The absence of the hurling league finals leaves a hole in this year’s GAA calendar, but here we look back at some of the best showpiece days
1993 – Cork 3-12 Wexford 1-12 (second replay), Semple Stadium
“After 210 minutes of wonderful hurling, great sportsmanship, great hurling and inspiring endeavour it was all over,” wrote the Irish Independent’s Tom O’Riordan, who was in no doubt that the third game in this epic trilogy was the pick of the lot.
The preceding two games had been dramatic in their own right and it took three weekends and three visits to Semple Stadium to finally declare a new league champion.
The deciding game was packed with drama with Cork reduced to 14 men after Leonard Forde was sent to the line after just ten minutes for a foul on Martin Storey.
However, a goal from Cork sub John Fitzgibbon finally decided the contest which had ebbed and flowed across three breathless afternoon’s and saw Brian Corcoran lift the cup for Cork in front of 22,000 supporters in Semple Stadium.
SCORERS – Cork: B Egan 1-6 (0-5f), T Mulcahy, J Fitzgibbon 1-0 each, C Casey 0-2, P Buckley, G Manley, P O’Callaghan 0-1 each. Wexford: T Dempsey 0-6 (2f), L Murphy 0-3, E Cleary 1-0, L O’Gorman, M Storey, C McBride 0-1 each.
CORK – G Cunningham; J Considine, S O’Gorman, L Forde; D Walsh, J Cashman, B Corcoran; C Casey, S McCarthy; T McCarthy, P Buckley, T Mulcahy; G Manley, P O’Callaghan, B Egan. Subs: T O’Sullivan for Cashman, M Foley for O’Callaghan, J Fitzgibbon for Mulcahy.
WEXFORD – D Fitzhenry; S Flood, G Cush, N McDonald; J O’Connor, L Dunne, T Dunne; G O’Connor, T Dempsey; M Storey, J Bolger, L O’Gorman; E Scallan, E Cleary, L Murphy. Subs: C McBride for Bolger, B Byrne for Cleary.
REF – W Barrett (Tipperary).
2003 – Kilkenny 5-14 Tipperary 5-13, Croke Park
One of the ironies of this league final was that there were so few there to see a classic. Only 17,153 paid in, down around 8,000 on the expected attendances at league deciders at that time but every other number surrounding this game mark it out as something special.
The 10-27 amassed by both sides was, at that stage, the highest total ever hit in a league final. And an incredible 6-6 of that total came in the final 15 minutes as Kilkenny, who were eight points down with a little over ten minutes to play, recovered to win by the minimum in what was an extraordinary encounter. Perhaps one line from an Irish Independent report summed the game up best.
“Brendan Cummins, who despite conceding five goals, had a good game,” read the report.
Henry Shefflin hit both the equaliser and the winning score for the Cats with Brian Cody suitably pleased with his side’s defiance.
“These lads have a ferocious will to win. They would go through walls rather than around or over them,” he said.
SCORERS – Kilkenny: E Shefflin 1-6 (0-4f), DJ Carey (0-3f), E Brennan 1-3 each, M Comerford 1-2, C Carter 1-0. Tipperary: E Kelly 1-7 (1-3f), L Corbett, J Carroll 2-0 each, C Gleeson 0-2, T Dunne (f), E Brislane, P Kelly, L Cahill 0-1 each.
KILKENNY – PJ Ryan; M Kavanagh, N Hickey, P Larkin; R Mullally, P Barry, JJ Delaney; D Lyng, P Tennyson; J Hoyne, H Shefflin, T Walsh; DJ Carey, M Comerford, E Brennan. Subs: J Coogan for Tennyson (43), A Cummins for Larkin (50), C Carter for Hoyne (55).
TIPPERARY – B Cummins; M Maher, P Maher, B Dunne; B Horgan, D Kennedy, P Kelly; T Dunne, N Morris; J Carroll, C Gleeson, L Cahill; E Kelly, G O’Grady, L Corbett. Subs: E Brislane for Morris (19), J Devane for P Maher (23), E O’Neill for O’Grady (39).
REF – P O’Connor (Limerick).
2007 – Waterford 0-20 Kilkenny 0-18, Croke Park
A significant day, not least for the end of Waterford’s 44 year wait for a league title.
Kilkenny were looking to become the first team since Tipperary in 1961 to secure a three-in-a-row of league titles and the sides were level as the clock ticked into injury-time after a Henry Shefflin point.
However, points from Eoin Kelly and Ken McGrath saw Waterford secure their first league title since 1963.
Heady times for Waterford. That summer, Waterford would claim another Munster title, their third in six seasons, by seeing off Limerick in the provincial decider.
They’d take out Cork after a replay in the All-Ireland quarter-final only to lose to the Treaty County at the All-Ireland semi-final stage. The following year, Justin McCarthy would be gone as Waterford manager and replaced by Davy Fitzgerald mid campaign. They’d reach the 2008 All-Ireland but run into a Kilkenny side at the peak of their powers.
SCORERS – Waterford: E Kelly 0-8 (6f), S Prendergast, K McGrath (1f), 0-3 each, J Mullane 0-2, D Shanahan, J Kennedy, P Flynn, E McGrath 0-1 each. Kilkenny: H Shefflin 0-12 (6f, 1 65), R Power, M Comerford 0-2 each, D Lyng E Brennan 0-1 each.
WATERFORD – C Hennessy; E Murphy, D Prendergast, J Murray; T Browne, K McGrath, A Kearney; M Walsh, S Molumphy; E Kelly, S Prendergast, S Walsh; J Mullane, D Shanahan, J Kennedy. Subs: P Flynn for S Walsh (48), E McGrath for Murray (53), S O’Sullivan for Kennedy (74).
KILKENNY – PJ Ryan; N Hickey, B Hogan, JJ Delaney; J Tyrrell, J Tennyson, T Walsh; D Lyng, W O’Dwyer; E Brennan, M Comerford, R Power; H Shefflin, J ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, A Fogarty. Subs: E Larkin for Fitzpatrick (38 ), E McCormack for Fogarty (66).
REF– S Roche (Tipperary).
2009 – Kilkenny 2-26 Tipperary 4-17 (After extra-time)
After the ten-goal thriller in 2003, Kilkenny and Tipperary wracked up an even bigger total score in this clash, albeit after extra-time had been required.
Kilkenny had hammered their great rivals by 17 points when they met in the league proper but the Premier County were a different team here.
At one stage Tipp led by eight points but Kilkenny pulled level as the clock ticked towards the 70 minute mark, meaning they took the psychological edge into the added periods.
Still a Noel McGrath goal early in the second half of extra-time nudged the Premier County men ahead once more.
Brian Cody’s Kilkenny, then the three in a row All-Ireland champions, showed their big-game composure to hit the next five points of the game.
There was drama late on as Tipperary, by now two points in arrears, summoned Brendan Cummins from goal to try raise another green flag from a 25m free. His chance blazed over the bar and Kilkenny had hoovered up yet more silverware.
Scorers – Kilkenny: R Hogan 1-10 (0-7f), A Fogarty 1-5, H Shefflin 0-4 (1f, 1 ’65), TJ Reid 0-4 (1 l/b), E Brennan 0-2, E Larkin 0-1. Tipperary: S Callanan 1-7 (0-6f, 0-1 ‘65), N McGrath 1-5 (0-1f), J O’Brien, J Woodlock 1-1 each, S McGrath 0-2, B Cummins 0-1 (f).
KILKENNY – PJ Ryan; M Kavanagh, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, J Ryall; J Tennyson, M Rice; R Hogan, H Shefflin, E Larkin; E Brennan, TJ Reid, A Fogarty. Subs: M Comerford for Hogan (10), M Grace for Comerford (11, y/c) J Fitzpatrick for Shefflin (42, y/c), S Cummins for Kavanagh (77, y/c).
TIPPERARY – B Cummins; P Stapleton, P Curran, C O’Brien; D Fanning, Pádraic Maher, S Maher; T Stapleton, S McGrath; J Woodlock, S Callanan, J O’Brien; N McGrath, M Webster, L Corbett. Subs: B Maher for Fanning (11, y/c), H Maloney for S Maher (14), B Dunne for Maloney (57), S Hennessy for Woodlock (62), D Fitzgerald for T Stapleton (start of extra-time), Patrick Maher for Webster (80), E Buckley for Pádraic Maher (89).
REF – J Sexton (Cork).
2016 – Clare 1-23 Waterford 2-19 (replay) Semple Stadium
These finals were a tale of two frees. On the first day, Waterford’s Maurice Shanahan landed a monster point from inside his own ‘65’ to ensure that the Déise got another bite at the cherry on a day when incredibly the counties had been level at half-time, full-time and again yet against at half-time in extra-time.
Waterford looked set to take advantage of that Shanahan intervention in the replay but Clare hit four points without reply down the home straight, including the last two from Tony Kelly.
The Ballyea man hammered over a free before steering over the winner from the touchline to make Clare league champions for the first time since 1978.
Scorers – Clare: T Kelly 1-6 (0-1f), C McGrath 0-8 (5f), D Honan, C Ryan (1f) 0-2 each, P O’Connor, D Fitzgerald, D Reidy, A Cunningham, P Collins 0-1 each. Waterford: P Curran 1-9 (0-6f, 0-1 ‘65), J Dillon 1-0, A Gleeson 0-3, J Barron, S Bennett 0-2 each, K Moran, D Fives, B O’Halloran 0-1 each.
WATERFORD – S O’Keeffe; B Coughlan, N Connors, S Fives; D Fives, K Moran, P Mahony; T de Búrca, J Barron; M Walsh, A Gleeson, S Bennett; J Dillon, P Curran, T Devine. Subs: C Dunford for Devine (46), B O’Halloran for Dillon (57), M Shanahan for Bennett (68), T Ryan for Walsh (70+1).
CLARE – P Kelly; P O’Connor, C Dillon, D Fitzgerald; J Browne, C Cleary, B Bugler; D Reidy, C Galvin; T Kelly, C McGrath, P Collins; D Honan, A Cunningham, S O’Donnell. Subs: C Ryan for Galvin (43), C O’Connell for Collins (55), A Shanagher for O’Donnell (65).
REF – D Kirwan (Cork).