Kilkenny 0-20 Tipperary 1-14
Henry Shefflin returned to action for Kilkenny as the All-Ireland champions beat bitter rivals Tipperary by three points in a rip-roaring All-Ireland SHC phase 2 qualifier at Nowlan Park this evening.
23,207 specators packed the city venue to witness a cracking encounter which saw Kilkenny through to a clash with Waterford next Saturday.
And the Cats produced yet another remarkable display despite a raft of injuries.
Inspirational midfielder Michael Fennelly didn’t play and TJ Reid succumbed to a hamstring injury in the first half.
But Paul Murphy did make it and the corner back was magnificent for the Noresiders.
And the return of Shefflin, with five minutes remaining, brought a massive cheer from the Kilkenny hordes.
Playing for the first time this year, the nine-time All-Ireland SHC medallist laid on a late score for Richie Power as Kilkenny finished strong.
Tipp’s old failings returned to haunt them as they struggled for primary possession in the half-forward line.
The loss of full-back Paul Curran to a hamstring injury before throw-in was a massive setback and goalscorer Lar Corbett limped off before half-time.
Corbett had netted in the 15th minute but he pulled a hamstring and was replaced by Seamus Callanan in the 29th minute.
That was a crippling blow for Tipp as 2010 Hurler of the Year Corbett had been motoring well.
He scored the goal and also won two frees converted by leading scorer Eoin Kelly.
But Tipp generally struggled for scores and Kilkenny mopped up so much loose ball in the second half.
By the 23rd minute, Tipp led by four points, 1-5 to 0-4, but Kilkenny’s response was superb as they hit five points without reply.
The sides were level at half-time – 1-6 to 0-9 – in sweltering conditions but Tipp opened the second half in encouraging fashion.
And a critical turning point came when Kelly saw an inviting goal chance saved by Kilkenny defender JJ Delaney in the 41st minute.
Tipp had already shot two bad wides in the second half, with Callanan and Kelly off target, and Kelly pulled the resultant 65 wide to compound the Premier County’s misery.
Kilkenny’s leading scorer Eoin Larkin – who hit ten of his eleven points from frees – tied the game at 0-11 to 1-8 before Richie Hogan and Tipp’s John O’Dwyer exchanged points.
That tied the scores for the seventh time but once Kilkenny hit the front through Larkin’s 50th minute free, they could not be caught.
Tipp sub Jason Forde threatened to bag a Tipp goal in the 53rd minute but he was crowded out by a ferociously hungry Kilkenny defence.
And Kilkenny responded in kind through Matthew Ruth – one of three players introduced before throw-in – but he saw his fierce drive well saved by Tipp goalkeeper Brendan Cummins.
Ruth, Murphy and Reid were brought into Brian Cody’s starting line-up – with Conor Fogarty, Michael Rice and Aidan Fogarty dropping out of the team released on Thursday evening.
And Cody, once again, was vindicated by his team selection as they roared to a sweet victory against the neighbours.
E Larkin 0-11 (10f), R Hogan & W Walsh 0-3 each, R Power 0-2, C Fennelly 0-1.
E Kelly 0-5 (4f, 1 65), L Corbett 1-0, J O’Dwyer 0-3, S Callanan 0-2, N McGrath, J O’Brien, J Woodlock & K Bergin 0-1 each.
E Murphy; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, K Joyce; L Ryan, E Larkin; C Fennelly, R Power, M Ruth; TJ Reid, W Walsh, R Hogan.
G Aylward for Reid (21), A Fogarty for Aylward (53), H Shefflin for Ruth (65).
B Cummins; C O’Brien, P Stapleton, M Cahill; B Maher, C O’Mahony, Pádraic Maher; J Woodlock, S McGrath; Patrick Maher, N McGrath, J O’Brien; J O’Dwyer, E Kelly, L Corbett.
S Callanan for Corbett (inj, 29), K Bergin for S McGrath (h.t.), J Forde for Patrick Maher (52), G Ryan for J O’Brien (54), B O’Meara for Kelly (64).
Brian Gavin (Offaly)