Tipperary will bring the Liam MacCarthy Cup back to the Premier County for the first time since 2010 after an epic 2-29 to 2-20 victory over defending champions Kilkenny in the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park.
Tipperary’s Seamus Callanan was the stand out player with 0-13 as the county got revenge for the 2014 All-Ireland final when Kilkenny defeated them after a replay.
With Tipperary 0-14 to 0-12 up at half-time, the Premier county came out in the second half and destroyed a Kilkenny side that could not break through a tight Tipperary defence.
In a close first half that bypassed midfield for large periods, the two sides cancelled each other out as neither side built up a comfortable lead. Seamus Callanan opening the scoring for Tipperary in the second minute but Cody’s decision to start Kevin Kelly was vindicated when he levelled the game immediately with a brilliantly taken point.
In the 10th minute, the sides were level for the second time and from them until half-time, they would be level on another eight occasions.
Kilkenny were more economical with their shooting while Tipperary supporters would have been worried about the number of wides they had, some from easy positions as well.
Before the 30th minute, all the Tipperary’s forwards were on the scoreboard while Colin Fennelly and Liam Blanchfield were scoreless and well marshalled by the Tipp back line. James Barry in particular was outstanding while at the other end of the field, Seamus Callanan was having a field day on Joey Holden.
The Drom & Inch forward was simply unstoppable and finished the game with 13 points.
During this period, TJ Reid was keeping Kilkenny in it with six points from placed balls but in truth, Kilkenny were getting suffocated by a tightly packed Tipperary defence.
Going into half-time with a 0-14 to 0-12 lead, the Tipperary supporters were optimistic but Kilkenny are a team who love an optimistic opponent.
However, Tipperary came out in the second half and continued to smother Kilkenny’s threat. Callanan continued to destroy the Kilkenny back line and Eoin Murphy in the Kilkenny goals pulled off a number of great saves.
Callanan and Reid exchanged points but Tipperary showcased their desire when at least five defenders surrounded Kevin Kelly and cleared the danger when a goal was a real option for Kilkenny.
In the 42nd minute, Kilkenny did get a goal when Kelly tapped in from a simple pass by Blanchfield. That made the scoreline 1-14 to 0-15 to the cats and you expected them to kick on from there. However, Tipperary would go on to score 1-5 before Kilkenny forced the umpire to wave the white flag for them again.
Within five minutes of Kilkenny’s goal, Tipp were back in front and a minute later, they got their first goal when John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer drilled a low shot past the diving Murphy. That gave Tipp a four point lead at 1-18 to 1-14 and that would be the closest the defending champions would get to Michael Ryan’s side.
When John McGrath scored Tipperary’s second goal with 10 minutes to go, the score was 2-25 to 1-19. Kilkenny have not won all they have without a fight though and from the restart, they went down the field and got their second goal.
Richie Hogan was the scorer as he reacted quickest while he was on the ground to drill the ball by Gleeson. That made it a six point game but a point from O’Dwyer seconds later settled the Tipperary nerves and the last 10 minutes, including the three minutes of injury time, only resulted in one more point from Kilkenny, compared to three from Tipperary.
The loss of Michael Fennelly – who suffered an Achilles tendon injury in their semi-final win over Waterford – was massive for Kilkenny. The eight times All-Ireland winner and 2011 hurler of the year might have been more capable of stopping the onslaught from Tipperary.
The Cats fans will also look to the lack of movement from the bench during the game with Cody only making two substitutes while Jason Forde had an immediate impact with a point from his first touch for Tipperary.
However, Tipperary fully deserved this victory, they were the better side from start to finish and even if their high wide count in the first half was something for their supporters to be concerned about, manager Michael Ryan on the sideline looked the coolest person in the stadium throughout proceedings.
Tipperary: D Gleeson; C Barrett, J Barry, M Cahill; S Kennedy (0-01), R Maher, Padraic Maher (0-01); B Maher, M Breen; D McCormack (0-01), Patrick Maher (0-02), N McGrath (0-01); J McGrath (1-03), S Callanan (0-13, 0-03f, 1 65), J O’Dwyer (1-05, 1 s/l, 0-01f).
Subs: J Forde (0-02) for Breen, N O’Meara for McCormack, D Maher for Cahill, K Bergin for N McGrath, T Hamill for Kennedy.
Kilkenny: E Murphy; S Prendergast, J Holden, P Murphy; P Walsh (0-02), K Joyce, C Buckley (0-01); TJ Reid (0-11, 0-10f, 0-01 65), C Fogarty; W Walsh (0-01), R Hogan (1-01), E Larkin (0-02); K Kelly (1-02), C Fennelly, L Blanchfield.
Subs: R Lennon for Joyce, L Ryan for Larkin.
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly).