Clinical Kilkenny have the final say again
TJ Reid’s late cleverly-worked point proves enough to keep Tipperary at bay
Tipperary’s Brendan Maher and Michael Cahill battle with Kilkenny’s Richie Hogan during the Allianz Hurling League final at Semple Stadium yesterday. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
After a compelling finale, the National Hurling League was decided by the usual point and in favour of the usual suspects.
Richie Power lashed the ball high into a murky sky as the whistle went after extra-time as Kilkenny retained their league championship and extended the Indian sign which they have held over Tipperary since their thunderous All-Ireland final defeat of 2010.
Tipperary have enjoyed just one victory over their neighbours since that September high a but played at times magnificently here in front of a hugely hungry local support in the crowd of 21,605. It was riveting and unpredictable all through and in the end, Tipperary were undone by a moment of clever opportunism by the two attacking players who had tormented them all afternoon, with TJ Reid delivering a beautifully sly sideline cut into Richie Hogan’s palms and then flicking the return pass over the bar.
As usual winning points go, it was devilishly memorable. It finished 2-25 to 1-27 in favour of the visitors, giving Kilkenny their eighth league title of the Cody epoch and the honour of being the first county to complete a spring three-in-a-row since – who else? –Tipperary did so in 1961.
“Oh, straight off the training ground,” codded Brian Cody afterwards of Reid’s closing score, “And from my playbook too. I have never seen it before. It is way beyond my capabilities, that is for sure.”
Afterwards, both Cody and Eamon O’Shea quickly began switched into the ‘importance of the championship’ theme. But everyone in the stands could see just how engrossed by the occasion they were.
Cody entered the Tipperary dug-out at one stage of the first half for reasons about which he remained coy later on.
And Eamon O’Shea, after a turbulent league season, was almost gnomic in his answers to the crowd of journalists crowding around him in the corridor when the match ended.
There had been an abiding sense all afternoon around Semple Stadium that the Tipp’ faithful were aching for a win of significance over their perpetual rivals. As it was, Tipperary showed immense courage to respond to the setback of conceding two penalties in normal time – the first of which looked to have been a free out – to produce two injury-time points and prolong what was a fascinating afternoon of hurling.
“Really proud of the players,” was O’Shea’s terse summary of that gripping period.
“What else do you want me to say? Brilliant match. I hope ye enjoyed it. Because I did.”
Everyone did. Gone was the freewheeling goal-scoring exhibition of their league encounter. The Tipperary defence, depicted as AWOL during the season, were in Hell’s Kitchen mode here: just 0-8 of the Kilkenny’s regulation total of 2-17 came from play. James Barry had a storming match on the right wing and Cathal Barrett, a late inclusion, had a fine afternoon alongside Padraic Maher at full back.