Five major talking points from Tipperary's sensational All-Ireland final triumph over Kilkenny
Tipperary defeated Kilkenny by 2-29 to 2-20 in the All-Ireland SHC final at Croke Park this afternoon, and here we examine some of the pressing talking points from what was a momentous showcase.
Kilkenny’s defensive frailty
Concerns over Kilkenny’s full back line were nothing new, but for the most part they had managed to avoid major exposure, the National League semi final defeat to Clare being an exception. Here they suffered a hellish afternoon. Having lost great full backs to retirement in Noel Hickey and JJ Delaney, they’ve struggled to find a replacement in that mould.
Joey Holden has shouldered the burden and coped well generally but this was a wipeout with his man Seamus Callanan the day’s star player, scoring nine points from play, eight while on Kilkenny's number 3. Kilkenny’s corner backs were also in serious trouble, with the Tipp full forward line alone accumulating 2-15 from play.
This is an age of dizzying scoring feats. Of the All-Ireland finals played over the last 25 years, Kilkenny’s total of 2-20 would have won all but seven of them. Tipp’s 35-point haul has only been surpassed twice in recent times, by Kilkenny in 2008 against Waterford, and Tipperary in 1989 when they hammered Antrim. Tipp scored 2-23 from play, even better than their 1-24 from play two years ago in the drawn All-Ireland final against Kilkenny.
Bubbles, an enigma
His talent is beyond dispute and he finished the day with 1-5, including a gloriously struck lineball. Yet there were doubts about whether he would start the match, having been left off the starting team for the semi final.
He remains capable of anything. He mixed the sublime with some less commendable inputs, including two sloppy first half wides, and he should have placed Seamus Callanan for what would have been a certain goal after 50 minutes, instead shooting himself from a difficult angle. Still, there was so much to admire: he finished the day one of Tipp’s best forwards and his goal was a brilliant finish, the score that gave Tipp the confidence to drive on and claim victory.
In a season which saw Waterford and Clare tinker with team structure and use defensive systems, the final was played with an old fashioned brand of direct hurling, man on man.
Tipp pumped ball down on the Kilkenny full back line and it paid dividends. Padraic and Ronan Maher were exceptional in dominating the air in the Tipp half back line, and much praise will be heaped on manager Michael Ryan on putting his own stamp on the team in his first season.
Kilkenny’s diminishing returns.
Notoriously hard to beat and incredibly resourceful, this time the loss of a number of key players caught up with Kilkenny. Kevin Kelly started his first championship match in an All-Ireland final, scored the first point, and had a second half goal, and could have had a second. Walter Walsh started well and faded. Richie Hogan couldn’t replicate his earlier season form.
Kilkenny kept coming and Hogan’s late goal gave them renewed hope but they hadn’t enough depth to handle the losses through injury and retirement. They now face a period of transition and have a serious challenge to rebuild a defence once the envy of every other county.