Kevin Kelly’s late goals help Kilkenny turn tables on Tipperary
Munster champions led for most of the game but could never build big enough lead
Kilkenny’s Conor Fogarty under pressure from Noel McGrath of Tipperary during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1A match at Nowlan Park. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Kilkenny 2-17 Tipperary 0-18
Kilkenny filed away another gratifying win over Tipperary when two late goals from Kevin Kelly transformed Sunday’s absorbing Allianz Hurling League match played in difficult conditions before 10,892 at Nowlan Park.
The visitors had led more or less from the start but with margins paper-thin at 0-15 to 0-16, a 67th-minute break by replacement Jonjo Farrell down the right ended with him playing the ball across the goal where Kelly finished to the net.
Two minutes into injury-time with the margin again down to one, the full forward found himself in space and declining the clear opportunity for a point, he soloed on and drove in the score from which Tipperary could never recover.
Tipperary had the better of the early exchanges but like last week, Kilkenny benefited from some poor finishing from their opponents, who cut through for some goal chances that went untaken.
The home side’s own shooting wasn’t flawless either and there was the unusual sight of Hurler of the Year TJ Reid shooting three frees wide.
The early menace posed by the McGraths, Noel and John, and full forward Conor Kenny, as well as O’Dwyer, ebbed a little in the second quarter. Although the Munster champions’ forwards contested the rucks on a wet and slippery afternoon – John McGrath’s 27th-minute point was the outcome of one – Kilkenny’s defence got tighter and the tide turned.
James Maher, making his first league start, had a fine full debut and ended up as the TG4 man of the match. The UCD Fitzgibbon player posed problems for Tipperary captain Brendan Maher, by playing a fairly free role – dropping deep but getting forward sufficiently to score three good points, his third the last before half-time and the product of a neat piece of thievery on the right-hand touchline by Reid. He added a fourth point after the break.
Power was nearly in for a goal in the 23rd minute but Darren Gleeson saved and also blocked a follow-up for a 65, pointed by Reid.
Tipperary started the second half well with two points, from O’Dwyer and John McGrath within 48 seconds of the re-start. Kilkenny responded immediately with three of their own and the ebb-and-flow resumed.
Infuriatingly for the losers they were the ones with their necks in front for all but two minutes, up until the goal with just minutes left.
To an extent though, the tide had turned at the end of the first half. Tipperary didn’t find goal chances as easily come by and newcomer Robert Lennon at centre back caught the eye for Kilkenny with his strength and powerful breaks in the second half. Any openings were dealt with capably by Eoin Murphy in the Kilkenny goal who was composed under the high ball and alert to any danger, saving comfortably from Patrick Maher in the 46th minute.
Kilkenny weren’t as economical as the visitors and hit eight wides in the second half compared to two for Tipp. Nonetheless Michael Ryan’s team looked to be holding out until the late breaches of their defence consigned them almost in a couple of blinks to a five-point defeat.
KILKENNY: E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden, S Prendergast (capt); P Walsh (0-1), R Lennon, D Cody; L Ryan, C Fogarty; C Fennelly, TJ Reid (0-10, six frees, one 65), J Maher (0-4); W Walsh (0-1), K Kelly (2-1), J Power.
Subs: J Farrell for Power (63 mins), K Joyce for Holden (63 mins),
TIPPERARY: D Gleeson; C Barrett, T Hamill, M Cahill; B Maher (capt), J Barry, Pádraic Maher; M Breen (0-1), D Quinn; D McCormack, Patrick Maher, J O’Dwyer (0-9, four frees, two 65s); N McGrath (0-2), C Kenny (0-2), J McGrath (0-4, one free).
Subs: N O’Meara for Kenny (50 mins), R Maher for Quinn (52 mins), A Coffey for McCormack (68 mins).
Referee: C McAllister (Cork).