By Larry Cooney at Croke Park
Tipperary look set to dominate hurling for the foreseeable future after securing a minor and senior double on All Ireland Sunday at Croke Park. Their young squad saw off Brian Cody’s men convincingly, ruining their hopes for a three-in-a-row, while the minor Premier team beat Limerick. With Tipperary’s senior team on the rise again after their first win in six years, their rivals will worry about their long-term prospects, with Tipperary with future stars seemingly already waiting in the wings.
Tipperary are this year’s All- Ireland champions after an outstanding display that saw off the challenge of the holders Kilkenny with nine points to spare.
It is the Premier County’s 27th title and first time since 2010 but unlike that year when they prevailed by a flattering eight-point margin on this occasion they were worth every single point of their victory and even more!
It was a truly amazing performance from Tipperary. It was especially amazing in the second half, when many of Kilkenny’s opponents have discovered that third quarter is usually the time when they prevail, but not last Sunday despite scoring an early second half goal to give them a flattering two-point lead. But it was to be different this All Ireland weekend when they met a team who even out-Kilkenny-ed themselves for a change.
And despite Tipperary’s emphatic margin of victory it was always an entertaining and pulsating contest and will live long in the memory as from start to finish both sides went for it, but Tipperary’s outstanding second half performance deservedly saw them home comfortably. Crucial goals from John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer and John McGrath paved the way for their success as part players were outstanding.
However, the man-of-the-match accolade deservedly went to Seamus Callanan who scored 0-13, nine of which came from play and who was the true leader of the forward pack on an inside forward line that scored 2-21. The Tipperary full forward outwitted a succession of markers including full back Joey Holden throughout the game scoring some excellent points. But amazingly despite the dominance of the Tipperary full forward line, Kilkenny manager Brian Cody still made no positional switches when the teams resumed for the second half. The first half went score for score and only two points separated the teams at half time.
Tipperary came out in second half and hit the ground running and first John ‘Bubbles’ found the back of the net before McGrath who was played in by his brother Noel, who had an excellent game also, fired to the net as well. Kevin Kelly and Richie Hogan netted for Kilkenny, but the Cats’ forwards never really got to grips with the Tipperary defence.
And not surprisingly both sides opted to play 15 on 15 and it was evident from early on that this would be an open game. At half time, Tipp held a 0-14 to 0-12 lead, but they could have had a lot more on the scoreboard as they hit a number of wides. But despite having the monopoly of the possession the winners also hit a number of scorable wides.
The opening score came in the second minute when Callanan pointed from play, but debutante Kevin Kelly responded for Kilkenny a minute later.
This was to set the trend for the remainder of the half as the sides exchanged points for the majority of the opening period. Kilkenny responded well with two unanswered points as Reid pointed his first free of the day before Richie Hogan found space to tag on a point.
However Tipperary were lifted by a brilliant piece of skill by Bubbles saw the Tipp forward cut a line ball over the bar from over 40 metres. From the puck-out, Walter Walsh gathered possession and scored a well-taken point to make it 0-04 to 0-02 after nine minutes.
Tipperary hit the next two scores though as Noel McGrath and Seamus Kennedy (his first ever point in the championship) with well-taken points. A Reid free edged Kilkenny back in front by the 18th minute, but John McGrath had the sides level two minutes later. Eoin Larkin who worked tirelessly throughout found room to flick over a good score, before Callanan stepped up to score a fine point at the other end.
Colin Fennelly was then played in by Reid and the Cats’ full forward fired low but Darren Gleeson came off his line to make a crucial save and knock the ball out for a ’65 which Reid converted. Another superb point from Callanan made it 0-07 each by the 20th minute, however a free by Reid had the defending champions in front once again. A brace of points by John O’Dwyer were either side of a Larkin point for Kilkenny as the sides drew level for the ninth time.
However Callanan was easily winning his duel with Joey Holden as he notched another point in the 25th minute. Kilkenny hit back with a fine effort from wing back Cillian Buckley who fired over off his weaker left side, 0-10 each.
The enterprising Dan McCormack finally found the target having had hit two wides earlier, but as was the case so often, Reid won and pointed a free at the other end. Good pressure by the Tipperary forwards allowed Patrick ‘Bonnar’ Maher race through and point, but once again a Reid free had the sides level. Then another moment of sheer brilliance from Callanan saw the Tipp full forward excellently gather possession before turning and flashing a shot over the bar.
John O’Dwyer then came out to convert a free from 85 metres and send Tipp to the dressingroom in a positive mood to leave the half-time: Tipperary 0-14 Kilkenny 0-12 Three frees opened the second half scoring as Callanan’s placed ball was followed by two similar scores by Reid. Then, Kilkenny struck for the opening goal as Kelly scored the easiest goal of his career after good work by Hogan, Walter Walsh and Colin Fennelly.
Was it the Cats déjà vu time again.
Well Tipperary were certainly not following that script. After taking a flattering two-point lead Kilkenny were put firmly on the back foot in the next six minutes as the game finally turned in the winners’ favour. Callanan scored twice from a free and play which sandwiched substitute Jason Forde’s point before the loudest cheer of the afternoon greeted John O’Dwyer’s superb finish for Tipperary’s first goal. Padraig Maher scored from the wing before Reid brought it back to four points by the 52nd minute.
McGrath and Callanan added further points to leave the score 1-22 to 1-15. Padraig Walsh pulled a point back for the Cats, but they were always playing catch-up hurling from here on in. Callanan and Walsh exchanged points. Noel McGrath then pointed as Reid managed a minor and then Forde got his second of the match to leave the score 1-25 to 1-18 on the hour.
Kelly then cut over a line ball from a tight angle before the decisive third goal of the game arrived as good work by Noel McGrath saw him pass to his younger brother and John fired to the net.
Straight away Hogan whipped on a loose ball and scored a goal, but Tipp got the next score from Bubbles. A Reid free on 68 minutes was Kilkenny’s last score as Callanan scored his 13th point from out the field and Bonnar notched his second in the 70th minute. Kilkenny looked for a goal, but the Tipp defence stood firm and the final whistle was greeted with huge cheer from the Tipperary contingent.
TIPPERARY: Darren Gleeson; Cathal Barrett, James Barry, Michael Cahill; Seamus Kennedy (0-1), Ronan Maher, Padraic Maher (0-1); Brendan Maher, Michael Breen; Dan McCormack (0-1), Patrick Maher (0-2), Noel McGrath (0- 1); John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer (1- 5, 0-1f, 0-1sl), Seamus Callanan (0-13, 3f, 1’65), John McGrath (1-3) SUBS: Jason Forde (0-2) for M Breen, Aidan McCormack for D McCormack, Donagh Maher for M Cahill, Kieran Bergin for N McGrath, Thomas Hamill for S Kennedy
KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Paul Murphy, Joey Holden, Shane Prendergast; Padraig Walsh (0-2), Kieran Joyce, Cillian Buckley (0-1); TJ Reid (0-11, 10f, 1’65), Conor Fogarty; Walter Walsh (0-1), Richie Hogan (1-1), Eoin Larkin (0-2); Kevin Kelly (1-2), Colin Fennelly, Liam Blanchfield SUBS: Robert Lennon for K Joyce, Lester Ryan for E Larkin
REFEREE: Brian Gavin (Offaly).