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Allianz HL D1: Kilkenny reach decider

Kilkenny's TJ Reid celebrates at SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Kilkenny's TJ Reid celebrates at SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Allianz Hurling League Division One Semi-Final

Kilkenny 3-17 Limerick 1-15

By Stephen Barry at SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh

Kilkenny’s goal threat and gritty 14-man performance into the second-half gale ended Limerick’s Hurling League reign, sending the Cats into another final.

The Treaty defence was opened up with first-half goals from Eoin Cody, Luke Hogan, and evergreen man-of-the-match TJ Reid, who finished with 1-8.

Cody was sent off for a second booking after half-time, but in the 18 minutes they were short a man, Kilkenny outscored Limerick by a point, 0-6 to 0-5.

Once Peter Casey received a straight red card, Kilkenny’s victory felt secure. They can now prepare for a final against either Clare or Tipperary in a fortnight's time.

Ahead of their Munster opener against Clare, Limerick have a month to work on their defensive solidity after conceding three goals in consecutive visits to SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Among their seven changes, a welcome note was the minutes gained by cruciate-victim Seán Finn in his first appearance for 10 months, although their entire inside line had their hands full throughout.

Derek Lyng has placed a greater value than most on consistency of selection this spring. Cody, Adrian Mullen, Tommy Walsh, and David Blanchfield have played every minute barring blood subs and Cody's red card, while Cian Kenny has started all six matches.

Kilkenny would’ve wanted to make hay with a strong breeze from the off. Instead, they were five down within four minutes.

A Cillian Buckley spill under an aimless Barry Nash free allowed Aaron Gillane a clear run at goal. His finish sent the white flag flying from its rigging and had the opposite umpire reaching for the green flag.

Incredibly, Kilkenny struck back with the next 2-3. There were initial signs they could unlock the Limerick defence when Billy Ryan handled the sliotar on the ground when through.

The Cats were pushing up to deny Limerick any easy possession and once Jordan Molloy claimed Nickie Quaid’s puck-out, the long ball was on. Cody caught it above Barry Nash and sent it crashing to the net.

They had another little over a minute later. Cody beat his new marker Aaron Costello to Deegan’s delivery and while Quaid saved, Luke Hogan prodded the sliotar home.

Kilkenny were hunting goals and Quaid saved again from Mullen before Reid’s 21-yard free was unwittingly blocked on the line by Nash’s ankle.

Cathal O’Neill’s second point from wing-back brought Limerick within two in the 23rd minute, but they didn’t score again until Aaron Gillane’s stoppage-time free.

In the meantime, Kilkenny had their third goal. John Donnelly turned over Cian Lynch and Deegan delivered another pinpoint ball inside. Reid had the run on Costello to claim the catch and rifle to the corner. 3-6 to 1-6 at half-time.

The game changed within three minutes of the restart. Cody, booked in the 12th minute for a loose tackle on O’Neill, received his second yellow for a swing across Diarmaid Byrnes.

Kilkenny refused to let Limerick back within one score, responding to each point with one of their own as Reid reeled off five placed balls on the spin.

He teed up Mullen for another and two more frees took his tally 1-8 before making way for Billy Drennan.

Quaid was called into action again to save from Martin Keoghan, while Owen Wall later hit the side-netting.

Limerick never fully utilised their spare man before they lost it as Casey was dismissed for an off the ball altercation.

Kilkenny’s lead was six at that juncture and they would outscore Limerick by another two from there to the finish, with Drennan tagging on three points.

Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 1-8 (7fs, 1 65), Eoin Cody, Luke Hogan 1-0 each, Adrian Mullen, Billy Drennan (1f, 1 65) 0-3 each, Cillian Buckley, Billy Ryan, Martin Keoghan 0-1 each.

Scorers for Limerick: Aaron Gillane 1-5 (3fs), Cathal O’Neill, Tom Morrissey (2fs), David Reidy (1f) 0-2 each), Diarmaid Byrnes (f), Gearóid Hegarty, Donnacha Ó Dálaigh, Peter Casey 0-1 each.

Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy; Shane Murphy, Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; David Blanchfield, Paddy Deegan, Cillian Buckley; Cian Kenny, Jordan Molloy; Adrian Mullen, John Donnelly, Billy Ryan; Luke Hogan, TJ Reid, Eoin Cody.

Subs: Richie Reid for Blanchfield (35+1-h-t, blood), Richie Reid for Buckley (h-t), Martin Keoghan for Hogan (45), Owen Wall for Ryan (52-f-t, blood), Darragh Corcoran for Deegan (57-59, blood), Billy Drennan for TJ Reid (60), Timmy Clifford for Donnelly (69), Kevin Blanchfield for Kenny (70+1).

Limerick: Nickie Quaid; Barry Nash, Seán Finn, Aaron Costello; Diarmaid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, Cathal O’Neill; William O’Donoghue, Cian Lynch; Gearóid Hegarty, Adam English, Tom Morrissey; Donnacha Ó Dálaigh, Aaron Gillane, Peter Casey.

Subs: David Reidy for English (h-t), Conor Boylan for Lynch (55), Séamus Flanagan for Gillane (59), Mark Quinlan for Hannon (61), Aidan O’Connor for Hegarty (67).

Referee: James Owens (Wexford).