All-Ireland Hurling Final Replay
Tipperary 2-14 Kilkenny 2-17
Kilkenny are deserving All-Ireland champions. In any walk of life it is important to acknowledge and respect a piece of work well done. In this instance we must applaud Brian Cody’s side for collecting the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
Kilkenny were superior on Saturday - once reduced to the simplest of terms their guys were just better on the day than our guys. We must submit ourselves to the tyranny of that fact.
What is heartening, however, is that the Premier players never flinched, fought to the bitter end and endeared themselves to supporters of the blue and gold.
The Tipperary players staggered off the field disconcerted and feeling a little sick, but should find consolation in the fact that they forced Kilkenny to find the very best of themselves. And, that is no mean feat.
During Brian Cody’s reign in charge Kilkenny have faced Tipperary thirteen times in games of notable significance (nine championship encounters and four league finals) - Cody’s men have won eleven times, drawn once and lost once. For Tipperary people that might make for horrific reading, but on the flip side it is a compliment; Kilkenny have reserved their most noteworthy performances for their near neighbours.
Indeed, the statistics suggest that on Saturday Kilkenny reached a level in terms of raw work rate which beat a record previously set in 2006 - against Cork in the All-Ireland final eight years ago Kilkenny managed 42 hooks, blocks & tackles. In the 2014 final replay the Cats surpassed that tally by one.
Clear daylight emerged between the sides in terms of turnover ball won, too. Kilkenny were on a mission to defend the centre of their defence and ensured that the area surrounding their D was well-populated at all times. With men working their way back selflessly Kilkenny always had an extra man to call upon and won the turnover battle hands down. During the drawn affair Kilkenny turned over Tipperary in possession six times. In the replay that tally surged to eleven with Tipperary responding with just six turnovers of their own.
Dominating in that area then presented Kilkenny with the option of going long to a full-forward line which enjoyed a significant height advantage over their direct opponents. A significant micro cycle was thus established in this enthralling contest.
During the drawn affair Kilkenny were guilty of playing the game on Tipperary’s terms. On this occasion the converse was true.
Prior to the game Brian Cody opted to re-design his defence with both Pádraig Walsh and Kieran Joyce introduced to the side. John Power represented a third change to the starting fifteen, but Walsh and Joyce had the most profound impact. Pádraig Walsh was exceptional at half-back, Paul Murphy was freed up to mark Lar Corbett and Kieran Joyce was named man of the match for his impact on Tipperary’s Patrick Maher. The audacity of the decision to drop Joey Holden and Brian Hogan was matched only by its devastating effect on the prevailing pattern of the game.
During the drawn affair Tipperary could have laid a dual carriageway through the heart of the Kilkenny defence, but not now. Indeed, during the opening seventy-three seconds Kilkenny performed two blocks, a hook and a turnover in this very sector.
In the third minute Brendan Maher set up Shane McGrath for the opening point of the game. Four minutes later a poor touch from Patrick Maher allowed ‘keeper Eoin Murphy an opportunity to advance and smother the Lorrha man’s effort following John O’Dwyer’s fine cross. Seconds later Noel McGrath added a point and it was obvious that Tipperary were eager to make an early impression.
In the ninth minute Richie Hogan picked off a handy point when collecting a break on the right flank and added a second in the 11th when intercepting a clearance from James Barry. Eoin Larkin and TJ Reid (free) then added to the Kilkenny tally and the favourites led 0-4 to 0-2 (four without reply in five minutes).
Gearóid Ryan blocked down Cillian Buckley in a rousing moment for Tipperary in the 14th minute, the ball broke to John O’Dwyer and the Killenaule man landed a mighty score.
Richie Power was expertly turned over by the Tipperary defence a minute later and the ball was worked to Séamus Callanan who was fouled. Callanan converted the placed ball and the sides were level.
In the 17th minute Michael Fennelly was allowed to swing over a soft point. JJ Delaney then illustrated his pedigree as a defender in the 18th minute during a sequence of play which Brian Cody would later describe as a “defining moment”. Gearóid Ryan picked out John O’Dwyer; the wing-forward laid off to Séamus Callanan and the Drom & Inch man was in. Somehow JJ Delaney recovered in time to dive full length and hook Callanan’s right-hand shot.
