Kilkenny are through to the final as expected but only after a hard-fought 2-14 to 2-12 victory over brilliant Carlow at Dr Cullen Park.
The hosts produced a magnificent display against the odds but, ultimately, the concession of two-first half goals cost them as the visitors sealed a Leinster final trip to Wexford Park to face holders Wexford in a fortnight.
Early goals from Ciaran Ryan and Liam Hickey propelled the Cats into a 2-9 to 0-8 interval advantage and, despite a spirited effort wich yielded second-half majors from Peter Shaw and Jack Kavanagh, Carlow couldn't quite get back on terms.
Bennettsbridge clubman Jason Cleere raided forward to open the scoring and Conor Martin's free quickly doubled the gap. Full forward Ryan had the ball in the back of the Carlow net in the fourth minute and midfielder Paddy Deegan's point ensured the Black & Amber of a 1-3 to 0-2 advantage after eight minutes, with Ted Joyce - with the first of his two first-half scores - and Chris Nolan supplying those early points for the Barrowsiders.
A Kevin McDonald free kept the underdogs in touch but the Cats responded with a point from Ryan before bagging their second goal in the twelfth minute through corner forward Hickey. Even though the underdogs replied with another McDonald score, they still trailed by those two goals at the end of the opening quarter, 2-4 to 0-4.
Nolan reduced the arrears to five but the visitors hit back immediately through Mullinavat's Mark Mansfield. Martin and James Maher added further Cats points while McDonald helped himself to another brace to leave the two majors still separating the teams with six minutes left in the first half, 2-7 to 0-7.
The Cats notched two of the next three points courtesy of Ryan and Martin to lead by seven at the short whistle.
Hickey pointed to make it double scores straight after the resumption but Carlow rallied with a goal and a point from Peter Shaw to reduce the arrears to just four points with three minutes played in the second half, 2-10 to 1-9.
A Martin free offered the favourites some respite but the resilient hosts replied from a Marty Kavanagh free to remain very much in contention approaching the three-quarters stage. Liam Blanchfield stretched the gap out to five again but - with an appreciative home crowd roaring them on - the hosts replied through Nolan and Kavanagh to trail by just a goal with ten minutes left.
Alas, a Martin free provided the insurance point on 55 minutes and Blanchfield made it a five-point match 60 seconds later. Carlow refused to give up and a Jack Kavanagh goal in the second minute of injury time gave them another tantalising glimmer of hope but they ran out of time and the Cats held on for the narrowest of wins.
Kilkenny - D Brennan; C Delaney, C Wallace, E Cody; J Cleere (0-1), E Morrissey, B Troy; P Deegan (0-1), M Mansfield (0-1); J Maher (0-1), W Brennan, C Martin (0-5, 4f); L Hickey (1-1), C Ryan (1-2), L Blanchfield (0-2). Subs: K Blanchfield for P Deegan, L Scanlon for M Mansfield, T Phelan for L Scanlon, S Morrissey for C Ryan.
Carlow - J Barron; M Malone, G Coady, S Whelan; J Murphy, D Wall, M Grady; D Byrne, C Fenlon; M Kavanagh (0-2, 1f), P Shaw (1-1), T Joyce (0-2); J Doyle, K McDonald (0-4, 3f), C Nolan (0-3). Subs: J Kavanagh (1-0) for C Fenlon, E O'Hara for J Doyle, J Doyle for K McDonald.
Referee - J Heffernan.