Ferocious Cats call the shots yet again

Kilkenny 2-17 Tipperary 2-14
Another All-Ireland but another kind of brilliant by Kilkenny.

Like their corresponding aristocrats in football Kerry last week, here Brian Cody’s men were more artisan in their ways yet their class remained.

The margin was three points but the difference was starker. After Tipperary spoiled a host of early first-half goal chances, Kilkenny dictated the pace of the fare in front of 81,753 onlookers. They achieved that with a ferocity of effort that their opponents could not match with the same consistency.

Cody looked on and marvelled. He didn’t want another shoot-out. His charges followed the script. “I thought the standard of defending was on a level that was very difficult to see because the closing down and the blocking that was done, the game had not gone 30 seconds when we had got in three blocks at both ends of the field. That typifies for me what hurling is about because that is one of the best skills of all in the game. It is not too difficult to play when you have the ball in lots of ways. When you don’t have the ball you have to try and make sure you get it back.”

Pulverising is an appropriate word to describe how effective the Kilkenny rearguard were. Seamus Callanan found the net twice but his attack was restricted to just four points from play. Kieran Joyce’s exquisite marking job on Patrick “Bonner” Maher had a lot to do with it, as did the roles of his flankers Padraic Walsh and Cillian Buckley.

The Kilkenny defence did, though, dice with death on more than one occasion in the first half. Looking back on them now, those goal-defying tackles were characteristic of their guts and ultimate glory. Hunting in packs, they bunched Tipperary’s forwards and constricted them mercilessly.

However, it was two second-half goals courtesy of the Power brothers which set Kilkenny on their way. Richie was first up, fetching a high sideline ball, sprinting then beating Darren Gleeson who had earlier made a couple of top drawer saves.

That came in the 59th minute. A Callanan free followed to cut Kilkenny’s advantage to three but it was doubled in the 63rd minute when younger sibling John capitalised on a deflected shot and doubled the ball to the net from close range.

Callanan had a half-chance snuffed out shortly afterwards and John O’Dwyer followed up with a 65 only for Padraic Walsh to dart forward and dissect the posts from long range. Brendan Maher returned a point to bring the margin to five and then Callanan goaled as he took receipt of Patrick “Bonner” Maher’s deflected goalbound strike. However, a most unlikely equalising goal was beyond Tipperary.

Kilkenny had set the tone for the second half with five unanswered scores in a five-minute burst to turn a two-point deficit at the break into a three-point lead. The advantage was theirs for the remainder of the game, Tipperary getting to within a point on two occasions.

A harsh penalty call against Kilkenny in the 56th minute threatened to upset their rhythm, Brian Gavin determining man of the match Joyce had tripped Bonner Maher. Callanan, after having one of two saved in the drawn game, opted for a point.

That brought a Tipperary side living on scraps to within a point of their opponents but then Kilkenny struck for the first of two goals to cement their superiority in general play on the scoreboard.

Before Callanan’s first-half goal, Tipperary had stood guilty of being too greedy, gunning for goal when points were on. JJ Delaney might have been beaten for pace when Callanan screamed past him in the 18th minute but his nous to hook the Tipperary forward was exquisite.

“As we are so often told, our defenders are slow, and JJ Delaney who at this stage can’t run,” shrugged Cody. “To get back and hook, he is a natural speed merchant… but we have worked a lot on speed with the boys and to keep them quick. You got to know what you are writing about when you are writing those things. You want to realise that it doesn’t work like that.”

It was typical of the last-ditch Kilkenny defending that contributed to Tipperary being in arrears from the 11th minute to the 28th minute when Callanan squeezed a ball past Eoin Murphy after Lar Corbett had fed him after soloing towards the goal.

If the quality of scores counted for anything, Tipperary would have been much further ahead than two points, 1-7 to 0-8, at the break. An O’Dwyer Hail Mary from the wing was something special but Shane McGrath’s hat-trick of points was an incredible ensemble. He opened the scoring with a bolt of a shot and finished the first half’s scoring with another awesome strike in the 35th minute.

“I felt we played okay,” said Eamon O’Shea of his Tipperary side. “We started off well again, and then they came into again. But it was a very intense game, with a lot more mistakes than the last day, from both teams. We were happy enough to be up at half-time, and I thought we were in a reasonable good position.

“But they certainly got a run on us, and just dominated for that period. I suppose we didn’t fully recover. We really battled hard, to stay in the game. But we were operating on bits and pieces.”

Kilkenny had a goal disallowed in the 26th minute when TJ Reid was adjudged to have entered Gleeson’s square before Eoin Murphy’s free, which found the net, had entered the area. It was the closest they got to a goal in the opening period but what followed was a different story entirely.

Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid (0-5, frees); R Power (0-1 free), J Power (1-1 each); C Fennelly (0-3); R Hogan, M Fennelly, E Larkin (0-2 each); P Walsh (0-1).

Scorers for Tipperary: S Callanan (2-5, 0-4 frees, 0-1 pen); S McGrath, J O’Dwyer (0-1 65) (0-3 each); N McGrath (0-2); B Maher (0-1).

KILKENNY: E Murphy; K Joyce, JJ Delaney, P Walsh; P Murphy, J Tyrrell, C Buckley; M Fennelly, C Fogarty; C Fennelly, R Hogan, E Larkin; TJ Reid, R Power, J Power.

Subs for Kilkenny: J Holden for J Tyrrell (16-18, blood); J Holden for JJ Delaney (35+1 to h-t, blood); H Shefflin for R Hogan (57); L Ryan for M Fennelly (67).

TIPPERARY: D Gleeson; C Barrett, J Barry, P Stapleton; B Maher, Pádraic Maher, K Bergin; S McGrath, J Woodlock; G Ryan, J O’Dwyer, L Corbett; N McGrath, S Callanan, Patrick “Bonner” Maher.

Subs for Tipperary: M Cahill for S McGrath (56); C O’Mahony for G Ryan (64); S Bourke for L Corbett (65); J Forde for N McGrath (67); J O’Brien for J O’Dwyer (70).

Referee: B Gavin (Offaly).


The Skin Nerd: Glass skin- a trend or unattainable fantasy?

Rocking it: Jennifer Rock on family, the Nerd Network and how to love your skin

More From The Irish Examiner