DONAL O'GRADY: Why Tipperary will always feel stinging regret

1. The Kilkenny penalty decision.

THIS game turned on one incident; the penalty decision by referee Diarmuid Kirwan eight minutes from the end of normal time.

Richie Power won the ball a metre or so outside the 13-metre line and drove across Padraic Maher, who fouled him by putting his arm around his neck.

From my vantage point in the stand, I felt that Maher had release him as Power crossed into the large parallelogram. If the advantage rule was being played, no free could then have been awarded, or alternatively, he could have called the play back for a 20-metre free.

There was also the question of Power over-carrying the ball. The ref, of course, has a different view as he is level with the players on the pitch, and I had the advantage of being high up in the Hogan Stand.

The ref also sees the game in real time and was very decisive in giving the penalty, which was expertly put away by Henry Shefflin.

At the end of the first half Tipp boss Liam Sheedy went over to Kirwan and had some words with him as he left the field. I’ve written in the past that refereeing decisions are crucial in tight games, and this one was no exception.

2. Benny Dunne’s sending off. BENNY Dunne has had a positive impact on every game for Tipp this year when introduced, but he’ll remember yesterday’s game for his rush of blood, striking across Tommy Walsh.

Referee Kirwan made the correct decision, and had no option but to show a red card.

Tipp were going well at the time, and Kilkenny were struggling in a few positions. Walsh fouled Dunne as the ball was dropping, pushing him from behind, but the ref failed to spot it, and Benny’s injudicious pull – out of character in a tough, physical game – left Tipp a man short at a crucial stage.

Tipp upped their game and Noel McGrath hit a super point from the sideline as a response – though the Premier had hit some aimless ball up field before that – but once the goals went in, Tipp had a mountain to climb.

In the last five minutes Kilkenny were a different team, as those goals released the pressure. They began to find the gaps up front as Tipp’s huge defensive effort told, and with an extra man, Kilkenny’s defence was more than solid.

Tipp rolled the dice one last time with Micheal Webster but Kilkenny gave away frees to stop play developing, with Shefflin picking up a yellow card. What Tipp would have done with 15 players is academic at this stage.

3. PJ Ryan’s display. I WROTE on Saturday that it was difficult to judge PJ Ryan’s prowess as a goalkeeper because he’s had so little to do over the years.

We found out yesterday that he’s an excellent shot-stopper and his display was the main reason – along with the penalty – that Kilkenny secured their four-in-a-row.

Tipp were rampant early in the second half, but missed two easy point chances, a 65, and a poor wide by John O’Brien. They were coming in waves, and Seamus Callanan was put through on goal with a fine ball from Noel McGrath. There seemed more room on Ryan’s right but Callanan struck for the other side. Ryan’s save was top-class.

If Tipp had scored that goal it might have set them up for victory, as it would have rocked Kilkenny in that crucial period just after half-time.

In the 45th minute Eoin Kelly, Tipp’s primary goalscorer, was played through and found himself with a gaping goal; unluckily for Kelly he slipped as he struck the ball.

He might have been advised to take another step to steady himself but his low shot, bound for the corner, was expertly saved by Ryan.

If either of those chances had gone in Tipp could well be All-Ireland champions but such is sport. Once Kilkenny – who spurned goal chances in the first half – got their goals late on, they drove on for their four in a row.


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