Kilkenny 2-25 Tipperary 1-27 (aet)
A third successive national league title for Brian Cody’s Kilkenny in Semple Stadium yesterday following a rollercoaster of a game between two perfectly pitched teams who tore into each other from first to final minute.
Just as it looked like they would have to do it all over again next week in Nowlan Park, teams tied again in the dying seconds of extra-time, it took a little piece of magic between two of Kilkenny’s outstanding performers to conjure the winning point.
Kilkenny had the better start with four points on the trot from Padraig Walsh, Richie Hogan and TJ Reid (two), all of whom would go on to have outstanding games. Tipp then took over and in the 30th minute, courtesy of a brilliant double by John O’Dwyer on a Noel McGrath line ball, led 1-11 to 0-8.
By half-time, that gap was reduced to just two points (1-11 to 1-9) and there was a touch of good fortune about it from a Kilkenny perspective, with a harsh penalty awarded against Tipperary full-back Padraic Maher just before the break, when he in fact looked to be the victim of a charge by Mark Kelly.
The second half was again helter skelter, fortunes swaying from one side to the other. Again Kilkenny had a penalty, this one more clear cut, with TJ Reid perfecting the controversial Anthony Nash style with a rocket struck from around the 13m line.
That score brought the teams back to level pegging (2-11 to 1-14) but Kilkenny were looking marginally the better side as they edged ahead entering the final minutes.
Unlucky as Tipperary may have been with some of the calls against them early on (it wasn’t just the penalty; Colin Fennelly had a dodgy point awarded, Cathal Barrett a foul which was pointed called against him for what looked a super bit of defending against Henry Shefflin), they were decidedly fortunate to draw level. Referee James Owens allowed play to continue into a fifth minute of added time when three had been signalled, Bonner Maher setting up Kieran Bergin for an equaliser greeted by a huge roar from the home support in the 21,601 crowd.
Into the first period of extra-time then and still these two heavyweights were at full steam, toe-to-toe, blow for blow, just a point between them at the break, Kilkenny leading 2-21 to 1-23.
Again though, controversy, was a Noel McGrath shot in the 79th minute inside the post? Certainly Noel felt it was and TV replays seemed to confirm that view. No matter. Into those fateful last seconds it was game again tied, game still on, still there to be won.
And those seconds were what really decided the destination of this league title, that little bit of magic, those final seconds gave us a glimpse of what separates this team from so many others.
It started with an error. Tipp keeper Darren Gleeson had done all that was required of him and came out from goal to take what everyone expected would be another long free to land in around the Kilkenny red zone. Gleeson though opted for a gutsier call, an attempted lob over a clatter of players to the waiting James Barry on the right sideline. Had it come off, it may have been a stroke of genius, a league-winner. It failed, went over the sideline and put Tipp on the back foot.
Seconds later, another sideline, and with TJ Reid set up as though to go for the point. Everyone backed off. And that’s when it happened. A sucker-punch, a one-two with ever-alert man of the match Richie Hogan to solo in from the wing to hit the winner.
From the training ground, Brian Cody?
"Oh, straight off the training ground, and it was from my playbook as well," he laughed. "No, I’ve never seen it before. It was good thinking, it was clever and it was good composure just to give it to Richie and to give it back to him. If it hadn’t gone over the bar the final whistle was going, so it was a very, very well worked score, there’s no doubt about that."
No doubt either but that over the last 15 years hurling fans have been witnessing something really special.
Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid (2-11, 2-0 pens, 8fs, 1 65), R Hogan (0-6), R Power (0-3, 1f), M Fennelly, P Walsh (0-2 each), C Fennelly (0-1).
Scorers for Tipperary: S Callanan (0-10, 8fs, 1 65), J O’Dwyer (1-3), N McGrath (0-5, 1 s/l), K Bergin, D Maher, N O’Meara (0-2 each), J Woodlock, S Bourke, Patrick Maher (0-1 each).
Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, JJ Delaney (c), B Kennedy; J Holden, J Tyrrell, C Buckley; M Fennelly, P Walsh; R Hogan, C Fennelly, TJ Reid; R Power, M Kelly, H Shefflin.
Subs for Kilkenny: L Ryan for Holden (29), W Walsh for Kelly (43), E Larkin for C Fennelly (60), C Fennelly for Shefflin (74), K Joyce for Kennedy (86).
Tipperary: D Gleeson; C Barrett, Padraic Maher, M Cahill; J Barry, B Maher (c), C O’Mahony; K Bergin, J Woodlock; D Maher, Patrick Maher, J O’Dwyer; N McGrath, S Callanan, N O’Meara.
Subs for Tipperary: G Ryan for D Maher (54), S McGrath for Woodlock (62), J O’Brien for Callanan (66), S Callanan for O’Brien (76), J O’Brien for O’Dwyer (80), J O’Dwyer for Bourke (88). Blood: T Stapleton for B Maher (45/46).
Referee: J Owens (Wexford).