Sunday 25 September 2016

Cyril Farrell: Future bright for Premier but expect Cats to bite back

Cyril Farrell

Published 05/09/2016 | 02:30

Seamus Kennedy, in action against Eoin Larkin, grew into the game well. There were probably times this year when he wished he was with the county’s footballers given their great run to he semi-final but he looked assured yesterday Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Seamus Kennedy, in action against Eoin Larkin, grew into the game well. There were probably times this year when he wished he was with the county’s footballers given their great run to he semi-final but he looked assured yesterday Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

You could see where the Tipperary mindset was right from the first few minutes.

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All week talk about 'intensity' levels dominated the build-up.

The theme seemed to be, Tipp would have to match Kilkenny in that department before they got any notions of actually beating them.

Michael Ryan made that point and his team seemed to take note.

Tipperary have some brilliant forwards. Some really talented hurlers who could take the eye out of your head with a from a mile away.

But it was the less celebrated aspects of the game that set the tone for this game. Their hooking, blocking and hassling of the Kilkenny backs was top rate right from the off. That set the tone and the rest followed.

Maybe half a dozen times in the first half, Kilkenny backs were coming out with that ball and they got hammered backwards, turned over and Tipp would have the ball over the bar in a split second.

It gave Tipp the confidence they needed to go on and win and you could see it spreading through the side. Kilkenny, normally so dominant in the air, were struggling for possession from their own puck outs. Everything that rained down on top of the Tipp half back line was gobbled up.

Young Ronan Maher was excellent at centre back and he took everything Kilkenny had to throw at him. The Cats tested the young centre back by throwing TJ Reid and Richie Hogan in on top of them at various stages in the first half. In the face of much vaunted company, he held firm.

Beside him Seamus Kennedy grew into the game well. There were probably times this year when he wished he was with the county's footballers given their great run to he semi-final but he looked assured yesterday. Padraic Maher made up the other third of the half back line and he was brilliant again.

Between those three they ensured Tipp had the lion's share of possession and offered the full back line comfort. They effectively gave Tipp a hold on the game that Kilkenny could never wrestle off them.

Some of Tipperary's play was exceptional in the first half but still they left the door open. They were only two points up at the break but they had done enough hurling to be much further ahead than that. They had eight wides and Callanan had seen a free blocked by Cillian Buckley. That they had been level 10 times showed Kilkenny's ability to survive even though they were on the back foot.

But the Cats have been in that situation many times before. Twelve months ago, they pulled the All-Ireland final out of the fire against Galway with a brilliant second half display so we expected a kick.

Classic

Kevin Kelly's goal should have been the catalyst. Kelly had spurned a chance earlier in the half when Cathal Barrett did brilliantly to close him down before he could get a shot away but it looked like the classic Kilkenny surge would come when he scooped the ball to the net to put his side two points up.

Tipp fans might have expected a storm but their team kept calm. They rattled off two points through Seamus Callanan and sub Jason Forde who scored with his first touch. Forde is a brilliant player who is unlucky not to be starting but he showed his worth to Tipp, finishing with two important points.

Then came Bubbles' goal. In fact Tipp hit 1-4 without reply after Kelly's goal. At one stage they had outscored them by 1-8 to 0-2 since Kilkenny raised that green flag. It was the response normally associated with Kilkenny. It was the response of champions.

It felt like it was only going one way from there. And to be honest Tipperary could have scored more and could have won by a bigger margin but they wasted a few chances. That they might have snaffled more than the 2-29 they racked up on the day speaks volumes about just how good they were.

And the fact that they won this All-Ireland with a handful of relative rookies means the future looks bright. As I said, Ronan Maher was excellent but they have the likes of Dan McCormack, Michael Breen, John McGrath and Kennedy who will only improve for the experience. That's a third of a team who look to have bright futures ahead of them.

Of course, there'll be no one writing off Kilkenny. They'll take their beating in the same way they were gracious when they won so many titles. To their credit they kept trying. Richie Hogan managed a goal late on. It didn't mean much in the grand scheme of things but it showed they wouldn't stop fighting and you can only admire them for that. And so many times before, they have turned a set back into a launching pad for yet more success. No one will surprised if they are back here again next year.

But this was Tipperary's day. They were better in pretty much every aspect of play in pretty much every position. It was a win that was a few years in the making. And in showing Kilkenny are beatable, they have given the rest of the country hope. Roll on 2017.

Tipp minors live up to billing

The Tipperary minors were in a difficult position going into yesterday’s final.

Having beaten Limerick by 17 points when the sides met in the Munster final, they were expected to win the curtain-raiser yesterday with a bit to spare and that made it a potential banana skin for them.

But they were mature in how they dealt with that expectation. They weren’t anything like as dominant as they were last time they met, but that was to be expected. They couldn’t be expected to run in goals like they did in the All-Ireland semi-final against Galway. But they got the job done. Finals are for winning.

Credit to Limerick who had done some good work and had improved significantly since the Munster final.

And given last year’s U21 win and yesterday being their second minor final appearance in two years, there is some consolation for them in that their conveyor belt seems to be working well.

But Croke Park belonged to entirely to Tipperary yesterday.

Irish Independent

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