Foretaste of some summer treats?

NOTHING I saw during that league could have prepared us for this.

I said on Saturday that finals are different, and that Tipperary would have to stand up to Kilkenny physically – you can certainly say we saw that. In fact, I didn’t expect them to be as physical as they were. Mind you, I did say I couldn’t see them winning – that’s where I was nearly wrong. Nearly, because this was really close.

All last week, the lead-up and the hype had been about one game, and one game only – the rugby match in Croke Park. What will people be talking about this week? If right is right it will again be about one game, and one game only – and I don’t mean what happened between Munster and Leinster.

This game was a great introduction to the summer, and if it’s a foretaste of what we can expect, then we could be in for a good year. What baffles me though is why didn’t the GAA market this more in the last few weeks? Why doesn’t the GAA do more promotion on their own games? Why do they rely on everyone else to do the job they should be doing themselves? To the game:

I met a Tippman from Littleton going into the game, Paddy Cooney, who told me he remembered some great games in past years between Tipperary and Kilkenny, named some great names – I bet Paddy will be talking about this one for a few years to come!

Tipperary got a dream start, two goals from James Woodlock and John O’Brien, who was picked out brilliantly with a crossfield pass from Shane McGrath. Then, within 15 minutes of the start, they lost two of their half-back line, Declan Fanning falling foul of the yellow-card experiment, Shane Maher pulling up with a hamstring injury – given that they had started without Conor O’Mahony, that’s a whole starting half-back line gone.

To their credit, they managed it well and one guy who stood out for me yesterday was the youngster who started at centre-back, Padraig Maher. That was a good move by Tipp early on, a good switch from the wing, where he was named.

There were others who stood up for Tipp yesterday, some of the youngsters who had shown such promise at underage in recent years. Paddy Stapleton, Brendan Maher, Noel McGrath, Seamus Callanan and Shane McGrath all stepped forward and showed that there is life in Tipp yet. A lot of life.

Ah, but, Kilkenny – look at who they were missing, look at who they lost during the game; Noel Hickey, Richie Power, Cha Fitzpatrick, Derek Lyng, Michael Fennelly, all missing at the start, though Cha did come in, and showed he hadn’t lost a step. Brian Hogan, Henry Shefflin, Michael Kavanagh, Martin Comerford, all lost during the course of the game, yet they still manage to withstand the Tipperary onslaught, turn things around, and pull out the win in extra-time.

LOOK at those who stepped up. People were beginning to doubt Richie Hogan, but not anymore, not after this. Aidan Fogarty was superb in the corner, TJ Reid worked his boots off all over the field, John Tennyson was outstanding when he moved to centre-back to replace Brian Hogan, especially in extra-time, Michael Grace likewise when he was introduced while midfielder Michael Rice was outstanding.

None of these are yet household names, not outside Kilkenny – they will be.

Well done to all concerned. Kilkenny won another national title yesterday under Brian Cody, but it came the old-fashioned way – they earned it. Tipperary lost nothing, in fact I would say they gained, or regained – some of the old steel that used to be such a mark of their style.

Roll on the championship, a promise of good times ahead.

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