Tipperary wash away their demons in the Croke Park rain
Kilkenny had to play the second half with 14 men against a Tipp full of lethal scorers
Tipperary captain Séamus Callanan kisses the Liam MacCarthy Cup following his county’s victory over Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final at Croke Park. Photograph: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
The rain fell hard and Tipperary banished their demons. This decade of hurling has been defined by a series of riveting and often brilliant All-Ireland final battles between a silken generation of Tipperary hurlers and Brian Cody’s Kilkenny. The big surprise about Sunday’s match was that in the end Tipperary romped to their 28th title, winning by a score of 3-25 to 0-20.
Just a year ago this golden generation of Tipperary hurlers had disappeared from the All-Ireland championship in June, and opinion was split as to whether they had made the most of their burning talent. Yet the return of Liam Sheedy and Eamon O’Shea saw the county return to the dreamland of 2010, the year when they stopped Kilkenny from completing five All-Irelands in a row.
At the beginning of this year’s hurling summer nobody had anticipated the stripy men from Noreside featuring in a final either. Cody was in charge of a young group still in development. Yet they deepened and made the metamorphosis through June and July into the kind of irresistible collective force which has been the hallmark of his career.
Tipp and Kilkenny are an old Hollywood romance: for all of the bickering and squabbles and occasional bitterness they just can’t keep away from each other.
It was fiery and it was close, and at one stage Cody’s young team went five points clear of their neighbour.
Arguably the day turned on a red card issued in the 32nd minute to Richie Hogan, Kilkenny’s stellar forward, for a challenge on Tipperary’s Cathal Barrett. Instantly the dismissal split opinion on social media and on television.
None of that changed the reality that Kilkenny had to play the second half with 14 men. Against a Tipperary team littered with stylists and lethal score-takers, it was asking too much. Two gorgeous goals by Séamus Callanan, the team captain, and the mercurial John O’Dwyer pushed Tipperary into a commanding lead they were never going to relinquish.
“We got the goals, and that was the difference,” said Sheedy. “When we look back there will be passages of play when maybe we didn’t find our full flow, but when we did we were exceptional.”
Scoring 3-25 in partial flow is a frightening total. Kilkenny had no quit, and kept fighting through the mounting impossibility of the second half.
“It became very difficult, but I thought some of our players were just outstanding against serious odds. We were beaten. I still believe that our players were heroic.”
But the latest version of this struggle for hurling supremacy was destined for Slievenamon country. So after another smouldering summer of hurling, the decade has ended on the most traditional sights and sounds.
They’ll meet again before too long.