GAA | Kilkenny stun Limerick to reach All-Ireland hurling final

Kilkenny have stunned Limerick in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship semi-final.

The Cats have beaten the reigning champions by 1-21 to 2-17 at Croke Park to reach the final.

Kilkenny led by 1-12 to 1-09 at the interval after a thrilling first half which saw Brian Cody’s men race into an eight-point lead.

After another thrilling 35 minutes of hurling in the second half, the Leinster champions survived five tense minutes of stoppage time to win by a point, eliminating John Kiely’s champions.

Limerick hadn’t played in four weeks, and the Treaty looked rusty as Kilkenny rocked them in the opening quarter.

TJ Reid got Kilkenny on the scoreboard with a free from distance after just 40 seconds, setting the tone for what was to come.

The prolific forward added a second free before a Walter Walsh pointed from play for Kilkenny’s third unanswered score.

Aaron Gillane registered Limerick’s first score in the sixth minute after beating Huw Lawlor to the ball.

Kilkenny notched the next three scores through Reid, Walsh and Adrian Mullen to extend their lead to five points.

Graeme Mulcahy and Padraig Walsh then traded points before Colin Fennelly grabbed the first goal of the game in the 15th minute.

Fennelly showed good strength to hold off Seán Finn after collecting Eoin Murphy’s long puck-out, before driving through on goal and slotting the ball into the net via the onrushing Nicky Quaid’s shoulder.

Finn was then shown a yellow card for a cynical foul on Reid moments later, with the Cats forward dusting himself down to split the posts with the resulting free.

Gillane responded with a free in the 19th minute, reducing Kilkenny’s lead to eight.

Peter Casey and Mulcahy added to Limerick’s tally, before Reid hit back with two more frees.

Gillane converted frees either side of another Reid set piece, before Tom Morrissey contributed a fine effort from play.

Gillane then scored another free before Limerick were awarded what looked like a soft penalty.

Referee Alan Kelly signaled for a penalty after Lawlor grappled with Gillane under a high ball.

The Limerick forward took the penalty himself, burying his driven effort past Murphy to make it a two-point game (1-11 to 1-9).

Richie Hogan scored the final point of the half to give Kilkenny a three-point cushion – the least their dominance deserved – at the break.

Fennelly scored the first point of the second half with Gillane soon cancelling the score out at the other end.

Diarmaid Byrnes and Reid then traded frees before Gillane chipped in with another two points of his own.

Gillane then cancelled out Adrian Mullen’s point, with John Donnelly then striking for Kilkenny at the other end.

Kilkenny went four clear before Limerick scored their second goal.

Shane Dowling produced a wonderful improvised finish; batting the sliotar past Murphy to reduce Kilkenny’s lead to two points.

David Reify added another score for Kiely’s charges to make it a one-point game yet again.

Five minutes of stoppage time were added on, and James Maher settled Kilkenny nerves by scoring a point.

A minute later, Murphy made a crucial save to deny Reidy a certain goal, with Byrnes sending the resulting 65 over the bar.

There was controversy in the dying seconds of the match as Darragh O’Donovan missed the chance to send the game to extra time by shooting his sideline cut wide.

However, replays show that his effort took a deflection off a Kilkenny defender, and a 65 should have been awarded.

The deflection wasn’t spotted by officials, and Kilkenny held on to seal a momentous victory at Croke Park.

Cody’s Cats will now contest the final against the winners of Tipperary v Wexford.