Kilkenny 0-20 Tipperary 1-14
A much improved performance from battling Tipperary in the All-Ireland senior hurling qualifer at Nowlan Park on Saturday evening was not enough to save a disasterous season, as the same problems came back to haunt the side.
An unbelievable atmosphere in the packed venue meant that supporters could touch, taste and smell the tension as both sides went at it with great intent from the off. But, while the game was as tense as any of the previous encounters in recent times, the hurling was a long way off the best, and the physical exchanges were not as evident.
Still, Tipp could not cope with the strength of the Kilkenny defence where JJ Delaney and Jackie Tyrrell accompanied by Brian Hogan and Tommy Walsh practically did what they liked in the second half - they absolutely dominated and swatted away Tipperary’s futile attempts at gaining possession. Aerial supremacy coupled with sheer power and drive helped Kilkenny over the line, because at the other end, their forwards were not as free flowing as usual.
The games direction changed with two instances. Lar Corbett had been Tipp’s most progressive attacker having bagged a goal in the 15th and won two frees. He was in the zone but his hamstring tear in the 29th minute forced him off much to the delight of a section of Kilkenny supporters in the attendance -disappointing to see such a great sporting county being let down by such unsporting behaviour by a minority.
Corbett’s departure robbed Tipp of a focal point and this was sorely missed in the second half, although his direct replacement Seamus Callanan bagged 0-2. Still, the Corbett threat was gone and with it much of Tipp’s optimism.
The second crucial turning point was the saving of an Eoin Kelly effort for goal in the 6th minute of the second half after James Woodlock had burst through the heart of the Kilkenny defence - Eoin Murphy saved the effort before Kelly missed the 65 having missed a free moments earlier. A five point swing was too much for Tipp to handle in such a tight game.
Tipp were 0-4 to 0-3 in front when Lar Corbett bagged the all important 15th minute goal after a great move involving John O’Dwyer and Noel McGrath - Kelly had gotten all four Tipp scores from placed balls with Corbett being fouled for two of them.
It had been a nervy start from both sides with Kilkenny’s points coming from Walter Walsh, Richie Hogan and Eoin Larkin, and the thing was that Tipp were to get only 0-2 for the remainder of the half, while Kilkenny would grab six, including five unanswered.
Brian Cody called TJ Reid ashore after just 20 minutes as the pressure came on Kilkenny big time - Tipp were contesting it well with the forwards showing a lot of movement. However, there was still a noticable lack of ball winning in the attack apart from Corbett and perhaps John O’Dwyer who bagged a nice point in the 23rd. That was to be Tipp’s last score for 13 minutes and by the time Seamus Callanan slotted over Tipp’s next, it was to level the game at half time, 1-6 to 0-9.
Kilkenny got a run going with Eoin Larkin (3), Richie Power and Richie Hogan giving them much impetus. And, they were further boosted with the sight of Lar pulling up suddenly in pursuit of the sliothar and then limping away with his hamstring and season in tatters.
By half time the free count against Tipp was causing irritation - it was 11 against 5 at this stage. But, Tipp were in a good position if the Kilkenny tiredness theory was to ring out. It didn’t. Could Tipp get over the Corbett loss? They couldn’t. Would Kilkenny lose out to their great rivals in their own fortress? They wouldn’t.
Tipp introduced Kieran Bergin at half time in place of Captain Shane McGrath - the Killenaule man added urgency to the side and though Eoin Larkin pointed within a minute, Tipp looked brighter. Seamus Callanan struck a sweet score after Bergin and Brendan Maher combined and then John O’Brien fired over a great point to shove Tipp in front.
Then came the Kelly miss - a crucial save by Murphy who jumped for joy when the resultant 65 drifted wide. Kilkenny were off the hook but they went on to hit four of the next five points with Eoin Larkin (2) Richie Hogan and Walter Walsh pushing them back into the lead - John O’Dwyer getting Tipp’s.
Noel McGrath and Walsh traded scores but the pendulum was swinging in Kilkenny’s direction. Tyrrell, Delaney and Hogan began to lord it in the Kilkenny rearguard and when that happened the ammunition was supplied for the sharpshooters, who proved to be less than sharp as it happened.
Brendan Cummins kept Tipp in the game with a sound block from Matthew Ruth as Larkin and Kelly traded pointed frees, Larkin and Kieran Bergin did likewise. Woodlock capped a fine performance in the engineroom with a Tipp score to leave the minimum in it, but Kilkenny were to finish the stronger with Larkin, Richie Power and Colin Fennelly shoving the lead out to four as the Cats faithful raised the decibel levels.
John O’Dwyer had Tipp’s final score, but the goal they needed was not to come - Kilkenny were simple too dominant and saw out the win.Kilkenny:E Murphy, P Murphy, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell, T Walsh, B Hogan, K Joyce, M Ruth, L Ryan, W Walsh 0-3, R POwer 0-2, E Larkin 0-11, C Fennelly 0-1, R Hogan 0-3, TJ Reid. Subs: G Aylward for TJ Reid; A Fogarty for Aylward; H Shefflin for M Ruth.
Tipperary: B Cummins, C O’Brien, P Stapleton, M Cahill, B Maher, C O’Mahony, P Maher, J Woodlock 0-1, S McGrath, P Maher, N McGrath 0-1, J O’Brien 0-1, J O’Dwyer 0-3, E Kelly 0-5, L Corbett 1-0. Subs: S Callanan 0-2 for Corbett; K Bergin 0-1 for S McGrath; J Forde for Patrick Maher; G Ryan for J O’Brien; B O’Meara for E Kelly.
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly)