TIPPERARY 0-12 KILKENNY 1-8 IT will be a long way to Tipperary tonight as the Holy Grail of camogie the O'Duffy Cup goes to the Premier County for the very first time.All the hardship of seven previous final losses was wiped away in the glorious sunshine of Croke Park yesterday in the first 15-a-side Bord na Gaeilge All-Ireland final.
15,084 spectators saw the last, and certainly one of the best finals, of the century as the underdogs Tipp made a complete recovery from this season's crushing National League Final defeat to Cork (9-19 to 2-7).
Much of the pre-match hype centred on Kilkenny substitute, Ann Downey, who was seeking her 13th All-Ireland medal. She was part of the 1974 jubilee team that was introduced to the crowd before the game.
Yet it was the Tipperary substitute, Caitriona Hennessy, who was to make the greater impact as the talented teenager converted two late placed balls to crown the Tipp girls as the new queens of camogie.
After the closely-fought match, Downey announced her retirement after a remarkable 27 campaigns.
``That's the way it goes. Tipp were the better side. They showed more hunger,'' she said.
``We'll just have to live with that, but I'm disappointed for our young players, so many of whom have never won an medal.''
Tipperary manager, Biddy Phillips, raced onto the pitch to embrace her players who had fallen to the turf with joy.
``It was everyone's dream in Tipperary to win the All-Ireland camogie title, and this will be a major boost to the game in the county,'' she declared.
``I felt it was one of the best All-Irelands that I have seen, and at half-time we told the girls just to keep digging in there and it would come right.''
Biddy's success in persuading former Tipp legends, Colm Bonnar and Michael Cleary, to help with the preparation of the squad proved a masterstroke.
1984 was the last occasion Tipperary appeared in the final, but they were the more impressive unit in the opening half as they attacked the Canal End.
Full-forward Deirdre Hughes looked a real class act. Her three points in the hour were all gems, while her team-mate Noelle Kennedy fired over some fine frees.
CLUSTER OF BODIES
Tipp's defence also excelled, and their half-back line included the majestic Ciara Gaynor, Len's daughter, and Sinéad Nealon, daughter of Donie.
At that stage, Kilkenny were too dependent on their brilliant midfielder, Sinéad Millea, the player whose late, dramatic goal knocked out the hot favourites Cork in the semi-final at Parnell Park.
And it was Millea who created the goal, four minutes from the break, that, unjustly, had Tipp behind at the interval (1-5 to 0-7).
Her free was blocked by a cluster of bodies, and in the scramble, 16-year-old Lizzie Lyng managed to guide the sliotar to the net.
Then in first half injury time, Niamh Harkin's drive was inches away from the Kilkenny net.
Eleven minutes into the second period, as Kilkenny led by two points 1-7 to 0-8 the black and amber side introduced their Top Cat, Ann Downey.
Yet, with Angela McDermott enjoying some flourish runs, it was Tipperary who were looking the sharper side and on 43 minutes they were again denied a goal when Emer McDonnell's strike thundered off the bar.
Two points from Hughes and Kennedy the former's effort a real beauty from a tight angle just in front of the New Stand tied up the scores at 1-7 to 0-10. It was a scoreline that lasted for 13 minutes.
It was frantic stuff after that and then, two minutes from time, a deflected free from Hennessy produced the save of the day from Kilkenny goalie, Miriam Holland, at the expense of a '45.
Hennessy converted the '45, but, on the hour, another Millea free had the teams on equal billing for the last time.
Two minutes into additional time, Hennessy, from some 30 yards, and to the left of the posts, sent over the golden point to wild acclaim from the Tipperary supporters in Croke Park.
The Cats still tried to claw their way back, and Millea had a difficult, last chance of forcing a replay, but her free from the half-way line dropped short and the glory went to Tipperary.
Cork are the only other team to have beaten Kilkenny in an All-Ireland final, but this tremendous triumph will insure that the O'Duffy Cup's Trip to Tipp will be a journey to treasure for all-time.
SCORERS Tipperary: N Kennedy 0-6 (6f), D Hughes 0-3, C Hennessy 0-2 (1 '45, 1f), E McDonnell 0-1. Kilkenny: S Millea 0-7 (3f, 1 '45), L Lyng 1-0, M Maher 0-1.
TIPPERARY J Delaney; S Kelly, U O'Dwyer, C Madden; M Stokes, C Gaynor, S Nealon; E Hayden, A McDermott; N Kennedy, T Brophy, H Kiely; E McDonnell, D Hughes, N Harkin. Subs: P Fogarty for Kiely; C Hennessy for Harkin.
KILKENNY M Holland; T Millea, M Hickey, U Murphy; S Costelloe, J Maher, M Costelloe; K Long, S Millea; S Gleeson, B Mullaly, M Downey; M Comerford, M Maher, L Lyng. Subs: A Downey for Downey.
REF A Derham (Dublin).