Kilkenny ruthless in historic win
Kilkenny 3-30 Waterford 1-13: Kilkenny produced one of the most devastating performances in championship history in capturing their third successive All-Ireland hurling title in Croke Park this afternoon - the first time they'd managed such a feat since 1911-1913.
The winning margin of 23 points was every bit as devastating as it sounds, as Kilkenny simply out-classed and out-played Waterford in every sector of the field, inflicting the sort of defeat no team could have deserved, let alone expected.
As if to underline their dominance, it was Kilkenny's 31st senior title in total - thus putting them top of the all-time list, one more than Cork. So team captain James Cha Fitzpatrick collected the Liam McCarthy Cup the year after his club mate Henry Shefflin, and he simply described it as a "monumental feat for Kilkenny hurling".
Although the occasion electrified Croke Park from the moment the two teams ran on the pitch, in front of a capacity crowd of 82,186, the game as a contest was effectively over after 20 minutes. Waterford, who were contesting their first final since 1963, and seeking a first All-Ireland since 1959 - and only their third ever - never got a look in as Kilkenny went about winning their third All-Ireland with terrifying intention.
Kilkenny's last championship loss now goes back to the 2005 semi-final defeat to Galway, and this was a game they never once looked like losing. Shefflin and Eoin Kelly exchanged frees early on, but then Kilkenny immediately started to turn the screw, swiftly enforcing their dominance in every area of the field.
Fitzpatrick first put them in front, and from there until half time Kilkenny were simply killing Waterford, softly. Eoin Larkin and Aidan Fogarty came into the scoring act, to push them 0-6 to 0-2 in front, before another Kelly free gave Waterford a slight grip on the thing.
Soon that was all but lost. Kilkenny hit three unanswered points, one of which, ominously, came from Eddie Brennan. Again Kelly's free was the only response from Waterford, but by then it merely suspended the inevitable as Kilkenny's goal threat went into overdrive.
The first came on 20 minutes when Brennan took a superb pass from Larkin to put Kilkenny 1-10 to 0-4 in front. A minute later, Brennan had his second goal, this one even more devastating for Waterford, as Fogarty's initial shot was well saved by Clinton Hennessy - only for Brennan to blast in the rebound.
When Kelly missed his next free, it was as if the Waterford heads were already gone. Richie Power and Brennan again inflicted further damage on the scoreboard. Kelly's fifth free was Waterford's sole response before the break, and instead it was Kilkenny who ended it with another four unanswered points from Fitzpatrick, Brennan, Power and Larkin to establish an incredible 17 point advantage at the break - 2-16 to 0-5.
Waterford hadn't scored from play in the first half, and so were left waiting on a miracle. It was 10 minutes into the half, 45 minutes into the game, before they got their first point from play, an overhead shot from John Mullane. If that was meant to give Waterford some hope, instead it only lifted Kilkenny again, with substitute TJ Reid scoring with his first touch, before Larkin burst through for goal number three - thus leaving the extraordinary score line of 3-20 to 0-7, with only 47 minutes still on the clock.
The last 15 minutes was played out in practically stunned silence and Waterford painfully succumbed to the inevitable. Reid would add another three points from play, and there was little let up in Kilkenny's total and utter control.
The only small consolation in the end was a last goal for Kelly, as Kilkenny sub goalkeeper James McGarry misjudged the shot, and let it drift into the net. Still, a couple more scores from Kilkenny brought their total to the crushing 3-30 - the sort of victory margin that suggests three in a row is still only the start of things.
KILKENNY: PJ Ryan; M Kavanagh, N Hickey, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, JJ Delaney; J "Cha" Fitzpatrick, D Lyng; M Comerford, R Power, E Larkin; E Brennan, H Shefflin, A Fogarty.
Subs: TJ Reid for Comerford (43 mins), J McGarry for Ryan (61 mins).
WATERFORD: C Hennessy; E Murphy, D Prendergast, A Kearney; T Browne, K McGrath, K Moran; M Walsh, J Nagle; D Shanahan, S Prendergast, S Molumphy; E McGrath, E Kelly, J Mullane.
Subs: J Kennedy for S Prendergast, S O'Sullivan for Nagle (half time), P Flynn for E McGrath (51 mins), D Bennett for Shanahan, T Feeney for D Prendergast (both 63 mins).
Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath)