Tipperary get better of old rivals Kilkenny
Both sides lose a man in spark encounter
The biggest hurling rivalry in recent times produced enough heat at Thurles to energise a small crowd of 5,697, as Tipperary did just enough for a first – 2-17 to 1-19 – win over Kilkenny since the All-Ireland final of 2010.
The county's first win in this season's Allianz National League was achieved a good deal closer to full strength than their opponents - although Kilkenny manager Brian Cody refused to countenance use of that particular alibi - and so will have been received with relief as well as satisfaction.
After a fast start - three points in as many minutes - Tipp began to look a bit out of sorts: spilling ball and losing possession to poor passing, failing to get serviceable ball into the forwards and in rugby parlance 'losing the collisions'.
One of Kilkenny's comeback points came because John O'Brien dropped a ball and Michael Cahill - who went on to have a terrific game, including critical interventions in the dying minutes to relieve pressure - slipped before Matthew Ruth rifled over a point for 0-3 to 0-4.
Manager Eamon O'Shea acknowledged the error count afterwards but was encouraged by his team's work rate.
Richie Power's free equalised in the 14th minute and then Richie Hogan got in for an expertly finished goal, which left Tipp chasing the match despite having the assistance of a bitingly cold wind in the first half.
Even when Tipperary created something Kilkenny looked sharper: Conor Fogarty hustled Pa Bourke's chance out for a 65 in the 22nd minute although Eoin Kelly, who will have been well pleased with his performance this early in the year, pointed the dead ball.
With the interval in sight, Tipperary took advantage of some good fortune. Conor O'Mahony's long ball in on goal was - again to borrow the vernacular of another sport - met by John O'Dwyer's glancing header, as the sliotar ricocheted off his helmet into the net.
Five minutes later Pádraic Maher appeared to miss-hit a ball into the attack but it fell nicely for Lar Corbett who took the goal chance with aplomb to leave the score 2-9 to 1-7.
Significantly, after the club's spring of discontent, the Thurles Sarsfields contingent welcomed a return to form. Corbett was busy and constructive and if Cahill's excellence stood out in defence, Pádraic Maher's game improved all the way through, as he ended the first half with a point at the end of great supporting run down the right wing and went on to have a strong second half.
There was also an encouraging display by Brendan Maher, another of the heroes of 2010 who has had bad luck with injuries in the interim, at centrefield.
Leading by six at half-time, 2-11 to 1-8, Tipperary found themselves under mounting pressure after the break.
Although the home side began to work creative moves with more precise and better tailored ball into the attack - exemplified by O'Dwyer's lovely flat delivery into Pa Bourke for a point, which cancelled out Power's 38th-minute free, Kilkenny gradually took control and with the match heading into the final quarter, put together a run of four unanswered points.
Three frees - a couple from Power and a monster from left wing back Paddy Hogan - plus a point snapped off breaking ball by the impressively energetic Eoin Larkin, who finished with three, including one which in another code might be described as an 'own point' deflected over by Conor O'Mahony from a line ball.
On the hour it was a one-point match, 2-14 to 1-16, and Kilkenny had momentum.
O'Shea used his bench fully and two of the replacements played a part in steadying the ship. Séamus Callanan replied instantly to Kilkenny's 16th point with a fine score from an acute angle. Shane Bourke got Tipp's next point to cancel out another free from the accurate Power.
Those margins oscillated for the closing minutes with another massive point from out the field by Paddy Hogan narrowing the score to its final margin. The last Kilkenny attack broke down and was tidied up by Cahill and referee Michael Wadding's relieving free lifted the siege.
TIPPERARY: D Gleeson; P Stapleton, P Curran, M Cahill; P Maher (0-1), C O'Mahony, C O'Brien; A Ryan, B Maher (0-1); N McGrath (0-1), L Corbett (1-1), J O'Brien; J O'Dwyer (1-0), E Kelly (0-9, seven frees, 65), P Bourke (0-2, one free). Subs: S Bourke (0-1) for A Ryan (51 mins), S Callanan (0-1) for O'Dwyer (57 mins), T Hamill for O'Mahony (58 mins), B O'Meara for P Bourke (61 mins), J Forde for O'Brien (67 mins).
KILKENNY: D Herity; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, C Fogarty; T Walsh, B Hogan, P Hogan (0-2, one free); L Ryan, R Power (0-9, eight frees, 65); M Kelly, C Fennelly (0-1), E Larkin (0-3, one lineball); M Ruth (0-1), R Hogan (1-2), A Fogarty (0-1). Subs: K Joyce for B Hogan (47 mins), T Breen for Ruth (52 mins), G Aylward for Kelly (65 mins).
Referee: M Wadding (Waterford).