Cathal O'Neill, Limerick, and Richie Reid, Kilkenny, in Allianz Hurling League action at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Cathal O'Neill, Limerick, and Richie Reid, Kilkenny, in Allianz Hurling League action at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Allianz HL D1 Final: Limerick cruise to victory

Allianz Hurling League Division One Final

Limerick 2-20 Kilkenny 0-15

By Stephen Barry at Páirc Uí Chaoimh

Aaron Gillane’s stunning volleyed goal wrapped a 14th Allianz Hurling League title for Limerick in convincing fashion.

Limerick never trailed from the moment Barry Nash found the net in the 18th minute and he was part of a defence that totally suffocated the Kilkenny attack, restricting them to five second-half points.

But for 15 second-half wides, Limerick could have won this one by so much more than the 11 points that separated them in the end before Cian Lynch lifted the trophy in front of 17,243 fans at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Not to forget that captain Declan Hannon, Kyle Hayes, and William O’Donoghue will be added into the battle for places come Championship.

Hannon and Hayes were late absentees from the team named on Friday but Mike Casey and Colin Coughlan slotted seamlessly into a defence that forced Kilkenny to do most of their damage from deep.

Adrian Mullen was enjoying his first game back from injury, getting himself on the scoreboard within 20 seconds of either half, and adding another fine point from the sideline.

Richie Reid was another to open the shoulders for two scores from distance, while Paddy Deegan dropped deep to add one from 100 yards out.

Kilkenny ran up the first three points as it took Limerick 10 minutes to get on the board, with three quickfire Gillane frees, and 16 for their first from play, via Séamus Flanagan.

Flanagan also whipped a goal chance high and wide but soon after, he found Gillane for the opener. Nash was raiding forward from defence to take the lay off and he beat Eoin Murphy with a near-post bullet. It gave Limerick their first lead and they never let it slip.

Nash added another from distance, in between a trio of Diarmuid Byrnes frees and one from Coughlan.

The goal was still the difference between them heading into the 35th minute but Limerick finished with a flurry of points, from man of the match Darragh O’Donovan, Cathal O’Neill, and Gillane, showing signs of recovering his Championship sharpness. 1-13 to 0-10 at half-time.

After Mullen’s opener, Limerick struck another three in a row, two from Gillane frees.

They looked to be cruising, although points from Deegan and Billy Drennan were followed by Kilkenny’s biggest chances of a revival. Nickie Quaid came up with the answer each time, saving both in the 50th minute from Martin Keoghan and Billy Ryan.

Kilkenny pulled it back to five but Darragh O’Donovan intercepted a puck-out to steady the Limerick ship.

The cherry on top came in the 54th minute, Gillane’s volley from a Flanagan pass swatting away Kilkenny hopes in one smooth strike. It was part of a 1-4 scoring spurt, with Flanagan opting for a point instead of goal and Byrnes coming forward for two from play. Eoin Murphy saved low from Conor Boylan to at least limit the damage.

Kilkenny went 20 minutes without a score until Eoin Cody’s stoppage-time free. It was just their fifth point of the second half.

Limerick didn’t score for the final 12 minutes as their wide tally rose to 15 in the second half alone, and 20 in total. Not that it mattered on the day, Limerick resounding winners once again.

Scorers for Limerick: Aaron Gillane 1-7 (5fs), Diarmaid Byrnes 0-5 (3fs), Barry Nash 1-1, Séamus Flanagan 0-3, Darragh O’Donovan 0-2, Cathal O’Neill, Colin Coughlan 0-1 each.

Scorers for Kilkenny: Billy Drennan 0-5 (5fs), Adrian Mullen 0-3, Richie Reid, Paddy Deegan, Eoin Cody (1f) 0-2 each, Huw Lawlor 0-1.

Limerick: Nickie Quaid; Seán Finn, Mike Casey, Barry Nash; Diarmaid Byrnes, Dan Morrissey, Colin Coughlan; Darragh O’Donovan, Barry Murphy; Gearóid Hegarty, Cian Lynch, Cathal O’Neill; Aaron Gillane, Séamus Flanagan, Peter Casey.

Subs: Tom Morrissey for Murphy (h-t), Richie English for M Casey (48 inj), Conor Boylan for Lynch (58), Donnacha Ó Dálaigh for Flanagan (63), Shane O’Brien for P Casey (67), Mark Quinlan for Byrnes (70+1).

Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy; Mikey Butler, Tommy Walsh, Pádraig Walsh; Richie Reid, Huw Lawlor, David Blanchfield; Conor Fogarty, Billy Ryan; John Donnelly, Adrian Mullen, Paddy Deegan; Billy Drennan, Martin Keoghan, Eoin Cody.

Subs: Cian Kenny for Donnelly (h-t), Paddy Mullen for Fogarty (47), Timmy Clifford for A Mullen (52), Gearóid Dunne for Drennan (56), Alan Murphy for Ryan (56).

Referee: Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow).