Gleeson goals help Tipp to All-Ireland title

All-Ireland IH Final Tipp 2-14 Kilkenny 2-11

All-Ireland IH Final Tipp 2-14 Kilkenny 2-11

It’s not too often that you come away smiling from Nowlan Park having mixed it with Kilkenny, and it’s rare enough to come away with silverware. That’s what made Saturday’s extraordinary achievement so noteworthy and the big pity was that there were not too many Tipperary supporters there to witness it.

Those who did make the journey marvelled at something special and the atmosphere on the pitch after the cup had been presented to Tipp Captain David Young, was something to savour. The Premier County had put aside all negative thoughts and crossed the border with the full intention of coming home with the silverware they brought with them - they did just that and were deserving victors on the evening.

What an achievement for the squad and players, but in particular for the management team of Mick Ryan, Eamon O’Dwyer, Michael Ferncombe and Jim O’Meara. Not only have they steered Tipperary to two back to back intermediate All-Ireland titles, they have had to do it with two entirely different teams. And, they did it with some style too beating Kilkenny on both occasions in home and away clashes.

It was always a tight game with never too much between the sides. And, because of this there was always a fear that the sixteen wides struck by the Tipp lads would come back to haunt them. They were equally as erratic in both halves, but had just about done enough to see themselves over the line with the brace of goals from Ruairi Gleeson giving much needed boosts at crucial stages of each half.

Tipp were off to a flyer with three points from Willie Ryan and the impressive Niall O’Meara (2) dictating the tempo from the off. But Kilkenny, playing with an extra man in defence, responded and David Langton and Rory Hickey (2), tying the game up by the end of the first quarter - a quarter that Tipp had the better of.

They had added two more points apiece - Danny O’Hanlon and keeper Darragh Egan for Tipp, Hickey and David Walton for Dublin - when Ruairi Gleeson rattled the Kilkenny net with a fine goal in the 27th minute after he got onto a long delivery from the in-form Padraig Heffernan. Tipp pressed on and added Niall O’Meara and Timmy Hammersley points to leave them in control as thoughts of the interval cuppa crept in.

Kilkenny though, weren’t finished yet, and they got a big break right on half time when full forward Jonjo Farrell raced through and beat Darragh Egan with a fine finish to leave the minimum between them at the break, 1-7 to 1-6.

Tipperary had played with a lot of heart and fire in the first half - epitomised by none better than Tom Treacy and Padraig Heffernan who dominated the left flank and fired much of the ammunition for the attack. Brian Fox and Willie Ryan too were battling and efficient at midfield while Niall O’Meara was the most potent attacker. Indeed, Tipp had the lions share of the possession and while it didn’t reflect on the scoreboard, the feeling at half time was that Tipp could press on, get more forwards onto ball and see the game through. Thing is, Kilkenny don’t always allow it as you like and they put up one hell of a fight in the second half to try and prevent Tipp from retaining the silverware.

They came mighty close too with a number of goalmouth scrambles at the very death leaving the heart in the mouth with the sliothar bobbling about. Tipp survived though and used all their experience and knowhow to escape the Cats claws.

Once again it was the start Tipp got which turned the screw in this game. They came out for the second half and upped the tempo from the throw-in with centre back David Young beginning to get a handle on the middle of the defence - he grew in stature as the half wore onwards and finished very strong as Kilkenny came in search of scores to snatch the win.

Points from Timmy Hammersley and Niall O’Meara either side of a superb second goal from Ruairi Gleeson in the 8th minute made light of Tipp losing Danny O’Hanlon through a hamstring problem at half time - he was replaced by Pat Molloy who contributed handsomely to the victory. O’Meara’s point - his fourth from play of the evening, is worthy of mention as he trapped the fast moving ball overhead and in one movement turned, made room for himself and fried over the bar - superb score.

The six point margin was to be the biggest of the night but it didn’t take Kilkenny long to start eating into it. They had a number of poor wides as well at this stage and in fairness they always looked dangerous in attack when Rory Hickey and Jonjo Farrell were their main source of danger.

Conor Phelan pointed from a tight angle but this score was cancelled by a Timmy Hammersley 65 before Hickey and sub Paul Holden added points - Holdens score came after a Hickey 21 yard blast was beaten away by the Tipp rearguard.

The key to Tipp’s won though was that they were able to respond to Kilkenny’s scores with efforts of their own. Timmy Hammersley pointed again in the 20th from a placed ball to cancel a Hickey score and then sub Conor Kenny fired over a beauty for Tipp which was wiped out by Luke Harney’s intervention for Kilkenny.

Coming into the home straight Tipp were four in front when Hammersley extended again and it was just as well because a 27th minute goal for Tipperary through Jonjo Farrell again left only two between them and set up a grandstand finish.

Kilkenny threw everything into the attack in search of a winning goal and as they bombarded the Tipp goalmouth you could almost sense the green flag coming. But, huge credit to the Tipp lads for the manner in whcih they coped with the onslaught - they were calm, collected, put their bodies on the line and emerged with their heads above water before Ruairi Gleeson got the insurance score in the 30th minute.

Kilkenny now needed a goal to force a replay but Tipp had steeled themselves for the battle, were ready for the assault and swatted away the Cats advances before referee Tony Carroll (Offaly) called time on a fabulous evening for Tipperary hurling.

This was a fabulous victory for Tipperary and one which will be remembered for some time to come. While Tipp didn’t play with the same level of fluency as they have done at other times during the season, it was quite obvious that they were very focused, very well drilled and single minded about their goals. Setbacks, such as the Kilkenny goals, were put aside as they continued to carry out the gameplan and work their socks off to win the title in knockout fashion.

Tipperary’s defence led by Young, Heffernan and the magnificent Treacy gave plenty of cover to the very sound and safe Darragh Egan, while at midfield Willie Ryan and Brian Fox covered and attacked as apporpriate. In attack it didn’t always work out for Tipp but Gleeson’s goals, coupled with Hammersley’s accuracy from placed balls, and the great outing from the very impressive Niall O’Meara were enough to fend off the Cats and seal the title.

Kilkenny came back at Tipp time and again but they were unable to breach the hull to cause fatal damage. In full forward Jonjo Farrell they had a real ace bu the supply lines were cut off to him and they wer eunable to thread enough ball to him for trigger pulling. Rory Hickey, Pat Hartley, Luke Harney and Michael Walsh were also prominent for Kilkenny on what was a disappointing outing for them with many losing their second successive All-Ireland title in the grade to Tipp and their third in succession having lost out at the hands of Clare in 2011. In fact Kilkenny have now lost four of the last five All-Ireland titles in this grade having been in nine of them since 2000, winning just two.

The Tipp senior management attended the game - they liked what they saw and will likely seek the phone numbers of a number of the players who have proven their calibre in the heat of battle.

Teams and Scorers:

Tipperary: D Egan, S O’Brien, M Butler, T Treacy, J O’Keeffe, D Young, P Heffernan, B Fox, W Ryan 0-1, O Quirke, T Butler, N O’Meara 0-4, R Gleeson 2-1, D O’Hanlon 0-1, T Hammersley 0-5, Subs: J McLoughney, P Molloy, C Kenny 0-1, P Shortt.

Kilkenny: R O’Neill, S Cummins, M Walsh, S Prendergast, L Harney 0-1, P Hartley, M Moloney, B Kennedy, D Langton0-1, B Beckett, R Hickey 0-5, C Phelan 0-1, J Brennan0-1, JJ Farrell 2-0, D Walton 0-1. Subs: J Lyng, P Holden 0-1, S Donnelly.

Referee: T Carroll (Offaly)

Footnote: Prior to a technical malfunction with the public address which meant that the National Anthem had to be abandoned after just one line, a minute of silence was observed for former Kilkenny great Pat Delaney, Johnstown who graced the game so magnificently as a player, mentor and skilled hurley maker. The Fenians legend supplied many a Tipperary team with camans and also helped out a number of clubs in the Premier County as a Coach.