was quick to praise his team for their efforts.
“I couldn’t ask any more from the players,” he said. “I said that to them in the dressing-room. We came up against an incredible team but I felt we did well in all the battles around the field. It was one of those games where small things were going to win it; we had huge performers, but needed one or two things to go our way.
“The bottom line is that we lost, which is the biggest pain of all ,” he continued. “Preparations and training had gone very well.
“We knew we were in for a big game and I was confident that we’d give it one right rattle, but you have to credit Kilkenny. Their record has been incredible, which is what it comes down to.”
There may be a few more miles on the Kilkenny clock this year, but Ryan was quick to hail the team’s quality.
“I’m never surprised by anything Kilkenny do,” he said. “They’re not going for 10 All-Ireland titles under Brian Cody for nothing. The way they go about their business is incredible.
“Maybe there may have been a few question marks about them this year, but they’ve responded in every single way,” he pointed out. “They’ve won the League, they won Leinster and now they’re back in the All-Ireland final. What more can you say?”
However, all the attention surrounding the Cats didn’t alter Limerick’s pre-match intentions.
“The Kilkenny team is incredible - just look at what they had on the bench! - but we were focused on our team and our game,” said Ryan. “We wanted to bring that to them. Early on it worked. Colin Fennelly got a few points from out the field, but we kept it tight and didn’t give any goals away.
“If you look at Kilkenny’s history they kill teams and crowds early in the game. They didn’t do that, and the longer we hung in I felt we’d make a battle of it. We wanted to win - we came to win, but we didn’t.”