A NERVOUS night on Noreside as these age-old rivals played out a fiery, pulsating battle with the home side coming out on top to confound the theory that their glorious era had ended. They looked drawn and vulnerable for stages of this game but put in a rousing second-half shift to see them through.
As the game wore on Richie Hogan stepped up to pull all the strings in attack but their usual suspects – Tommy Walsh, Jackie Tyrrell and Brian Hogan – bossed the game at the back. Tipp had their chances, they squandered a goal chance and missed two points at a crucial stage of the game and you just don't give Kilkenny that break. Their old failing of lacking ball winners in attack cropped up again and the management may have no option but to start again with youth next season.
The loss of Lar Corbett through injury in the first half crippled them, he had won two frees and scored a goal by the time he hobbled off.
Kilkenny, meanwhile, march on and Waterford await them next weekend. They may look back on this as the spur for their championship comeback A near-capacity crowd of 23,307 had crammed into Nowlan Park long before the throw-in.
Henry Shefflin and Mick Fennelly both togged out while influential corner-back Paul Murphy came into the team in place of Conor Fogarty. Matt Ruth and TJ Reid also came into the starting line-up, but the roar that greeted Shefflin's inclusion on the bench was simply deafening.
Tipp lost Paul Curran before the game – he had damaged his hamstring in training midweek and James Woodlock came in. Paddy Stapleton took over the edge of the square doing a fine job on whoever came his way.
As usual, Tipp's problems lay in attack where they failed to land clean ball. They squandered possession a couple of times to let Kilkenny break free at the other end and open up a two-point lead. Gradually, however, the opposition attackers found a bit of edge and won a few frees. Both sides clocked up plenty of wides in the opening stages but after 12 minutes Tipp had edged in front. From a deep John O'Dwyer delivery the ball broke free and Corbett cracked it home to open up a 1-5 to 0-4 lead after 22 minutes.
From there Tipp should have surged ahead as they looked to have the legs in open space. The problem, though, was they couldn't get past the Kilkenny backs. Still, Brian Cody was worried, he whipped TJ Reid off shortly after 20 minutes and his replacement Ger Aylward had a quick impact, winning a free soon after he came on. Half an hour later, though, he was also replaced.
By the break they were deadlocked 0-9 to 1-6. Tipp looked lively on the restart with substitute Seamus Callanan bursting into life for his second point. Eoin Kelly missed a free and then had a sublime goal chance after being set up by James Woodlock but Eoin Murphy pulled off a top-class save to deny him.
Two Eoin Larkin frees kept the scores level after 42 minutes as the tension ramped up to an almost unbearable level. Larkin and Walsh both tacked on scores as Tipp looked to be buckling and Richie Hogan put his side three ahead with 15 minutes remaining.
Tipp's intensity dropped and they started fouling more frequently as the clock ran against them. The last thing they wanted at that stage was to see Shefflin running on the field but that's exactly what happened – the Return of the King.
Tipp tried hard, and got back in it through points from sub Kieran Bergin and the hardworking Woodlock but for the umpteenth time in their illustrious history, Kilkenny hung on in there.
Scorers – Kilkenny: E Larkin 0-11 (8f), R Hogan, W Walsh 0-3 each; R Power 0-2, C Fennelly 0-1. Tipperary: E Kelly 0-5 (5f, 1 '65), L Corbett 1-0, J O'Dwyer 0-3, S Callanan 0-2, J O'Brien, N McGrath, K Bergin, J Woodlock 0-1 each.
Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, K Joyce; M Ruth, L Ryan; W Walsh, R Power, E Larkin; C Fennelly, R Hogan, TJ Reid. Subs: G Aylward for TJ Reid (20), A Fogarty for Aylward (53), B O'Meara for E Kelly (64), H Shefflin for M Ruth (65).
Tipperary: B Cummins; P Stapleton, M Cahill, C O'Brien; C O'Mahony, Padraic Maher, B Maher; J Woodlock, S McGrath; Patrick Maher, N McGrath, J O'Brien; J O'Dwyer, E Kelly, L Corbett. Subs: S Callanan for L Corbett (28, inj), K Bergin S McGrath for (h-t), J Forde for Patrick Maher (52), G Ryan for J O'Brien (54),
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly)