Classy Cats maul Tipperary

Kilkenny 3-18 Tipperary 2-16

Even more incredible, had Lar Corbett managed to find Ger Redser O'Grady, standing in splendid isolation about 10 yards from the Kilkenny goal, with a last-minute hand-pass, there would have been just two points between the teams at the finish in Nowlan Park.

Competitive? You'd find more bite in a nursery.

For the first 15 minutes this was a contest, as Tipp went in search of the win which, results elsewhere going their way, would have put them in the League final and a repeat match-up with Kilkenny, already virtually assured of their place. The visitors led 1-3 to 0-5 at the end of that quarter, their goal well-taken by centre-forward Francis Devanney. But that's when the wheels started to fall off for Tipp, and surprisingly, it began at the back. Paul Curran, Phillip Maher and Hugh Moloney have been looking a solid unit of late - not yesterday.

Richie Power, Henry Shefflin and DJ Carey represent three generations of Kilkenny forward power; all three in the full-forward line had their markers under severe pressure in the first half. Henry was the only one of the three to end up on the scoreboard, 1-6 to his credit in that half, but veteran DJ and youngster Power also did a share of damage - further testimony to the vagaries of the scoreboard as a witness to performance.

Goal opportunities? They were coming by the bagfull, some of those thanks to Kilkenny skill and enterprise, some by way of windfall, gifts from that stuttering Tipp defence. Indeed, their three goals all came from the Tipp errors.

At the break, it was 2-10 to 2-4, and it could have been a lot more. The first 15 minutes after the restart offered redemption for Tipperary, but where the inside line of defence had let them down in the first period, now it was the turn of the attack. Seven wides they shot in that quarter, Benny Dunne - who actually had a decent game overall - with three of those. Had those gone over, one never knows what might have happened.

But there are concerns for Tipperary generally, the full-back line in particular. "We must put our hands up. There was a lot of pressure down there, they got two 21s, it was like target-practice for Henry and DJ," said coach Ken Hogan. "We learned a valuable lesson out there, you cannot lose possession in front of goals at this level. I'm sure Kilkenny themselves would admit, the three goals they got, we actually had possession and the ball was given away. The lads have put their hands up, schoolboy errors. That's something we'll have to banish for the championship, we cannot concede simple goals, three points, a huge boost to the opposition."

One bright bit of news for Hogan, the form of the returning Lar Corbett. Set up one goal, scored another, this was a very promising display. "He's been working hard for the last couple of months, in the gym, getting right. This is actually his first competitive game of this year; Conor O'Mahony also did well, coming in." For Kilkenny manager Brian Cody, a lot of positives, but with a little balance. "We created an awful lot of chances, but I think we conceded too much, we allowed them to stay in touch with handy frees. Overall, though, any time you can beat Tipperary, you have to be satisfied."

Particularly promising for Kilkenny, ominous for all other counties, is the form of newcomers Jackie Tyrell, Brian Barry, Eoin Larkin and Richie Power. "They're getting a few games under their belts and it's good experience for them, good exposure. Some of their hurling is very good, definitely, but we have serious competition for places, and we're trying to keep it like that. The lads know if they get the chance they have to take it."

With Clare also booking a final place, it offers an early opportunity for Kilkenny to avenge their only loss in this year's League.

"Clare are the real form team in the League," reckons Cody. "They played us up here, wiped us out. They've had a fantastic run over the last number of weeks, playing very serious hurling. They gave us two serious games last year (All-Ireland quarter-final), we were put to the pin of our collar to win that one. They have massive experience in the team, they've retained their appetite."

Scorers: Kilkenny: E. Larkin 2-4; H. Shefflin 1-6 (0-2 frees); M. Comerford 0-3; J. Ryall 0-3; E. McCormack, B. Barry (free), 0-1 each.

Tipperary: E. Kelly 0-9 (0-1 65, 0-4 frees, 0-2 sideline); L. Corbett 1-1; F. Devanney 1-0; B. Dunne 0-2 (0-1 free); J. Devane, T. Dunne, G. O'Grady, P. Kelly, 0-1 each.

KILKENNY: J. McGarry; M. Kavanagh, N. Hickey, J. Tyrell (c); R. Mullally, B. Hogan, JJ Delaney; B. Barry, J. Ryall; M. Comerford, E. Larkin, T. Walsh; R. Power, DJ Carey, H. Shefflin.

Subs: M. Phelan (Kavanagh 35); K. Coogan (Mullally inj. 59); E. McCormack (Power 59); J. Fitzpatrick (Barry 59); J. Hoyne (Carey 65).

TIPPERARY: B. Cummins; P. Curran, P. Maher, H. Moloney; D. Fanning, E. Corcoran, D. Fitzpatrick; T. Slevin, B. Dunne (c); M. O'Leary, F. Devanney, J. Devane; E. Kelly, D. Egan, L. Corbett.

Subs: T. Dunne (Egan 41); G. O'Grady (O'Leary 46); C. O'Mahony (Slevin 48); E. Buckley (Moloney 59); P. Kelly (Devane 66).

Referee: J. Sexton (Limerick).

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