Kilkenny 3-21 Tipperary 1-6
By Jim O’Sullivan
KILKENNY’S runaway victory in Saturday’s Erin All-Ireland U21 final in Nowlan Park went some way towards boosting morale in the county following the defeat of the seniors.
With the considerable benefit of the wind, they gained an early grip on the game and, with clinical precision, suffocated the Tipperary challenge.
The key was the scoring of goals in the 9th and 13th minutes, which gave them an 11-point lead by the end of the opening quarter and the momentum that proved unstoppable. The Munster champions were taught a hurling lesson in Kilkenny’s backyard. In the words of county chairman Donal Shanahan, they were hit "by a whirlwind" in the first-half.
Brian Cody agreed that after building such an early lead there was no way back for Tipperary. Tipperary actually won the toss, and while captain Diarmaid Fitzgerald indicated it was the players’ choice to play against the wind, manager Séamus Power declined to comment afterwards.
Interestingly, winning manager Martin Fogarty - praised by Cody for having the team in such an excellent state of readiness - said he would have done the very same. "We would have chosen to play against the wind if we won the toss. It’s grand when you get the scores, but if you didn’t, you’d be in a bit of bother," he remarked.
Fogarty insisted that the failure of the seniors was never going to impact on his team. "It couldn’t. And that’s no disrespect to the them," he added. "We wanted them to win, but our lads had to keep away from the set-up or they’d be sucked in totally. They had too much put in all year. "
Tommy Walsh - one of three seniors involved - said the defeat "only really hit them" at the end of the week. "But we didn’t want to let down the U21s just because we were disappointed," he said.
Séamus Power agreed that it had been an uphill battle all the way. "I knew they were good, but I thought we had a better team. On the day, things didn’t work out for us. We have to take it on the chin. There were no excuses."
Before they started to open up a gap on the scoreboard, Kilkenny put down a few obvious markers. For instance, from an early stage Michael Fennelly and Ciaran Hoyne impressed on the left flank of the defence and, seriously disadvantaged by the wind, Tipperary found it very difficult to penetrate. The Tipp full-back Conor O’Mahoney had looked promising, as did centre-back and captain Diarmaid Fitzgerald and midfeilder Joe Caesar emerged as one of their most consistent performers. Otherwise, there were few positives about their play.
Once Kilkenny’s forwards settled - gaining great encouragement from Fitzpatrick’s goal - they moved up a gear. Willie O’Dwyer, a popular choice as "man-of-the-match," started to make inroads at centre-forward, Richie Power and Conor Phelan were very effective inside and Seán O’Neill, very impressive as a substitute against Galway, also impressed.
After O’Dwyer got his goal (from a good break by Fitzpatrick), Kilkenny virtually monopolised the play. And, even though Michael Farrell’s determination earned him a badly needed goal for Tipperary in the 20th minute, its impact was minimal.
Tony Scroope, who had scored 5-18 in Tipp’s three games en route was making no headway, at full-forward or on the left wing after moving out on Tommy Walsh. And he was to suffer the indignity of being sent off for a second yellow card near the end of the game.
It was 2-12 to 1-1 at half-time. On the turnover Kilkenny hit two good scores before Tipperary produced three points in a five-minute period (two from Caesar), but it represented only token resistance. Kilkenny maintained their grip - with Richie Power doing some excellent work in the half-back line - and, while some of their five substitutions worked, Tipperary were really going nowhere. Tommy Walsh was impressive in parts, but never performed to his full potential.
Kilkenny’s third goal came in the 58th minute from the excellent Conor Phelan, by which time his twin brother John was on the field - as a substitute in the half-forward line. The standard of hurling they produced was of the highest order, but as a contest it never really got off the ground.
Scorers: Kilkenny: R. Power 0-7 (0-4 frees, 0-1 ‘65); W. O’Dwyer 1-3; C. Phelan and C. Fitzpatrick (0-1 free) 1-1 each; S. O’Neill 0-3; B. Dowling 0-2; M. Rice, C. Hoyne, S. Hennessy and E. Reid 0-1 each. Tipperary: M. Farrell 1-0; J. Caesar 0-3; T. Scroope 0-2 frees; W. Ryan 0-1.
KILKENNY: D. Herrity; S. Maher, J. Tennyson, M. Fennelly; T. Walsh, P.J. Delaney, C. Hoyne; S. Hennessy, P. Cleere; S. O’Neill, W. O’Dwyer, E. Reid; C. Fitzpatrick, C. Phelan, R. Power. Subs: M. Rice for Fitzpatrick (injured, second half); B. Dowling for Cleere and E. Larkin for Reid (52nd minute); J. Phelan for O’Neill and N. Doherty for Delaney (56th).
TIPPERARY: P. McCormack; A. Morrissey, C. O’Mahoney, D. Walton; E. Hanley, D. Fitzgerald (capt.), H. Moloney; J. Caesar, W. Cully; P. Buckley, S. Sweeney, F. Devaney; E. Sweeney, T. Scroope, M. Farrell. Subs: D. Sheppard for A. Morrissey (36th minute); D. Morrissey for E. Sweeney and D. Sheppard for Buckley (39th); P. Shortt for Cully and T. Fitzgerald for S. Sweeney (45th).
Referee: B. Kelly (Westmeath). Barry Kelly handled the game well, without really excelling.