Kilkenny edged two clear (0-4 to 0-6) when TJ Reid converted a free while in the 21st John O’Dwyer opted to go for goal. O’Dwyer was swallowed up by the Kilkenny defence - on this occasion Kilkenny had no fewer then seven defenders populating the D.
Kilkenny had a goal disallowed in the 26th minute when TJ Reid carelessly drifted into the square to contest Eoin Murphy’s long-range free.
Strangely Kilkenny failed to create a goal-scoring opportunity in the opening half; an issue Brian Cody’s side would address after the break.
A combination of Pádraic Maher and Brendan Maher saw off the threat posed by the raiding Colin Fennelly before Darren Gleeson had to be sharp in the 25th minute as John Power attempted to interfere with Richie Power’s long-range effort.
Two minutes later Shane McGrath scored a superb point off his right and reduced the Kilkenny lead to one (0-5 to 0-6).
Lar Corbett sparked the defining score of the half in the 28th minute. In his sixth All-Ireland final appearance and his 60th in a Tipperary jersey Corbett latched onto a break as Kieran Joyce and Patrick Maher contested a dropping ball and streaked toward the Kilkenny goal. Corbett drew JJ Delaney before passing to Séamus Callanan on his left; Callanan neatly guided his shot past the advancing Eoin Murphy and Tipperary led 1-5 to 0-6.
Richie Power won a converted free which was cancelled out within seconds when Patrick Maher forced Kieran Joyce into an over-carry in expert fashion. A minute before the break Michael Fennelly fired over a point. That reduced Tipp’s lead to one (1-6 to 0-8). As the first half ticked into injury time James Woodlock went for goal, but Kieran Joyce recovered in time to block the effort before Shane McGrath fired over a terrific effort (his third from play) to present Tipperary with a 1-7 to 0-8 interval lead.
With the prevailing pattern of the game now established both sides needed to adjust for the second half. And, it was Kilkenny who adjusted best.
Brian Cody had the humility to learn from the opening half and re-design his half-forward line with TJ Reid and Colin Fennelly switching to devastating effect.
Immediately after the break Kilkenny set the tone with five unanswered points transforming a two-point deficit into a three-point lead (0-13 to 1-7) by the 43rd minute.
Only a magnificent save from Darren Gleeson denied Colin Fennelly a goal in the 37th minute following Eoin Larkin’s surge and well-timed hand pass.
The Ballyhale Shamrocks man made up for that miss with two excellent points while efforts from Richie Power (’65) and TJ Reid (two frees) forced Kilkenny three clear.
Tipperary managed two poor wides during this period while a rampant Colin Fennelly scored 0-2, spurned a goal scoring chance and won a free in a terrifying eight-minute spell. Indeed, the damage inflicted by Fennelly could have been more significant, but James Barry intercepted a clever Richie Power cross in the 42nd minute.
Finally, in the 46th Noel McGrath landed a point off his left to open Tipperary’s second half account (1-8 to 0-13). A minute later Noel McGrath won a free which Séamus Callanan converted and the Tipperary supporters responded with a deafening roar. Kilkenny, however, conjured a significant display of resolve in the 50th minute. With Tipperary raiding once more the Cats’ defence performed two momentous blocks, turned over the ball and Jackie Tyrell cleared to Richie Power who belted over a right-handed effort. That moment probably said more about Kilkenny’s sense of mission than any other.
Tipperary refused to buckle, however, with Noel McGrath setting up John O’Dwyer for a fine effort from distance to cut the gap to one.
In the 52nd minute Eoin Larkin found himself through on goal once more. Once straightened Larkin passed right to John Power, but James Barry recovered in time to block (with his head) and the Tipperary goal survived.
Two minutes later, following a charge forward from Paul Murphy, Eoin Larkin opted to take his point and Kilkenny led 0-15 to 1-10.
