Tipp power to glory as 14-man Kilkenny lose the plot

Tipp power to glory as 14 man Kilkenny lose the plot
18 August 2019; Tipperary captain Séamus Callanan and team-mates celebrate with the Liam MacCarthy Cup following the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Kilkenny and Tipperary at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

By PJ Cunningham
At Croke Park

What started out as a perfect storm between two shuddering giants ended up as a damp squib in rain-sodden Croke Park, as 14-man Kilkenny were well and truly put to the sword by Tipperary, 3-25 to 0-20.

The game had all the ingredients of a cracker despite the inclement weather and was unfolding that way for most of the first half.

Initially Kilkenny ruled the waves as they powered five points ahead but then a goal from Tipperary’s Niall O’Meara and a few frees by Jason Forde had the game delicately poised, as we approached half-time.

With three minutes to the short blast on the whistle, a clumsy challenge by former Hurler Of The Year, Richie Hogan, on his marker Cathal Barrett had the effect of changing the complexion of the outcome, and indeed, of the occasion.

Tipp power to glory as 14 man Kilkenny lose the plot
18 August 2019; Séamus Callanan of Tipperary celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Kilkenny and Tipperary at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Referee James Owens consulted at length with his linesman Johnny Murphy and having taken a look at the injury sustained, shocked Hogan and a large section of the viewing public, by brandishing red in his face.

It was a huge call as even TV reruns were far from certain as to the extent of the hit. It was a given that while he intended to tackle his man, it was accidental that he caught him – albeit not full on – on the front of his helmet.

With new dictats from on-high in the GAA demanding that any contacts with the head area be deemed a sending off offence, Owns felt he had no choice but to produce a red.

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody, who was close to the incident, showed his displeasure on the line, but the die was cast.

Tipp power to glory as 14 man Kilkenny lose the plot
18 August 2019; Richie Hogan of Kilkenny is shown a red card by the referee James Owens during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Kilkenny and Tipperary at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Owens had the age-old referee’s cop-out to restore the numbers equilibrium in the second half by red-carding Forde for a tackle on Eoin Murphy, the Kilkeeny goalkeeper.

But it was a limp arm he put around the lower neck area and the flashing of a yellow in this instance was correct.

Personally, my initial instinct when watching in real time was a yellow card too for Hogan, but the linesman who was closest of all and obviously made a serious impression on the referee with his views.

Tipp themsleves had overcome the issue in the semi-final of being a man down to Wexford, when John McGrath received his marching orders.

Tipp power to glory as 14 man Kilkenny lose the plot
18 August 2019; Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy, left, shakes hands with Kilkenny manager Brian Cody following the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Kilkenny and Tipperary at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

There was a forlorn hope that Kilkeny would apply even more effort to make up for the extra man, but truth is they were already doing that in making up for whatever hurling deficiency they had by applying a team etiquette beyond the sum of their parts.

In other words, they had nothing more to give.

While Tipp got to the break only one point to the good – 1-9 to 0-11 – they sucked the oxygen out of the Kilkenny corpse on the changeover, with a couple of excellently worked goals and a rake of long-range points.

In an era of sophisticated use of strategies, Kilkenny reverted to near neanderthal hurling by pumping long high balls into the Tipp goal area, hoping that either Colin Fennelly or TJ Reid would turn into latter day Cuchulainn figures and catch and despatch two or three goals to bring them back into the game.

Tipp power to glory as 14 man Kilkenny lose the plot
18 August 2019; Niall O’Meara of Tipperary shoots to score his side’s first goal despite the tackle of Conor Fogarty of Kilkenny during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Kilkenny and Tipperary at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

It wasn’t to be as Liam Sheedy set his team up brilliantly to make best use of the extra man, to shadow in front of his full-back line.

This in turn allowed the winners to run through the lines with deft hand-passes and short precise hurley deliveries, that ended in several chances being created to extend the lead to the full-time level of 14 points.

As you’d expect Kilkenny hurled on to the end but they were like the game boxer who was landing no blows himself, but refused to lie on the canvas.

It meant that the atmosphere in Croke Park was as flat as a pancake for an All-Ireland when the result is a foregone conclusion long, long before the final whistle.

 

It is one of the worst sporting experiences for a packed attendance to endure.

Even the delirious Tipp followers felt a sense of anti-climax because the outcome will always have a ‘What if” asterisk attached to it.

The truth is we will never know how the game would have unfurled had Hogan resisted the temptation to slide into his man with his elbow a little too high.

What we do know from the trend of the first half is that Tipp had comes to terms with the whirlwind Kilkenny start, and had hauled them in effortlessly despite playing second fiddle for the opening 20 minutes.

 

What that suggests is that while undoubtedly we would have had a closer game with a 15 v 15 encounter, that the outcome probably would have seen Tipp’s undoubted talent – remember how the subs contributed again on the scoreline when they were introduced – see them win by up to six or seven points.

Kilkenny should not be too down at the outcome but with Cody at the helm, nothing only outright victory suffices.

In my opinion, it is arguably his greatest feat to get a team, with at least half a dozen sub-standard hurlers (from the Kilkenny norm) in his side at any one time this season, to the final.

Ultimately, it was the collective will plus TJ Reid he was banking on to get his side across the line, and it was just a shade short of being a real force on this occasion.

 

Score of the Match – I couldn’t see anything other than a Kilkenny win until Niall O’Meara turned his marker Conor Fogarty inside out to deliver a goal that was precisely the tonic Tipp needed to pick them up for the rest of the game.

Man of The Match – By game’s end there was a queue in blue and gold for the accolade, but Noel McGrath pulled the string between defence and attack and was the one player who could have made a difference, if he was in the black and amber colours.

Thoughts Of The Match – A great day for Tipp manager, Liam Sheedy; for Seamie Callanan, the skipper and goal-a-game man and for Tipp fans, but one major disappointment for the viewing public when the game died competitively with those second half goals.

TIPPERARY: B Hogan; C Barrett, R Maher, B Heffernan; S Kennedy (0-2), P Maher, B Maher; N McGrath (0-2, one free), M Breen (0-1); D McCormack, N O’Meara (1-0), J Forde (0-8, 4f, 2’65s); J O’Dwyer (1-2), S Callanan (1-2, 1f), J McGrath (0-3). Subs: M Kehoe (0-1) for O’Meara (52 min), W Connors (0-2) for McCormack (57min), J Morris (0-1) for J McGrath (60min), S O’Brien for Barrett (61min), G Browne (0-1) for Breen (64min).

KILKENNY: E Murphy; P Murphy, H Lawlor, Holden; C Fogarty, P Walsh (0-1), P Deegan; C Browne, C Buckley; J Donnelly (0-3), TJ Reid (0-11, 10f),12 W Walsh (0-1); A Mullen, C Fennelly (0-1), R Hogan (0-1).Subs: B Ryan (0-2) for Mullen (40 min), R Leahy for Buckley (34min), J Maher for Fogarty (54min), C Delaney for Holden (59min).

Referee: James Owens (Wexford).

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