A STROLL in the park for Kilkenny, literally!
Yet again the All-Ireland champions turned on the style as only they can, this time against the Allianz NHL holders in Nowlan Park yesterday. Understandably for a mid-March fixture it didn’t match the perfection of their display last September, but it was a delight to witness nonetheless.
Afterwards Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy said his team had learned more in the game than they had in going through last year’s campaign unbeaten. At the same time, he conceded that two heavy training sessions earlier in the week had possibly “taken the edge” off them.
It was clear from an early stage that Brian Cody’s team was highly motivated by the memory of an eight-points defeat in the League semi-final 12 months ago.
“They beat us here and they beat us pretty well,’’ he said. “Any lads who were playing would be looking at themselves and saying, ‘we’ll try and win this one, we don’t want that to happen again, especially in our own pitch.’ That’s the nature of sport, that works for all teams.’’
In explaining how they established a foothold in the game – two of their five goals came inside six minutes – Cody felt that it was all down to confidence.
“Things which normally wouldn’t come off for you ‘come off’ and you get on to a bit of a run like that. We needed it because in the second half we dropped our standards a lot. We had a big cushion.
“I suppose deep down fellows kind of presume they are not going to lose that big a lead.’’
Acknowledging the strength of the challenge they faced, the Tipp boss commented: “The Kilkenny wind was blowing very strong today and we had no answer. We can’t gloss it up. We were overpowered.
“They have a habit of doing this. They seem to have awesomeness in them that the rest of us don’t have and I’m being honest about it. They just came at us in the first half and went for the jugular with the goals and got the goals.’’
Apart from the speed with which they were scored, what was especially notable about the goals from Martin Comerford in the second minute and Aidan Fogarty four minutes later was the clinical nature of the finishing. In both cases they ran at Brendan Cummins at pace and placed the ball to the corner of the net, giving him absolutely no chance.
Furthermore, both came from moves initiated by defensive clearances by James Ryall and Jackie Tyrrell respectively.
One element of Kilkenny’s play which really impressed was their support play, as well as an easy facility to link up with the front players through pin-point striking. For instance, Tommy Walsh set up Richie Hogan and Eddie Brennan for two marvellous points.
Missing Henry Shefflin (who cried off due to flu) and several other first-choice players, Kilkenny were getting huge performances from the like of James Ryall at left-half back and, further forward, from TJ Ryan and Richie Hogan on the left flank of their defence.
They won possession almost at will, even at midfield where Allstar Shane McGrath was strangely subdued for the visitors and was replaced during the break. By then, Kilkenny were 20 points clear, 5-9 to 0-4, and the referee could very well have blown the final whistle.
Tipperary resumed with three changes, one of which saw Micheal Webster operate at full-forward. To his credit he gave more life to the attack, while there was also an improvement in defence. Webster also got his team’s only goal, nine minutes from time.
Kilkenny had lost their momentum a long time before that, but they still finished the stronger over the last ten minutes — delighting their supporters, who had given them a standing ovation at half-time.
Scorers for Kilkenny: M. Comerford 3-2; TJ Reid 1-2; A. Fogarty 1-1; R. Hogan 0-5 (0-1 free); R. Power (0-2 frees) and, E. Brennan 0-2 each; M. Rice, M. Grace and D. Fogarty 0-1 each.
Scorers for Tipperary: M. Webster 1-0; S. Callanan (0-2 frees) and S. Hennessy 0-3 each; C. O’Mahony (0-1 free, 0-1 ‘65) and J. O’Brien 0-2 each; N. McGrath and J. Woodlock 0-1 each.
KILKENNY: P.J. Ryan; M. Kavanagh, B. Hogan, J. Tyrrell; T. Walsh, J. Tennyson, J. Ryall; M. Fennelly, M. Rice; M. Comerford, E. Brennan, T.J. Reid; R. Hogan, R. Power, A. Fogarty.
Subs: M. Grace for Power (ht); D. Herrity for Ryan (44th); *D. Fogarty for Fennelly (yc 51st); E. Larkin for Brennan (58th); S. Cummins for Walsh (62nd).
TIPPERARY: B. Cummins; C. O’Brien, D. Fanning, P. Curran; B. Dunne, C. O’Mahony, (capt.), D. Fitzgerald; B. Maher. S. McGrath; N. McGrath, S. Callanan, J. Woodlock; T. Scroope, J. O’Brien, P. Kelly.
Subs: S. Maher for Dunne, G. Ryan for Fitzgerald and M. Webster for S. McGrath (ht); S. Hennessy for Kelly (inj 41st); P. Maher for Callanan (62).
Referee: C. McAllister (Cork).
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