Kilkenny overcame both Limerick and the ferocious elements to reach the 2014 All-Ireland Hurling final on Sunday, winning 2-13 to 0-17.
In the driving rain and wind at Dublin's Croke Park, the Cats came into the semi-final full of optimism and ambition, but were pushed all the way by Limerick, who started brightly.
They raced out of the traps to earn an early advantage, with Declan Hannon and Donal O’Grady both putting points on the board—something that former Irish rugby star Jerry Flannery saw coming:
I predict that today marks the beginning of Limericks reign of terror #WelcomeToTheTerrordome— Jerry Flannery (@jerryflannery) August 10, 2014
Most fans at Croke Park would also have foreseen Limerick springing into an early lead, as they’ve forged a reputation as quick starters this season, with their direct approach.
Kilkenny were always expected to work themselves back into the game, but with the scores at 0-10 to 0-7 on the approach to the interval, Limerick were looking like favourites to go through.
However, then a moment of brilliance from Kilkenny’s Richie Hogan gave the Cats the advantage—bursting through before smashing home, much to the relief of the Kilkenny faithful.
Limerick thought they’d put a goal on the board shortly after Hogan’s strike, with David Breen going close, but the ball didn’t cross the line and the sides went in at half-time 1-9 to 0-10.
Kilkenny were far from good value for their lead at the break, and all it seemed to do was spur Limerick on when the second half got underway.
Quick-fire points from Shane Dowling and two from Hannon brought the sides level at 1-11 to 0-14, and Limerick kicked on from there emphatically.
Seanie Tobin and Dowling put them ahead 0-16 to 1-11, and they looked for all the world as if they were going to cross the line, before Hogan once again produced some magic.
The 26-year-old launched a long-range, dangerous free at the Limerick goal, which Richie Power just touched in—putting the Cats ahead once again.
TJ Reid then pointed twice either side of a Hannon strike, as Kilkenny scraped across the line, 2-13 to 0-17.
While the Cats didn’t really look themselves in the horrendous conditions at Croke Park, the performance of Hogan was characteristically special.
He’s excelled in the midfield role this season, and journalist Roisin Treacy believes that his display against Limerick has tied up the Hurler of the Year award:
And Richie Hogan surely secured hurler of the year with today's performance. Top class. #GAA— Róisín Treacy (@roisintreacy) August 10, 2014
All Hogan will care about, though, is being back in the All-Ireland final, where he’ll look for another strong performance against either Cork or Tipperary—as he told the Gaelic Athletic Association:
Kilkenny will need to perform much better as a unit in the showpiece final, but with Hogan there for them to fall back on, they’re always in with a chance no matter the circumstances.