No losers, just winners and survivors from epic scorefest

A veteran of the French Revolution was once asked, years after the savage conflict had ended, what exactly he had done in those turbulent years.

The response was blunt and accurate: “I survived.”

When the smoke cleared and detonations ceased yesterday in Croke Park there was a similar sensation.

Tipperary and Kilkenny had battered each other to a draw, the third All-Ireland final deadlock in a row, a game that was combative and classy, elemental and elegant all at once, but making sense of the maelstrom came a distant second to simply accounting for the narrative sequence.

And its ending, most of all.

With time practically up and the game level, Kilkenny’s Brian Hogan was called for charging in the Tipp half – correctly, to this observer’s eye.

Tipperary’s John O’Dwyer had been connecting with the ball as well as anyone in a game which featured superbly clean striking from several players. He volunteered for a shot at immortality and made good contact with the free, raising a fist in the air as it dropped at the Canal End goal.

Hawk-Eye disagreed, though.

The computer graphic flashed on the big screens in the stadium showed O’Dwyer’s free had drifted wide right just as it seemed about to make the Killenaule man the most popular man in the Premier: see you all in three weeks’ time.

The experience of the last two years of draws has conditioned not just officials, trainers, players and managers for replays; us casual observers know what we need to extract from the evidence gathered up in the drawn games to serve as pointers to the next day.

Tipperary will wake this morning, for instance, wondering how many goals they left behind them in Croke Park.

A conservative estimate would be four, not counting two penalties which were saved (thus sparking an entirely different debate on whether the new penalty system is a sufficient punishment for fouling close to goal).

Reasons to be cheerful, as Ian Drury used to say.

In the black and amber corner the positives were more personalised: the mesmerising displays of TJ Reid, Richie Hogan and Richie Power, whose first touch for his second goal could have sweetened an espresso.

Are we saying Tipp for the tactics, Kilkenny for the men? Slow down, Tonto. Auden said you should never confuse authenticity, which you ought always to aim for, with originality, which you should never bother about.

Tipp and Kilkenny stayed true to that dictum yesterday: the Cats’ beliefs about honesty and work-rate were rewarded. Tipp’s drive to make space near the opposition goal also bore fruit. They were both aiming for authenticity of effort; the originality of expression came as a bonus.

Less of the poetry and more of the predictions? Well, Kilkenny have the advantage of the replay win over Galway in 2012 to draw on, which will surely be a big aid to their preparations for the 27th?

“Ah, I don’t know does it help,” said Cats boss Brian Cody, who was at his impassive best yesterday after the game. “I’m sure they’re more than capable of preparing properly for the replay.

“It’s their way of doing it and our way of doing it and there’s no magic in it, you know. We played a semi-final today and you have to play a final in three weeks’ time in some ways. That’s where we’re at except you’re going back to play the same team again.”

Eamon O’Shea was equally focused on the two teams’ next encounter: “Looking forward, to be honest, to the next day.

“When you are involved in a game like that you don’t . . . look, from my perspective you are just trying to win the game right to the end.

“You don’t get a chance to get too emotional about it, so I am just looking forward to the next day.”

Cody did address the matter of goal chances: “It say a lot about the quality and the skill in the game and the skill of the players. To create the goal chances first, the ball has to be won and a lot of players in the field capable of winning that original ball whether it’s on the ground or in the sky.

“Then to lay it off and all . . . so there was a lot of skill on both teams and certainly there were a lot of goal chances created.”

He was correct. Though Gearóid Ryan, Seamus Callanan and Lar Corbett all had opportunities to make the net dance for the Premier, at the other end the Fennelly brothers of Ballyhale twice almost created irresistible overlaps, only for the last assist to go astray in what looked suspiciously like over-elaboration.

Expect directness to be the dominant lesson in those Nowlan Park sermons over the next few evenings.

For all that, Kilkenny are clearly not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, as the old poem has it. Yesterday wasn’t a game where either team luxuriated in a healthy lead at any stage — Tipperary’s six-point lead after ‘Bonner’ Maher’s first-half goal was as good as it got — and the Cats needed TJ Reid to improvise a goal for Richie Power to stop the rot.

The Cats will ponder the success they enjoyed attacking the Tipperary D in the second half, and they will also note how that success coincided with the move of Richie Hogan to the half-forward line, preoccupying Padraic Maher.

That leads us to one of Tipp’s challenges for the next day: delivering the kind of quality ball to O’Dwyer, Callanan and Corbett which enabled them to thrive, and which helped Tipp to hit the last four points in a row as the clock wound down.

That’s the beauty of a draw like yesterday’s. There’s always some grounds for belief that you’ll do better than just survive the next day.


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