Jason Forde-inspired Tipperary secure first league win over Kilkenny since 2017

Kilkenny draw level after six-point half-time deficit but Tipperary manage to cling on

Tipperary 1-19 Kilkenny 1-18

Neighbours may be defined by distance but it’s rarely straightforward separating these two teams apart. In the end Tipperary effectively won this game at the third attempt, only seeing off Kilkenny with the last score just as the proceedings entered added time.

If it’s also rare for these teams not to bring out the best in each other then that only proved partly true, Kilkenny looking distinctly out of sorts for much of the first half, Tipperary switching off for a period early in the second.

So, after building a six-point advantage at half-time, only for Kilkenny to draw level, then go five points clear, only for Kilkenny to draw level again, a late free by the inspiring Jason Forde ultimately decided their fate.

In truth only the last 20 minutes played out like the great the rivalry of old, and when Kilkenny drew level for that second time in the 69th minute, thanks to a brilliant point from out on the right sideline by replacement Walter Walsh, things got properly interesting. Seamus Callanan was also on the field for Tipp at that stage and might have won it for them with his late shot at goal too, only for Huw Lawlor to make the block.

Walsh took some of the shine off his performance by fouling the ever-running Cathal Barrett, Forde landing the free to bring his tally to 0-10, five from play. There were plenty of errors from both teams, both goalkeepers making a standout save each too, only for Colm Bonnar there was particular satisfaction at the way his relatively young team stood up until the end, particularly given the absence of the high-profile retirements of late.

In his debut season as manager, his first home game, it’s nice to get a win over Kilkenny too, Tipperary’s first league win over their neighbours since 2017, having lost the last three meetings.

“Exactly, Kilkenny will always bring of the best in Tipperary, and vice versa,” said Bonnar. “We kept faith with the same that played against Laois, felt it was very important they continue to develop, some of the players.

“We were six points up at half-time, we’re in a good position, then they got back level and the rest of the game after that was just a ding-doing battle. We had goal chances, they had goal chances, so happy to come out the right side of a one-point game.”

Critically, perhaps, Kilkenny never got themselves in front, starting well off the pace it seems, not scoring until the 12th minute, and finishing the first half with 10 wides, dropping another three shots short. Brian Cody made note of that misfiring afterwards, still when Kilkenny did find some accuracy it was impressive. They finished with 11 scorers in all, replacement John Walsh latching onto a goalmouth pass in the 61st minute, his goal bringing them back within winning range, 1-15 to Tipp's 1-17. Padraig Walsh quickly added the fourth of his excellent scores and at that stage either side had the winning of it.

Without Forde in such majestic form (he shot his fifth from play moments afterwards) Tipperary might have buckled, another injection of pace from replacement Ronan Maher, announcing his arrival with a mighty point, ensuring Tipp staying in that fight until the end.

After hitting 19 wides against Antrim last weekend, Kilkenny’s final tally of 14 here perhaps marks some improvement, not that Brian Cody necessarily saw it that way.

“Well we won the last day, we didn’t win today, so you won’t be happier when you lose than when you win, obviously,” Cody mused. “It was a decent performance, a good battle. For a period, they got a nice bit of a lead, looked like they were going to drive. But the response was very, very good from the players, they fought it out to the bitter end.

“Again, we had wides that for some of them we’d prefer we weren’t having, but overall a very, very good attitude from the players, we just didn’t get over the line. And we’re creating chances, and you’d think with some of the wides they were difficult scores to get, the players know that themselves. But that is something we can improve upon.”

They way both teams drifted players back, particularly in the first half, suggests some evolution in style, although for now Bonnar seems more concerned about getting more players experienced in this art of battle: “I like the style that I saw there today, in terms of what the players were trying to do. There were occasions when Kilkenny came at us, hitting five or six points at a time, that’s something we have to look at, but at this level you’re not going to own a game. And I thought our response was very positive.

“It’s still only the middle of February, I thought we were going well in the first half. I think the second half Kilkenny came at us, forced us back, but I was delighted the way our players came back with their own hurling.”

With Tipperary up 1-11 to 0-8 at half-time, something needed to inspire Kilkenny. They finished that half conceding a goal after Eoin Murphy made the most of uncharacteristic poor puck outs, straight into the path of Denis Maher, who passed off to Jake Morris, who duly scored from close range,

Kilkenny needed a kick, and six points without reply after the 40th minute did just that: John Donnelly's free brought them level for the first time on 49 minutes, before Morris struck back with an important point, and overall Tipperary did bring out more of the best in their players, Craig Morgan, Seamus Kennedy, Barry Haffernan, Michael Breen, and Ger Browne also standing up well.

Tipperary: B Hogan (0-1, f); C Barrett, J Quigley, C Morgan; D Quirke, S Kennedy, B Heffernan (0-2); A Flynn, M Breen (0-1); D McCormack, J Forde (0-10, 5f ), G Browne (0-1); M Kehoe, D Maher (0-1), J Morris (1-2).

Subs: P Cadell for Breen (45mins), R Maher (0-1) for Browne (50 mins), S Callanan for D Maher (56 mins), P Flynn for Kehoe (67 mins), C Stakelum for McCormack (70 mins).

Kilkenny: E Murphy; M Butler, H Lawlor, E Cody; M Carey (0-1), N Brassil (0-1), D Blanchfield (0-1); C Kenny (0-1), P Deegan (0-1); R Leahy, P Walsh (0-4), T Phelan (0-1); B Ryan, M Keoghan (0-1), J Donnelly (0-5, 4f).

Subs: T Walsh for Cody (4 mins, inj), W Walsh (0-2) for Phelan (46 mins), T O'Dwyer for Leahy (56 mins), J Walsh (1-0) for Donnelly (59 mins).

Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway)

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics

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