Kilkenny 2-17 Tipperary 0-18: LIKE a child proud of the time and effort put into making a sandcastle, Tipperary stood tall after 67 minutes only for Kilkenny to kick it down.
A rushed attempt to rebuild it was quickly reduced to mushy rubble when Kevin Kelly pounced for his second goal in less than six minutes to make it a 10th win over Tipperary in their 13 games since the 2010 All-Ireland final.
This wasn’t vintage Kilkenny but looking at the scoreboard and how they lost a lead they had held for the vast majority of the game it may be deduced that this was typical Tipperary against Kilkenny. Yesterday will only add more fuel to the theory they have a mental hang-up when they engage with their neighbours.
Until such time as they beat Kilkenny in a game of consequence (Kilkenny were severely weakened in last year’s league fixture) or at least put back-to-back wins against them, that question will hover over them.
Here, for long it appeared they would be joining Waterford at the top of the Division 1A table. Although they held a slender 0-9 to 0-8 half-time lead having enjoyed a wind advantage, they led by three points in the second minute of the second half and went ahead by two points on three different occasions thereafter.
In the context of the result, the goal opportunities they missed will haunt them, particularly in contrast to the two Kilkenny claimed. Tipperary may well have had found the net twice inside the first four minutes when Conor Kenny blazed over and Eoin Murphy acrobatically deflected a John O’Dwyer goal-bound shot over the bar.
Patrick “Bonner” Maher and Niall O’Meara too had sniffs of goals in the second half but both efforts were tame. The same couldn’t be said for Kelly’s brace, although but for an untimely slip by Cathal Barrett when challenging substitute Johnjo Farrell, he may not have bagged their first goal. Fed by Walsh, Farrell squared the ball to an unmarked Kelly who stroked it past Darren Gleeson and over the line.
“Cathal Barrett was unlucky, he fell. That’s clear-cut,” reviewed Tipperary manager Michael Ryan. “I wish one of their guys could have fallen. That was a two-on-one situation, it was always going to be a goal.”
The coup-de-grace second goal in the third minute of injury time was as much to do with Kelly’s fine anticipation of a breaking ball from a long puck-out as the Tipperary’s backs’ over-keenness to dispose of the ball. Unmarked again, he fired into Gleeson’s far corner and Kilkenny had delivered yet another example of impeccable timing.
“It was a good battle the whole way through,” remarked Brian Cody, “and there was never much between us and with about three or four minutes to go, we took the lead with two late goals. And two good goals, to be fair, and it was very difficult for them to come back at that stage.”
Watched by an eager 10,892 Nowlan Park crowd, Tipperary had led by four points in the 20th minute but failed to score for the final nine minutes of the first half. In that time, James Maher was finding ample space on the Kilkenny left wing and sent over the two last scores of the half.
“We had the wind advantage in the first half and I don’t think we did enough with it,” admitted Ryan, “so we were always going to have a difficult second half. It was alive... we made a couple of mistakes and they were capital mistakes, goals ensued. We were right in it; I take a lot of comfort from that. Our boys really stuck in here in a difficult game.”
Despite a point and a goal chance he shot wide, Maher, a rare U21 graduated by Cody, faded slightly in the second half but in a physical game Kilkenny’s other newbie Robert Lennon was making his presence felt at centre-back as were Walter Walsh and TJ Reid who were going toe-for-toe around the middle third with Michael Breen and James Barry.
If Brendan Maher was having bother with his namesake James, that Pádraic Maher wasn’t his usual effervescent self wasn’t as apparent as his marker Colin Fennelly also looked out of sorts. Maher’s poor clearance into Walter Walsh’s path saw Kilkenny cut the margin to one point on the hour mark. John O’Dwyer and TJ Reid swapped scores from placed balls before Kelly gave the home crowd what they so dearly wanted.
In between his goals, O’Dwyer shot over a couple of frees and Reid a terrific strike from distance but the die looked cast as soon as the green flag was raised the first time.
It’s that sense of inevitability Tipperary must rally against if they are to turn what is looking more like a tide than fending off a petulant older kid.
Scorers for Kilkenny:
TJ Reid (0-10, 6 frees, 1 65); K Kelly (2-1); J Maher (0-4); P Walsh, W Walsh (0-1 each).
Scorers for Tipperary:
J O’Dwyer (0-9, 4 frees, 2 65s); J McGrath (0-4, 1 free); C Kenny, N McGrath (0-2 each); M Breen (0-1).
E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden, S Prendergast; P Walsh, R Lennon, D Cody; L Ryan, C Fogarty; C Fennelly, TJ Reid, J Maher; W Walsh, K Kelly, J Power.
JJ Farrell for J Power, K Joyce for J Holden (both 63).
D Gleeson; C Barrett, T Hamill, M Cahill; B Maher, J Barry, Pádraic Maher; M Breen, D Quinn; D McCormack, Patrick Maher, J O’Dwyer; N McGrath, C Kenny, J McGrath.
N O’Meara for C Kenny (50); R Maher for D Quinn (52); J Meagher for Padraic Maher, A Coffey for D McCormack (both 68).
C McAllister (Cork)
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