Tipperary 0-17 Kilkenny 0-18
When Brian Cody took over as Kilkenny manager 20 seasons ago, Tipperary led the league count against their great rivals by 26-16. On Sunday in Semple Stadium, Thurles, Cody's latest team pushed the county ahead of Tipp 33-32 with seven draws.
The difference swung on a long-range free awarded in the 73rd minute after the busy Pádraic Maher had instinctively touched a ball on the ground in a scramble. All Star goalkeeper Eoin Murphy struck over a second point from his own 65-metre line. Kilkenny pressed the puck-out and there was no more time for a late deliverance for the home team.
In terms of more recent history, it was the third regulation match in a row between the counties to finish with no more than a point between the counties. Tipperary, though, haven't won one since 2015 and there was frustration for Liam Sheedy on his re-engagement with Cody after nine years that a match there for the taking ended up being taken elsewhere.
Even at the end, Noel McGrath, the home side's most influential player, took a pass from Ronan Maher to fire Tipperary ahead, 0-17 to 0-16 in the second of three minutes of added time. Richie Hogan, on as a replacement, put a missed free behind to conjure a great point to equalise.
Whereas it wasn't as abject from a Tipperary perspective as last year's Allianz Hurling final defeat by the same opponents, it still places a question mark over their prospects of reaching this year's quarter-finals.
Nonetheless, Kilkenny did lead for virtually the whole match until the final quarter. When Tipp moved 0-15 to 0-13 ahead on the hour, Kilkenny hadn’t scored since the 44th minute and it would be the 65th before they registered their 14th point.
Sheedy bemoaned the inaccuracies.
“When we got it to 0-15/0-13, we had the chances to get that to 16 or 17 and that could have been the defining moment in the match. You have to give credit to Brian and his team. If you leave them in a match, 71st , 72nd, 73rd [minutes] – no better team.
“But look, Eoin Murphy does what he does best. You make a mistake out in the middle of the park and he’ll come and he’ll throw it over the bar all day long. Paudie thought it wasn’t a pick-up. Whether it was or wasn’t, it ended up being the winning score but I don’t think it was the defining moment.”
Kilkenny were the more consistent in a first half of scrappy play with the famed Semple Stadium surface, by consensus of both managers, not in its best condition. That didn’t explain the scale of inaccuracy, with the teams hitting seven wides each before half-time. It was evenly balanced with Kilkenny 0-9 to 0-8 ahead.
Erratic free taking by both contributed to the wides' count – the problem more of a concern for Tipp in that Alan Murphy isn't Kilkenny's first-choice free taker. After four wides, three from frees, home captain Séamus Callanan was replaced on frees by Jason Forde late in the match.
His manager didn’t appear unduly worried. “You’ve all seen Séamus Callanan often enough standing over the ball and banging them over the bar,” said Sheedy afterwards. “Everybody has days like that as a player or a free-taker. He has oceans of experience. He’ll just have to work through it and get back to the high standards he sets for himself. No better man than Séamus to do it.”
For his counterpart, the match represented a good bounce-back after the previous week's home defeat by All-Ireland champions Limerick.
“We played decent right through the game,” said Cody, “but particularly in the first 20 minutes, we were moving well. Then they took the lead at a vital time in the second half and it was going to be difficult to put a stop to that, but the lads kept at it well and look it was a good win.”
There was a small difference of opinion over the late, decisive free. Sheedy said that his player had denied that he had picked up the ball but Cody didn’t see any ambiguity.
"Look, the last free: Paudie Maher touched the ball on the ground and it was an unfortunate thing for them to happen. It's not a normal thing to happen but a free is a free and Eoin took the last couple of frees very well. Both teams missed frees during the game, which added to the whole thing as well, but overall, look, it was a good response after last Sunday."
TIPPERARY: 1 P Maher; 2 A Flynn, 3 J Barry, 4 R Maher; 5 S Kennedy (0-1), 6 Pádraic Maher, 7 R Byrne (0-1);11 N McGrath (0-2), 9 W Connors; 10 Patrick Maher, 8 M Breen, 12 J O'Dwyer (0-4); 13 J Forde (0-2, two frees), 14 S Callanan (0-5, four frees), 15 N O'Meara (0-2).
Subs: 25 J Morris for Connors (43 mins), 26 J O'Dwyer for Kennedy (49), 23 J McGrath for Patrick Maher (56), 17 G Browne for Breen (68).
KILKENNY: 1 E Murphy (0-2, frees); 2 P Murphy, 3 C Delaney, 4 T Walsh; 5 C Fogarty, 6 P Deegan, 17 J Cleere; 8 P Walsh (0-2), 9 A Murphy (0-7, seven frees); 10 J Donnelly, 11 W Walsh (0-2), 12 G Malone (0-1); 13 B Ryan (0-1), 14 L Blanchfield, 15 M Keoghan (0-1).
Subs: 20 R Leahy (0-1) for Donnelly (43 mins); 21 R Hogan (0-1) for Malone , 22 J Maher for A Murphy (both 53); 26N Brassil for Blanchfield (69).
Referee: J Murphy (Limerick)