Kilkenny 3-22 Tipperary 1-28
When the heart-rate returns to something approaching normality, when the adrenaline fades and we all slide back to our workaday lives, this day will endure. Kilkenny and Tipperary served up one of the best hurling matches anyone can remember, finishing all square at 3-22 to 1-28. For the third year in a row, we’ll come back for a replayed All-Ireland final. Not that anyone could have a problem with that.
The game ended with Tipperary wing-forward John O’Dwyer standing over a 97-metre free, the stadium thrumming and a chance to win the All-Ireland. In a game of limitless quality, there hadn’t been a wide from either side since the 44th minute. And after O’Dwyer struck it, we weren’t sure if we’d seen one now. Drama upon drama, Hawk-Eye was needed to tell us. All 82,179 sets of eyes turned to the big screen. MISS.
It was as frantic as anyone could have wanted, a game of endless voltage throughout. Any Tipp people who fretted that some of their players might not turn up had their worries assuaged from the start. With five players starting their first All-Ireland, you might have imagined some of them would need time to settle. The displays of Cathal Barrett and Bubbles O'Dwyer in the first half gave lie to that.
As for any Kilkenny anxiety about what would happen if Tipp's forwards clicked, well it got answered midway through the opening period. Bonner Maher exploded into the game, scored a goal, got fouled for a penalty by Paul Murphy before he scored another point and all of a sudden Tipp were six points ahead. It only took Kilkenny three minutes to reduce the margin to one.
It was that kind of day, the two sides acting and reacting like a couple of street gangs in one of those dance-off movies. It was score for score, goal for goal, puck-out wheeze for puck-out wheeze. For Eoin Larkin’s two brilliant first-half points, see Noel McGrath’s pair in reply. All four midfielders went to the break with a point each to their name. Both defences hung in as best they could but the threat of a game-breaking goal was never far away.
Tipp it was who got the first of the day. There were 20 minutes on the clock and they were 0-8 to 0-6 up when it came. For neither the first nor last time all day, Bonner Maher caught a puck-out and drove through the centre of the Kilkenny defence. His shot was low and though Eoin Murphy got a stick to it, it dribbled over the line. When Lar Corbett followed up with a sumptuous point on the run, Tipp were 1-9 to 0-6 ahead and sizzling.
But Kilkenny are Kilkenny. Richie Hogan – incredible all day – intervened with a point when badly needed. Then TJ Reid sent Richie Power in and with glorious skill the Kilkenny full forward flicked the ball over the outrushing Darren Gleeson and to the empty net. And Tipp needed Gleeson to pull off a save just a minute later, this time from Reid.
It was insane stuff at times. Michael Fennelly popped up at the end of an electric minute of play to bring the margin back to a point. Séamus Callanan extended with a phenomenal score on the run, Conor Fogarty kept Kilkenny in touch. By half-time, Tipp had a 1-13 to 1-11 lead and the rest of us tried to catch our breath.
But this pair seemingly don’t want you to be calm or collected or to gather your thoughts. The teams weren’t back out on the pitch more than a minute when Reid speared home a rasper for Kilkenny’s second goal. And if we thought that signalled a Kilkenny takeover, Shane McGrath doused the notion with a rousing point to equalise soon after.
On the two teams went, tit-for-tat all the way home. Richie Hogan took over through the third quarter, his every touch a point or one that set a score up. Corbett hit an incredible shot off the angle between crossbar and goalpost, Gearóid Ryan blasted over when right in on goal.
It was one of those days where you’d struggle to find a player who didn’t add something. Power swung over a brilliant score from the sideline under the Cusack Stand on 48 minutes before looking like he’d swung the game Kilkenny’s way soon after with a goal that was all his own work. Another from Hogan put them 3-16 to 1-18 ahead with 20 minutes to go.
But if we thought Tipp might not have the answer when their character came to be questioned, we were wrong. Mickey Cahill came off the bench to score a point with his first touch, Callanan showed for everything, O'Dwyer and Corbett likewise. They could even afford to have another penalty saved – this time O'Dwyer was the striker – and for Kilkenny to push four clear with nine minutes to go.
Eamon O'Shea's side weren't done though. Paddy Stapleton got forward for a point. Callanan and O'Dwyer chipped in with difficult scores at a time when they absolutely could not afford to miss. Jason Forde landed in off the bench to get them to within a point, like Cahill scoring with his first touch.
All that was left was for O’Dwyer to level it and to nearly win it. The replay will be on Saturday night, September 27th. Where else would you be?
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).
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)
Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath)