DONAL O'GRADY: Cats’ compressed defence stood up to every test

The second half decided this contest in Nowlan Park.

Kilkenny outscored Tipperary by 11 points to seven while the losers failed to score in the last five minutes. Converted frees proved critical on the night. Kilkenny’s Eoin Larkin, playing well at midfield, hit six (10 overall) from frees while Tipperary scored just one as Kilkenny’s discipline coughed up only two scoreable chances. Their forwards forced Tipp defenders into some frees but over the course of the game some of Tipperary’s indiscretions were needless.

The game turned five minutes into the second half. Eoin Kelly received a pass from James Woodlock but the pass forced Kelly more right than he would have liked and his fierce drive was straight at the perfectly positioned Kilkenny ‘keeper Eoin Murphy. If Kelly had taken a step towards the goal an open rightside gap would have been available. Following on closely from a missed free, this save was the most significant factor in Tipp’s defeat.

The Premier would have forged a five-point lead if the misses were converted. This would have given them the impetus for victory but championship hurling is about converting chances. Tipperary supporters will also point to the loss of Lar Corbett with a hamstring injury as a huge blow. He had scored a goal and was busy and effective causing Paul Murphy, who played a starring role subsequently, a good deal of concern.

Kilkenny’s half backline had been good in the first period and their defence, playing as a compressed unit, were outstanding in the second half — as Tipp’s had been before the break.

The visitors had no real supply tactics, hitting in a lot of hopeful ball which was hoovered up by the home defence. Tipp’s puckout strategy which landed most deliveries on top of their opponent’s withdrawn half backline played into Kilkenny’s hands allowing them to build a foundation for victory. The Premier lost seven in a row from their first eight puck outs in this half and crucially lost four of their last five. Kilkenny’s Walter Walsh and Richie Power dropped back into midfield in the final quarter making the necessary space for colleagues to create the chances that drove them home.


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