Kilkenny minor hurlers through to All-Ireland Final
Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor hurling championship semi-final
KILKENNY 2-24 LIMERICK 0-18
By Paul Keane at Croke Park
A storming second-half performance at Croke Park eased Kilkenny to victory and a place in the Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor hurling final.
Beaten in the Leinster final weeks ago, Richie Mulrooney's outfit have transformed their season and are now just 60 minutes from a first title since 2014.
They led by two points at half-time and turned that lead into a 12-point win by full-time, outscoring the Munster champions by 1-12 to 0-5 after the break.
It amounted to an exhibition of hurling from the young Cats who put themselves into a winning position when top scorer Billy Drennan fired in their second goal after 42 minutes, opening up an eight-point lead.
From there they cruised to the decider and will play Galway or Wexford back at Croke Park on August 18.
Aside from Drennan who hit 1-8, Man of the Match Timmy Clifford shot 0-6 while Liam Moore was outstanding at midfield and contributed 0-4.
Kilkenny came in as underdogs after losing the Leinster final to Wexford and navigating the three-team quarter-final group stage.
But they got the perfect start when Jack Doyle blasted to the net at the Hill 16 End just 32 seconds into the contest.
It was a neat move as Doyle was released down the right by Clifford who'd done well to shrug off his man first.
It was a decisive strike because there was nothing between the teams otherwise in a first-half that was level on four occasions and which Kilkenny edged 1-12 to 0-13.
Clifford, wearing number 14 but playing in the half-forward line, scored three first-half points for Kilkenny while free-taker Drennan clipped 0-5.
Limerick captain Cathal O'Neill was the real star of the show with seven points in the opening half hour.
The centre-forward showed his full array of skills with four points from placed balls and three beauties from play.
His 16th and 18th minute points underlined his quality; the first coming off his left side, the second off his right with no sense that either of them was his weaker side.
O'Neill's sixth point of the game in the 21st minute put Limerick ahead briefly at 0-10 to 1-6 but Kilkenny finished the half stronger with a series of points from Clifford, Moore, James Aylward, Drennan and Peter McDonald.
It gave them a narrow two-point edge at the interval which they doubled to four within minutes of the restart.
The margin stood at five points before Drennan scored that second goal for Kilkenny, latching onto a pass from Doyle and shooting across the goalkeeper to the net.
It was all Kilkenny late on and Limerick's agony was compounded with a series of unlikely wides as the Leinster side outscored their opponents by 0-7 to 0-2 in the closing quarter hour or so.
Kilkenny scorers: Billy Drennan 1-8 (0-5f), Timmy Clifford 0-6, Liam Moore 0-4, Jack Doyle 1-0, Ian Byrne 0-2, Peter McDonald 0-2, Aidan Tallis 0-1 (0-1f), James Aylward 0-1.
Limerick scorers: Cathal O'Neill 0-9 (0-6f), Aidan O'Connor 0-3, Patrick Kirby 0-2 (0-1 1 s/l), Jimmy Quilty 0-2, Ethan Hurley 0-1, Eddie Stokes 0-1.
KILKENNY: Aidan Tallis; Billy Reid, William Halpin, Tristan Roche; Peter McDonald, Padraic Moylan, Zach Bay Hammond; Liam Moore, James Aylward; Pierce Blanchfield, Timmy Clifford, Colman O'Sullivan; Billy Drennan, Jack Doyle, Ian Byrne. Subs: Denis Walsh for Blanchfield (55), Andy Hickey for O'Sullivan (58), Seanan Doyle for Byrne (61).
LIMERICK: Jack Franklin; Fergal O'Connor, Michael Cremin, Ronan Lyons; Jimmy Quilty, Ethan Hurley, Colin Coughlan; Patrick Kirby, Adam Murrihy; Eddie Stokes, Cathal O'Neill, Adam English; Aidan O'Connor, Patrick O'Donovan, Liam Lynch. Subs: Patrick Reale for Stokes (15), Cian Casey for Murrihy (44), Darragh Casey for Lynch (51).
Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway).