Hurling juggernauts to collide in National League final

Diarmaid Byrnes breaks away from Kilkenny’s Walter Walsh and Colin Fennelly during last year's All-Ireland final.

A REPEAT of last year’s gripping All-Ireland final is on the cards when Limerick and Kilkenny renew rivalry in the National League Final over the Easter bank holiday weekend. 

Both teams recorded comfortable semi-final wins over Tipperary and Cork, respectively. 

At Croke Park last July, the counties served-up a brilliant showpiece after which the Shannonsiders emerged winners to complete a stunning three-in-a-row.

In front of another healthy attendance at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick overturned a four point interval deficit to easily account for the Premier County on Saturday night.

Limerick manager John Kiely said afterwards he was pleased with most aspects of his team’s performance. “Particularly in the first 15 minutes of the second-half, I felt the response from our lads was really, really strong. 

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“From around that point, we raised our intensity and got to the pitch of the game as we were getting first to the ball, or at least with the player from the opposition. We hadn’t been doing that in the first-half but that changed after the break, and to our advantage. We just didn’t have enough possession in that first-half.”

The game’s only goal arrived from the boot of full-forward Peter Casey 15 minutes from the finish. 

Inspirational captain Declan Hannon, who made his league debut a dozen years ago, turned in another vintage performance to earn the TG4 man-of-the-match accolade.  However, there were many others, including Barry Nash, Diarmaid Byrnes and Tom Morrissey, who could have been declared the game’s most outstanding performer. 

At Nowlan Park, Kilkenny swept past Cork, a contest in which 20-year-old Billy Drennan emerged with a sensational 1-13.

The upcoming fixture will be their first league final meeting since 2006, when Jackie Tyrell captained Kilkenny to a 3-11 to 0-14 victory over Limerick at Semple Stadium, Thurles. 

Limerick’s only win over Kilkenny in a final was achieved under the captaincy of Jackie Power (Ahane) way back (3-8 to 1-7, after a replay) in 1947.