At the end of the day, Tipperary can have no complaints about the outcome of Saturday’s All-Ireland senior hurling final replay - the best team won. Simple as that.
You know when it comes down to it, it has to be said that the players did very well to be within a puck of the ball of Kilkenny, who dominated the second half and yet failed to put the Premier lads away. Lets give credit to Tipperary for that - they clung on by their fingernails and had a break of the ball went for them, might have mustered an equalising goal.
When you examine the cold facts though, it is very hard to win an All-Ireland Final when you go fourteen minutes without a score in the first half, and then 11 minutes without one in the second half.
Perhaps too, the fact that Tip led by two at half time concealed a few problems . We had not played well up to that point and yet led. Kilkenny were about to up the ante and Tipperary did not have the wherewithall to respond.
The crucial ten minute spell after half time dictated the outcome of the game. Kilkenny hit five unanswsered scores to turn a two point deficit into a three point advantage. From then on they were never led - in fact Tipperary were unable to get back on terms and as the game progressed, Kilkenny’s intensity levels seemed to increase exponentially.
Kilkenny did Homework
It should also be pointed out that Kilkenny did their homework and gathered top marks. They probably realised that another shootout with their arch rivals could prove fatal. So, they decided to decommission the weaponry. Space was cut to a premium and the deployment of an additional defender in and around the half back line ensured that Tipp were simply unable to make headway.
Kilkenny’s changes made a big difference. Kieran Joyce was superb all the way for them and when he put Patrick Bonner Maher out of the game, Tipperary were going to struggle.
Bonner has been Tipperary’s creater - the one who makes the runs, manufacturers the space , and draws the defenders. When that element was taken from the Premier attack, the big guns were unable to function as we would have hoped. Lar Corbett and Noel McGrath were rendered sterile; John O’Dwyer had the shackles on after his tour-de-force in the drawn game, and Seamus Callanan, though he bagged two goals from play, did not enjoy the same freedom as he had in the first outing.
Tipperary’s defence was under huge pressure from the off, but particularly in the second half. The onslaught was relentless and with Kilkenny intent on inflicting mortal damage after the turnaround, there was little or no time for them to settle. Darren Gleeson’s saves kept Tipperary in the game and there were also interventions from James Barry and Paddy Stapleton - the Cats could easily have creamed off a few more green flags had their luck been in.
Didn’t get any fluency
If Tipperary were to win this game they needed to find the same level of fluency they had in the drawn game - the reality is that they didn’t get anywhere near that fluency. Credit must go to Kilkenny for this - they approiached the game with an entirely different mindset and stuck to their task. From a Tipp viewpoint, there was no plan B and when plan A did not work out, Kilkenny were always going to win.
Michael Fennelly did much to break Tipperary’s resolve - perhaps in his lecturing role in the Tipperary Institute he might share some of his secrets with Premier folk!! His brother Colin could easily have been subbed at half time, but he turned in a far more productive second half and when the space materialised in front of the Tipp square, he made hay, late in the season though it was.
Richie and John made sure it was a ‘Power-ful’ display from Kilkenny - a Kilkenny side which had scores from all six forwards, their number 5 Padraig Walsh and number 8 Richie Hogan.
Tipp’s 5 Brendan Maher and 8 Shane McGrath, also pointed, but only three attackers got on the scoresheet.
Finale could have
But you know, for all that had Paul Murphy not cleared off the line for Kilkenny in the 28th minute - just a minute after John Power had goalled for them; or had Jason Forde not rushed his shot having come on as a sub and taken a point; the finale could have been different. Suddenly, a bit of momentum would have come Tipperary’s way and perhaps doubts would have entered the Kilkenny psyche. Henry Shefflin was on by this stage, but he was making no impact. Trouble was, Tipp were making little impact up-front either with Kilkenny swarming like frenzied bees around the pot of honey.
There had been so much talk about Richie Hogan following his exploits in the replay, that there was perhaps a foregtfullness on the part of the Tipperary supporter, that Kilkenny had big guns in every department. Hogan failed to fire in the replay, but the Fennelly’s, who were quiet in the drawn game, were on fire on Saturday - particularly Michael.
Jackie Tyrrell and JJ Delaney also upped their game considerably and rubbished suggestions that they were struggling to keep with the pace of the modern game - their dance of joy with King Henry at the end was quite significant. The old dogs had mastered the hardest of roads.
Games at this level are generally won by millimetres - Paul Murphy’s last gasp goalline save; JJ Delaney’s hook on Seamus Callanan; James Woodlock likewise; Bubbles free in the dying moments in the drawn game. The breaks were with Kilkenny and while many will point to the mastery of Cody and his management team it should also be pointed out that they were hauling off Eoin Larkin for Henry Shefflin, when he bagged that magnificent 19th minute point from under the Cusack Stand. Instead, Richie Hogan was called ashore and two minutes after Shefflin had entered the fray, Kilkenny bagged their first goal after Richie Power took on a TJ Reid sideline cut and rattled the net. Millimetres alright.
Another defeat at the hands of Kilkenny is hard to take - that’s five All-Ireland’s in six years with Tipp winning only one. Throw in two other championship defeats and a few league finals as well - would they ever just go away.
Don’t think so.