Allianz National Hurling League
Tipperary 5-14 Kilkenny 5-20
Context is everything at this time of year - although Tipperary ultimately lost this ten-goal league thriller with Kilkenny at Nowlan Park by six points there was plenty of encouragement too.
Cathal Barrett, Michael Cahill, Kieran Bergin, Noel McGrath and James Woodlock enjoyed fine outings while the excellence of Séamus Callanan was something to behold. Tipperary’s application could not be faulted nor could the quality of their approach play which, at times, was reminiscent of the 2010 vintage.
That said Tipperary did permit Kilkenny to effect a 16-point swing - with thirty minutes played the Premier led 4-9 to 1-8, but ultimately lost by a two-goal margin. The force of the significant breeze at the backs of Brian Cody’s side certainly contributed to the issue, but so did significant problems at the heart of the Tipperary defence - shipping 4-12 and only managing 1-5 in reply in forty minutes is something to be concerned about.
Brendan Maher won the toss and Tipperary opted to play with the breeze in the opening half - the strength of which was illustrated in the 19th minute when a Henry Shefflin ’65 struggled to reach the Tipperary goal.
Walter Walsh gave Kilkenny the lead in the third minute, but two minutes later Tipperary struck for their opening goal when Brian Kennedy badly misjudged a James Woodlock delivery and Noel McGrath flicked in a left-handed goal.
Noel McGrath then forced Tipperary three points clear (1-1 to 0-1) in the seventh minute before Henry Shefflin (free) and Walter Walsh responded for the home side.
A James Woodlock point in the tenth minute preceded a second Tipperary goal in the 11th. This time Kieran Bergin and Séamus Callanan combined before the Drom & Inch man slipped in Jason Forde for a terrific goal - 2-2 to 0-3.
Brendan Maher added to the Tipp tally before Darren Gleeson made a fine reaction save to deny Jonjo Farrell a certain three-pointer. With Kieran Joyce looking lost at full-back Séamus Callanan smacked home a third Tipperary goal in the 14th minute to hand Eamon O’Shea’s men a 3-3 to 0-3 lead.
Colin Fennelly and Henry Shefflin (free) responded for Kilkenny before Noel McGrath and Walter Walsh traded points to leave seven between them (3-4 to 0-6) with eighteen minutes played.
Tipperary coughed up another goal scoring opportunity in the 19th minute, but Darren Gleeson saved once more from Jonjo Farrell. Two minutes later David Herity intervened to deny Séamus Callanan at the other end of the field. Callanan converted the resultant ’65 - Tipperary’s first score from a placed ball.
With Walter Walsh having already managed 0-3 from play Tipperary elected to switch Pádraic Maher to left wing-back, but the Kilkenny wing-forward managed his fourth point from play in the 22nd minute all the same.
Two minutes later TJ Reid smacked his shot off the crossbar, but Colin Fennelly followed up to score Kilkenny’s opening goal of the game in the 24th minute - 3-5 to 1-7.
A point from full-forward Mark Kelly, who enjoyed his afternoon on the edge of the square, left three in it, but Tipperary responded through Paddy Murphy and Séamus Callanan (free) before Michael Cahill won a terrific ball in the 27th minute; Cahill fed Brendan Maher and the team captain picked out the raiding Séamus Callanan who buried Tipperary’s fourth goal. Within seconds Michael Cahill added to the tally while Pádraic Maher and Brendan Maher combined beautifully in the 30th minute before creating the room for Cahill to force Tipperary into a ten-point lead - 4-9 to 1-8.
Considering the strength of the breeze Tipperary would need every ounce of that advantage in the second half.
Unfortunately Kilkenny full-forward Mark Kelly caused consternation in front of Darren Gleeson’s goal in the 31st minute and Henry Shefflin slipped in a vital three-pointer for the home side. Indeed, Shefflin converted a free on the stroke of half-time to leave just six between them - 4-9 to 2-9.
By the time the second half began Kilkenny had replaced half of their starting back six with both Brian Hogan and Tommy Walsh removed at the break.
Kilkenny charged forward in search of scores and found them thanks to the efforts of Walter Walsh and Colin Fennelly during the opening three minutes of the second period. Shane McGrath set up Séamus Callanan for a terrific point in the 37th minute with sharp cross-field delivery, but a Kilkenny puck-out then broke to the unmarked Colin Fennelly who buried an unstoppable shot in the roof of the Tipperary net - 4-10 to 3-11.
Tipperary responded, however, when the forward division battled ferociously to turn over the ball in the 50th minute and Séamus Callanan beat David Herity with a rasping left-hand shot (5-10 to 3-11).
Cognizant of the time remaining Kilkenny didn’t panic and chipped away at the Tipperary lead with points from Henry Shefflin (free) and TJ Reid reducing the Premier advantage to just three points. Séamus Callanan illustrated the quality of his striking when the Drom & Inch star drove over a long-range free into the breeze before a Pádraig Walsh point left three in it with fifteen to play (5-11 to 3-14).
In the 56th minute the Tipperary defence did well to dispossess the raiding Walter Walsh, but Shane McGrath’s kicked clearance fell into the hand of Colin Fennelly and the Ballyhale man rifled his shot into the top left-hand corner - draw match: 5-11 4-14.
Within a minute Tipp re-claimed the lead when Pádraic Maher worked the ball to Noel McGrath. Seconds later, however, Colin Fennelly left the sides all square once more before a Henry Shefflin free handed Kilkenny the lead with eleven to play.
Séamus Callanan belted over a ’65 into the teeth of the breeze with nine minutes to play to tie the game up once more (5-13 to 4-16) before a Colin Fennelly point edged Kilkenny one point clear after a free won by Tipperary was thrown in following a Brendan Maher infraction off the ball.
With five minutes to play Séamus Callanan was fouled for a free, which the Drom & Inch star converted, to leave the sides all square (5-14 to 4-17) with five minutes to play.
Tipperary went for the jugular in the 66th minute when a combination of Michael Cahill and Patrick Maher launched an assault on the Kilkenny goal. Ultimately the ball was worked to Séamus Callanan, but Callanan was hooked brilliantly by Brian Kennedy.
Two minutes later the Tipp defence did well to bottle up Colin Fennelly and turn over the ball. Cruelly, Thomas Stapleton’s hand pass to Pádraic Maher was intercepted and a delighted Mark Kelly booted in the game-clinching goal - 5-14 to 5-17. Kilkenny added late points thanks to the efforts to Colin Fennelly and Richie Hogan (two).
Tipperary: Darren Gleeson (Portroe), Paddy Stapleton (Borris-Ileigh), Thomas Stapleton (Templederry Kenyons), Cathal Barrett (Holycross-Ballycahill), Shane McGrath (Ballinahinch), Conor O’Brien (Éire Óg Annacarty-Donohill), Michael Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields, 0-2), Pádraic Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Brendan Maher (Borris-Ileigh, captain, 0-1), James Woodlock (Drom & Inch, 0-1), Kieran Bergin (Killenaule), Paddy Murphy (Nenagh Éire Óg, 0-1), Noel McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney, 1-3), Séamus Callanan (Drom & Inch, 3-6, 0-3 frees, 0-2 ‘65s), Jason Forde (Silvermines, 1-0). Subs: (51st) Patrick Maher (Lorrha-Dorrha) for Jason Forde, (60th) John O’Dwyer (Killenaule) for Kieran Bergin, (63rd) Denis Maher (Thurles Sarsfields) for Shane McGrath, (67th) Michael Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg) for Paddy Murphy, (70th) Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields) for Conor O’Brien.
Kilkenny: David Herity, Willie Phelan, Kieran Joyce, Brian Kennedy, Joey Holden, Brian Hogan, Tommy Walsh, Lester Ryan, Pádraig Walsh (0-1), Walter Walsh (0-5), Colin Fennelly (3-5), Henry Shefflin (1-5, 0-5 frees), Jonjo Farrell, Mark Kelly (1-1), TJ Reid (0-1). Subs: (26th) Paul Murphy for Willie Phelan, (HT) Richie Hogan (0-2) for Brian Hogan, (HT) Cillian Buckley for Tommy Walsh, (53rd) Eoin Larkin for Jonjo Farrell, (70th) Joe Brennan for Colin Fennelly.
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).