KILKENNY 0-20 TIPPERARY 1-14: The King lives and so do Kilkenny. In a deliver or die scenario, on a beautiful Saturday night in an emotionally charged Nowlan Park, Tipperary were unable to get their hands on enough ball to give the hurling championship a shot of adrenaline.
And so, it continues as this great team refuse to go quietly.
There were many variables, but breaking it down, Kilkenny's young and old defenders horsed the Tipperary forwards out of their path when it really mattered. Same old failings then for Tipp, met by that same old belligerence from Jackie Tyrrell and associates. They were never going to die on their own field.
It is also worth noting the spread of scores across the Kilkenny forward line, so abysmal against Dublin, delivering 10 points from play here. A victory of such magnitude could drive them all the way to September but try telling that to Brian Cody.
"In the past we have played four games and become All-Ireland champions but we are light years away from that at the moment. It was a very, very decent performance," said the Kilkenny manager.
He also stated the obvious consequences of losing on their own patch in early July provided powerful motivation. That fear ensured every man capable of hurling togged out. That included Henry Shefflin, returning after 10 months and foot surgery with six minutes remaining. It was a moment that will always be remembered by the locals in a boiling 22,307 crowd.
By that stage Eoin Larkin, the official man of the match, who finished with 0-11 including one beauty from play and some important defensive covering, had them 0-17 to 1-12 ahead.
What came next was the latest tutorial in unbreakable resistance by the greatest defenders hurling has ever seen. Just a week previous, Tyrrell looked injured and many felt finished as an intercounty defender.
The turnaround in his form was astounding to witness.
Instead it is Tipperary who are done for now in 2013. The inability of their forwards to hold their own became glaringly obvious when Lar Corbett broke a guitar string after just 28 minutes. Kieran Joyce, the young wing back, sensed the immediate tear in the game's fabric, firing the sliotar down field to the excellent Richie Hogan who levelled it at 0-8 to 1-5.
Corbett limped away, his well taken 15th minute goal, a cruel glimpse at what Tipperary could have achieved.
Séamus Callanan arrived and contributed two decent points but Tipperary desperately needed their 2010 hurler of the year. They also needed Eoin Kelly’s shooting to be unerring. A heroic goal-line block by JJ Delaney, early in the second-half, denied him and Tipperary a second goal.
Kelly put the resulting 65 wide and Kilkenny never looked back with Walsh scoring directly off the puck out of yet another Larkin free in the 50th minute. Brian Hogan grabbed the next clearance cleanly and, all of a sudden, they looked invincible again.
Michael Fennelly only took part in the warm up and they also lost TJ Reid to a hamstring strain on 20 minutes. However, those problems were offset by the surprising return of All Star corner back Paul Murphy. His outstanding display was astonishing considering the need for a stretcher after an bad ankle twist in Portlaoise a fortnight ago.
“Paul Murphy was barely able to jog last Saturday night,” Cody explained. “He arrived into training on Monday night – he had spent hours in ice baths, pushing himself to the limits to get himself ready – and said ‘I feel much better’.
“Henry hadn’t done one ounce of hurling. He came in Monday night and just insisted on getting in on a bit of a hurling match and played serious hurling.”
Murphy’s excellence seemed to inspire Delaney, Hogan and most of all Tyrrell. Or they him.
Either way, they were all needed at the end. Tipperary defender Kieran Bergin became the latest to do a Lazarus impression, from a broken hand, pitched up in the half forwards and almost inspired a late Tipperary revival.
Notably, Noel McGrath dropped deep to pick up Shefflin who still managed to influence proceedings with a subtle lay off for Richie Power to make it 0-19 to 1-13 entering injury time. Colin Fennelly’s point nailed the coffin shut.
"We came out of Portlaoise last Saturday night having been comprehensively beaten by Dublin, deservedly so," said Cody. "Understandably questions were being asked about where are we or is this the end or whatever. The old script is still there anyway. But we are acutely aware that we are playing against Waterford next Saturday night, who to me are a top team, and the battle goes on."
KILKENNY: 1 E Murphy; 27 P Murphy, 3 JJ Delaney, 4 J Tyrrell; 5 T Walsh, 6 B Hogan, 7 K Joyce; 12 E Larkin (0-11, 0-10 frees), 9 L Ryan; 21 M Ruth, 11 R Power (0-2), 13 C Fennelly (0-1); 14 R Hogan (0-3), 10 W Walsh (0-3), 20 TJ Reid. Subs: 22 G Aylward for TJ Reid (20 mins), 15 A Fogarty for G Aylward (52 mins), 28 H Shefflin for M Ruth (64 mins).
TIPPERARY: 1 B Cummins; 5 C O'Brien, 2 P Stapleton, 4 M Cahill; 8 B Maher, 6 C O'Mahony, 7 Pádraic Maher; 26 J Woodlock (0-1), 9 S McGrath; 10 Patrick Maher, 11 N McGrath (0-1), 12 J O'Brien (0-1); 13 J O'Dwyer (0-3), 14 E Kelly (0-5, 0-4 frees and 0-1 65), 15 L Corbett (1-0). Subs: 18 S Callanan (0-2) for L Corbett (24 mins, inj), 3 K Bergin (0-1) for 19 J Forde for Patrick Maher (51 mins), 24 G Ryan for J O'Brien (53 mins), 23 B O'Meara for E Kelly (63 mins).
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly).