The rivalry has defined so much of this decade it shouldn’t be surprising that the players and their skills have done so too. But then it would be remiss not to include other Kilkenny and Tipperary stars from previous generations who performed artistry they became synonymous with.
With some help from hurling writer PM Sullivan, we list some of the trademarks moves that some of these two counties’ greatest hurlers have and continue to produce:
Jackie Tyrrell. Execution: Over-the-shoulder toss and twist
A piece of skill that the corner-back had perfected by the late 2000s. Predominantly left-sided, Tyrrell would gather the ball on his right side and feign to clear only to toss the ball over his shoulder and meet it on his left. It required precision but we can’t recall the defender ever missing it or being blocked or hooked.
John Leahy. Execution: The drop shot
Leahy says he only used this when his marker was gnawing at him and he wanted to humiliate him (while was also a great way of avoiding being hooked). That few extra seconds milliseconds before beginning his downswing often meant his opponent’s attempt was mistimed and he could get the ball away. The lower delivery in front of the full-forward line was gratefully received too.
DJ Carey. Execution: The skimmer
The Young Irelands man never demonstrated this better than in the 2002 All-Ireland final when his footwork bamboozled Ollie Baker and he continued his solo before cutting across the ball to produce that customary, low trajectory.
When it came to point-scoring, there was never any showboating from Carey, his efforts so often economical with many landing on top of the goalkeeper’s net. There were few if any better to have played the game but certainly nobody, not even a goalkeeper, had better
distance control than Carey.
Nicky English. Execution: The long roll free
At a time when pitches were improving, the roll and lift style of free-taking superseded the jab lift in the 1980s but English took it to another level. Such was the consternation about his method of free-taking that there were claims he was fouling the sliotar by balancing it so long on his hurley - we can recall a debate on once on The Sunday Game. DJ Carey followed in his footsteps before everyone got in on the act.
Eddie Brennan. Execution: The stooper
The greatest goal-getter of his generation, Brennan’s ability to capture ball so low to the ground was one of his sharpest skills. His ability to generate speed from such a crouched starting position while catching a hopping ball or jab lifting it made a mockery of many a corner-back.
John Leahy. Execution: Pass to himself
A second entry for the Mullinahone man but a most deserved one for a trick he pulled off a few times. Kevin Broderick’s score against Kilkenny in the 2001 All-Ireland semi-final is considered one of the greatest scores in a decider as he flipped the ball over Eamonn Kennedy’s head and collected it on the other side to continue his solo before pointing.
But in terms of great feats in retaining possession, Leahy’s score against Galway a year earlier has to figure. Receiving the ball from Paul Shelly, he lured Cathal Moore into thinking he was going to shoot off his left only to slice it up to himself behind the Galway centre-back to fire over a point off his right.
Walter Walsh. Execution: The hopping solo
There are few more menacing images than 6ft5in, 15st4lb Walsh on the run and his left over right preference make his almost as awkward as threatening. When so many like keeping the sliotar quiet on the bás, Walsh is so comfortable with his hand-eye coordination and control that he doesn’t mind it hopping as he marauds.
Ronan Maher. Execution: The long-range sideline cut
We haven’t seen many of them from the Thurles Sarsfields man this year - the right-sided one against Waterford does come to mind, though. But last year he landed a monster in the Division 1 quarter-final v Limerick having converted a tasty effort in the Division 1, Round 2 game v Waterford.
In a top 10 sideline cutters, Maher would be high not just for his accuracy but superior range. As for the other nine? We would suggest Joe Canning, Mark Coleman, Peter Duggan, Jason Forde, Austin Gleeson, Noel McGrath, Darragh O’Donovan, John O’Dwyer and TJ Reid.
Colin Fennelly. Execution: The rub hop
A move that is almost as popular now as the ground hop to restart possession by hopping the ball on the ground in the hope of regathering. The player disguises the rub as a hop on the hurley. Goalkeepers like it a lot but of the outfield players who enjoy it most Fennelly is up there. Some referees believe it to be a foul .
Seamus Callanan. Execution: The out-to-in wield
He mightn’t have the prettiest free-taking technique in the world but Callanan may just be the most difficult player to hook in the game because of his backswing, wielding it away from his body to create a bigger arc and then cutting across the sliotar.
Look at his goals this year and that distinctive move is there each time, right up to the ground stroke against Wexford in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Brian Cody. Execution: The hand-spit
We’re taking licence here but the Kilkenny manager’s act of spitting on his hands and rubbing them before throw-in and during the game has become a hallmark of his. Nothing indicates he’s down to business more than that. His signature celebration? The jig with arms aloft and maybe a look to the heavens.
Liam Sheedy. Execution: The time-keep
A little more licence but you’ll allow it for the weekend that’s in it. Mick O’Dwyer’s prop was the rolled match programme; Sheedy’s is the stopwatch. His signature celebration? A turn to the crowd behind him with clenched fists and a cry of “Woo”.