In the 56th minute dame good fortune stooped to kiss Tipperary warmly on the cheek when Kieran Joyce was harshly penalised for what looked like an honest attempt to contest a breaking ball with Patrick Maher following Pádraic Maher’s teasing delivery. Referee Brian Gavin awarded Tipperary a penalty and Séamus Callanan took his point.
A terrific roar greeted the introduction of Henry Shefflin on fifty-eight minutes, but that explosion of noise was trumped a minute later when Michael Fennelly’s searching sideline ball was grabbed by Richie Power. The Carrickshock man buried a left-handed shot past an unsighted Darren Gleeson and Kilkenny now led by four (1-15 to 1-11).
Tipperary responded to reduce the margin to three when a surging run from Brendan Maher was brought to an abrupt end and Séamus Callanan converted a routine free in the 62nd minute.
Kilkenny found the net once more in the 63rd minute. Darren Gleeson pulled off two terrific saves, most notably from Michael Fennelly, before John Power managed to flick in a parry from the Portroe man and Kilkenny led by six (2-15 to 1-12).
Tipperary looked beaten, but never flinched. In a break in play Pádraic Maher showed a clenched fist to Brendan Maher and Tipperary settled back down to work.
As soon as the 64th minute Séamus Callanan got in on goal and had Kilkenny ‘keeper Eoin Murphy beaten, but Paul Murphy recovered in time to scramble the ball off his line at the expense of a ’65 which John O’Dwyer converted. Pádraig Walsh hit back for Kilkenny when he scooted up the field to land a fine effort.
In the 68th Brendan Maher fired over a point to leave five in it (1-14 to 2-16) and then, in the 69th, Tipperary goaled for the second time. It appeared as if Shane Bourke had butchered a fine opportunity, but Séamus Callanan swept home a deflected Patrick Maher follow-up and we were all set for a firecracker of a finish with two between them (2-14 to 2-16).
The fourth official indicated three minutes of additional time. The margin for error was now down to the width of a corner-forward’s ankle.
In the 71st minute Jason Forde and John Power traded poor wides before Colin Fennelly, strangely, opted to go for goal in the 72nd minute. Once more Darren Gleeson saved.
A minute later Fennelly won possession and, this time, sensibly forced his side into a three-point lead.
Tipperary charged forward, but James Woodlock’s late shot was blocked when Paul Murphy put his body on the line.
The ball was cleared and Tipperary’s chance of forcing extra-time went with it.
Tipperary: Darren Gleeson (Portroe), Cathal Barrett (Holycross-Ballycahill), James Barry (Upperchurch-Drombane), Paddy Stapleton (Borris-Ileigh), Brendan Maher (Borris-Ileigh, captain, 0-1), Pádraic Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Kieran Bergin (Killenaule), Shane McGrath (Ballinahinch, 0-3), James Woodlock (Drom & Inch), Gearóid Ryan (Templederry Kenyons), Noel McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney, 0-2), Lar Corbett (Thurles Sarsfields), John O’Dwyer (Killenaule, 0-3, 0-1 ‘65), Séamus Callanan (Drom & Inch, 2-5, 0-4 frees, 0-1 penalty), Patrick Maher (Lorrha-Dorrha). Subs: (56th) Michael Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields) for Shane McGrath, (64th) Conor O’Mahony (Newport) for Gearóid Ryan, (65th) Shane Bourke (JK Bracken’s) for Lar Corbett, (67th) Jason Forde (Silvermines) for Noel McGrath, (70th) John O’Brien (Toomevara) for John O’Dwyer.
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy, Kieran Joyce, JJ Delaney, Jackie Tyrrell, Paul Murphy, Killian Buckley, Pádraig Walsh (0-1), Conor Fogarty, Michael Fennelly (0-2), Colin Fennelly (0-3), Richie Hogan (0-2), Eoin Larkin (0-2), Richie Power (1-1, 0-1 frees), TJ Reid (0-5, 0-5 frees), John Power (1-1). Subs: (58th) Henry Shefflin for Richie Hogan, (67th) Lester Ryan for Michael Fennelly.
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly).