THIS game was decided between the 41st and 43rd minutes in the second half.
Noel McGrath whose general craft and intelligence caused Kilkenny a lot of problems, ran through and released Lar Corbett who struck a great goal.
Two minutes later a long range free from Brendan Cummins wasn’t dealt with by the Kilkenny inside defence and McGrath himself pounced and finished a difficult chance to the net.
Last year Tipp got goal chances and missed them. This time they finished any clearcut chance they got. The second and third goals gave them a cushion from then on and the confidence that ultimately saw them home.
Kilkenny never gave up and they were powered forward by Jackie Tyrrell and Tommy Walsh in particular but their forwards couldn’t penetrate for that all important goal.
Two poor wides by Michael Fennelly and John Tennyson in the last five minutes of normal time left Tipp off the hook and at a time when the match was still there to be won.
Kilkenny full forward Richie Power knocked over a point in the 66th minute when space opened up after he won the ball from Paddy Stapleton. For me he needed to drive for goal and with that point went any chance Kilkenny had of winning.
Padraic Maher, the Tipp left half back, was moved into the centre when Conor O’Mahony went off injured. He gave a powerhouse display for the vital last ten minutes making great interceptions, controlling his area and driving forward.
Perseverance got Tipp their final goal from Corbett which was the icing on the cake in a game where their body language from the start signified that they were not going to be beaten.
If a team were given bonus points for support from their fans, Tipp would have been well ahead at the interval in this game of two halves. I expected Tipp to drive into Kilkenny in the first 20 minutes and they certainly did so. They contested every ball manfully, keeping things tight at the back, giving little away.
Kilkenny, electing to play against a strong breeze, found Tipp’s movement and enthusiasm up front difficult, as the Tipp forwards harried the opposing defence. They needed a good start in the misty damp conditions which normally suit the underdogs and Lar Corbett’s well-struck goal set the stadium alight in the ninth minute.
In the first 20 minutes Kilkenny found it virtually impossible to come up with scores from play. I wrote on Saturday that Tipp were less than impressive where discipline was concerned in their recent semi-final.
They carried on from there into this match with a poor discipline display, dragging Kilkenny back into the contest conceding nine scoreable frees, six of which were converted. This kept Kilkenny in touch when better disciplines might have seen Tipp dominant at half time. Instead a goal from Richie Power cleverly converting a super pass from Larkin had them back in the match in a serious way at half time.
Tipp’s discipline improved immeasurably in the second half. Their work rate all over the field and their superb defence put the shutters up. I felt on Saturday that the bench would be important and Kilkenny seemed to have more resources but their celebrated forward line failed to function as a unit, missing the leadership qualities of Henry Shefflin who left the field injured in the first quarter.
The normally reliable Eddie Brennan, out of form to a degree this season, missed a good goal chance early on and was replaced in the second half with captain TJ Reid, Aidan Fogarty and James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick following suit as the second half wore on. None of the replacements had any real impact as the overall work ethic of Tipperary suffocated Kilkenny on this occasion.
But Tipp’s replacements from the bench all make telling contributions, none more so than Seamus Callanan, who made an instant impact on proceedings, firing over two good points at a crucial stage.
Seamus Hennessy and Benny Dunne also chipped in with important scores and it was nice to see Benny atone somewhat for his sending off last year.
All in all from one to 15 the Tipp hunger and work rate was enormous. It was simply a bridge too far for Kilkenny who have been fantastic champions. They say it’s hard to make history and so it proved once more. Tipp deserved their win as they were more fired up and more skilful on the day.