Gripping and fitting conclusion to epic drama

Third successive drawn final, as Tipperary raise their game to take favourites to the brink

Tipperary 1-28 Kilkenny 3-22

The place went from tumult and as gripping a conclusion to an All-Ireland final as had been seen to the sense of silent shock, as a crowd of 82,179 came to terms with what they’d seen: a bravura shoot-out, the match tilting one way and then the other, teams level on 12 occasions, a nerveless comeback in the dying minutes and Hawk-Eye adjudicating the destination of the Liam MacCarthy Cup. And a third successive hurling final draw: like the number 17 bus, none for 53 years and then three, one after the other.

If the public was ambivalent about the attractions of the match beforehand, with tickets being returned on Friday, it’s safe to imagine there’ll be nothing on sale to the general public at the end of the month. The quality of the play was breathtaking. There were great performances in the forwards but yet there wasn’t a huge amount of room and both defences played well in the face of virtuous shooting. Séamus Callanan got five from play but JJ Delaney did plenty to put him off.

Tipp's corner-backs Paddy Stapleton and Cathal Barrett were also excellent despite the goals conceded and the former got up for a late point. It was a match in which no player managed to impose his will on the opposition for 70 minutes.


Kilkenny came in as favourites. Responding witheringly earlier in the summer to a suggestion that his team were past their peak, manager Brian Cody pointed out that the only peaks he recognised were All-Ireland titles. So the Leinster champions came to Croke Park not the terrifying war-machine of five and six years ago but practised at winning finals and still hungry as strays.

Sharp and lethal

They were, however, sharp and lethal in taking their goals and driven on by another great centrefield display by

Richie Hogan

, who underlined his hurler of the year credentials with a dynamic contribution and six points from play. Tipperary arrived with the baggage of having had their summer ended by Kilkenny in all three of the summers since the All-Ireland win of 2010. But this time they turned up and from the word go, took the match to the favourites and at times threatened to cut loose. It’s hard to know who’ll be more disgruntled by scoring a total of over 30 points and yet not winning the trophy.

Kilkenny did their usual in taking the early blows but gathering themselves and hitting back with well-timed goals but Tipperary never let them put clear ground between the teams and by the end, had a 97-metre free to scoop the pot. It drifted just wide, an outcome dramatically referred to Hawk-Eye, which returned the verdict: “Miss.”

The only difference this time was that Tipp stayed in touch, slipping over points, tit for tat and never falling more than four behind. When TJ Reid – again switched to the full forward but far livelier than he had been in the semi-final – pointed a free to put Kilkenny three ahead in the 66th minute, the working assumption was the cup was on its way back to the county. John O'Dwyer – a contender for man of the match – fired the first riposte, followed by Jason Forde and then O'Dwyer again for his sixth from play – and his last-minute free attempt was so close he thought he'd pointed it.

The teams had incrementally swapped points but after Shane McGrath had bustled through the middle to put two between the teams, 0-8 to 0-6, Patrick Maher grabbed one of his characteristic catches and surged in to hit a shot that Eoin Murphy should have done better with but a minute later the goalkeeper, recalled for the final after injury, redeemed himself.

Good match

Maher again took on the defence but was taken down by Paul Murphy, who overall had a good match when switched onto the rampaging centre forward. Séamus Callanan’s penalty was blocked by Murphy.

Kilkenny responded within minutes – Reid catching a dropping ball and, although bottled up, releasing Richie Power for a goal. At half-time there was just two in it: 1-13 to 1-11.

If one thing particularly disappoints Tipp, it will be they had five goal chances, including the two penalties – the second by O’Dwyer was also saved by Murphy in the 59th minute as the match looked to be ebbing away from Tipp – and points from Gearóid Ryan and Patrick Maher that could have been goals but the former shot too high and the latter saw Murphy deflect the ball over the bar.

Lar Corbett, who gave his best display of the summer and scored two points, hit the post with a 41st minute shot – he was also taken down by Jackie Tyrrell for the second penalty – and any of these chances could have given the team momentum. Instead it was Kilkenny who clinically took the goal opportunities. James Barry at full back was being targeted and the aerial assaults created problems.

Immediately on the restart Reid found the space to launch a rocket of a shot into the net and when Richie Power got his second in the 48th minute after a surge and strike by Michael Fennelly, it looked as if this would be the decisive break on the scoreboard.

Tipperary needed a step-up in the form of some of their forwards from the semi-final. And they got it. Noel McGrath was busy roaming and shot four points. Henry Shefflin made his long-awaited appearance from the bench with five minutes left but the bid for a 10th All-Ireland medal wasn't quite in the bag and the Kilkenny icon will have another day at least in Croke Park.

TIPPERARY: 1. Darren Gleeson; 2. Cathal Barrett, 6. James Barry, 4. Paddy Stapleton (0-1); 7. Kieran Bergin, 5. Brendan Maher, 3. Pádraic Maher; 8. Shane McGrath (0-2), 9. James Woodlock (0-1); 10. Gearóid Ryan (0-1), 15. Lar Corbett (0-2), 11. Patrick Maher (1-1); 12. John O'Dwyer (0-7, two frees), 14. Séamus Callanan (0-7, two frees), 13. Noel McGrath (0-4). Subs: 18. Michael Cahill (0-1) for Ryan (48 mins), 21. Eoin Kelly for Woodlock (64 mins), 20. Jason Forde (0-1) for S McGrath (66 mins), 24. John O'Brien for Callanan (71 mins). Yellow card: Patrick Maher (35 mins), O'Dwyer (35 mins). KILKENNY: 1. Eoin Murphy; 4. Jackie Tyrrell, 3. JJ Delaney, 2. Paul Murphy; 5. Joey Holden, 6. Brian Hogan (0-1), 7. Cillian Buckley; 8. Richie Hogan (0-6), 9. Conor Fogarty (0-1); 11. Colin Fennelly (0-1), 10. Michael Fennelly (0-1), 15. Eoin Larkin (0-2); 14. Richie Power (2-1), 12. TJ Reid (1-8, six points frees), 13. Walter Walsh (0-1). Subs: 23. A Fogarty for Walsh (48 mins), 19. Pádraig Walsh for Holden (61 mins), 22. Henry Shefflin for C Fennelly (66 mins), 23. Richie Power for Walsh (53 mins), 26. John Power for R Hogan (72 mins). Yellow cards: F ogarty (11 mins), P Murphy (22 mins), Tyrrell (59 min Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath).

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times