Hurling round-up: Cats defeat Tipp, wins for Clare, Offaly and Limerick
All-Ireland champions Kilkenny maintained their extraordinary stranglehold over arch rivals Tipperary hitting two late goals at Nowlan Park to beat the Premier County by five points.
Brian Cody's side didn't take the lead until full forward Kevin Kelly scored their first goal in the 67th minute and he hit another deep in injury time to secure the Cats' first win in Division 1A of the Allianz League in 2016.
The victory confirms Kilkenny's extraordinary record over Tipperary since the Premier County stopped the Cats' bid for five All-Ireland titles in 2010.
Since then Tipperary have only beaten Kilkenny in two competitive games – both in the group stages of the League - whereas Kilkenny have accounted for Tipp in four of the five championships encounters – their only other clash ended in a draw.
This win brings to six the number of League games – including the 2013 and 2014 League finals – that Kilkenny have shaded the issue against Tipp.
So a bad start for new boss Michael Ryan in his rivalry with Brian Cody and the Tipp boss doesn't need reminding that the success of his managerial career will be judged on how his team fare against Kilkenny.
This was a significant win for Kilkenny whose preparations would not be as advanced as those of Tipperary. What will please Brian Cody the most is that newcomer James Maher hit four points from play and earned the Man of the Match award while rookie full forward Kevin Kelly snatched the two goals.
Kilkenny were without 2014 Hurler of the Year Richie Hogan – his place in attack went to John Power. The visitors shaded the early exchanges racing into an early 5-2 lead. The visitors chased in packs as both sides conceded scorable frees in the opening quarter. But both Tipp's John McGrath and TJ Reid were off target from placed balls in the difficult conditions.
Backed by the strong wind Tipp led 8-4 when the Cats created the game's first decent goal chance after 20 minutes with John Power powering in from the left flank but his shot was saved by Tipp goalkeeper Darren Gleeson and centre back James Barry managed to block TJ Reid's follow-up from the rebound.
As the half progress the home side improved significantly exerting more pressure on Tipp as evident by the fact that Tipp's Padraic Maher and Michael Breen were booked.
Kilkenny newcomer James Maher – who will feature for UCD in the Fitzgibbon Cup semi-finals next weekend underlined his potential with three points from play and with TJ Reid keeping the socreboard ticking over from frees and Cats had cut the deficit to a single point (0-9; 0-8) by the break.
Tipp roared out of the blocks at the start of the second half hitting two points in the opening ninety seconds through John O'Dwyer and John McGrath. However, Kilkenny replied with three on the spin to level the game after 43 minutes the equalising point a monster effort from distance by TJ Reid.
Tipp retained the lead and had a real chance to put some day light between the sides when centre forward Patrick Maher was put through but his low shot was well saved by Kilkenny keeper Eoin Murphy.
However, the visitors who withdrew ineffective full forward Conor Kenny still led by two points with 20 minutes left.
Even though they had the advantage of the elements Kilkenny persisted with a two man full forward line and as their wides tally rose to 11 but Tipp couldn't get more than two points ahead – a dangerous lead against the Cats!
Tipperary ought to have had the advantage in terms of match fitness but there was no real evidence of this was the game entered its crucial period.
Typically Kilkenny struck when it mattered most finally finding the net with less than four minutes of normal time remaining. Kilkenny substitute Jojo Farrell took full advantage of a slip by a Tipp defender and he crossed to the unmarked Kevin Kelly and the full forward – who had become increasingly influential in the second half – made no mistake from close range.
Tipp did narrow the gap to a point again through John O'Dwyer; TJ Reid with his ninth point extended the lead again before a John O'Dwyer free left the minimum between the sides.
But the Cats had the last laugh with Kevin Kelly scoring his second goal deep in injury time and TJ Reid adding another point to give the home side their first win of the campaign.
Meanwhile in the crucial Division 1B encounter at Wexford Park the home side defied the odds against Davy Fitzgerald's visiting Clare side in the first half. A goal from a penalty by Mark Fanning just before the break gave them a 1-6 to 0-7 advantage at the interval.
But they had to play into the gale force breeze in the second half they kept their noses in front during the third quarter but gradually Davy Fitzgerald's side hauled them in and with ten minutes remaining there was a point between the sides.
In the end Clare racked up eighteen points to run out winners by four thus maintaining their one hundred record in the League and leaving Wexford rooted to the foot of the table after back to back losses.
However, there was no fairytale for Kerry hurlers in front of their own fans at Fitzgerald Stadium as visitors Limerick piled on the scores in the first half leading 1-16 to 1-5 at the break. As happened in the first round Limerick failed to maintain that frantic pace in the second half and gradually Kerry hauled themselves back into contention.
Their ability to find the net again meant that they couldn't make sufficient in-roads into the Limerick lead and they lost by just four points in the end.
In the other Division 1B encounter in Tullamore the home side led neighbours Laois by three points (0-9; 0-6) at half time in what was effectively a relegation four pointer. Shane Dooley top scored with 0-6 for the Faithful County in the first period.
Laois fought back early in the second half to level the tie and Offaly's cause wasn't helped when Joey O'Connor was red-carded. But with Dooley continuing to be the most influential player on the field Offaly regained their lead and they went on to collect the points.
Allianz HL Division 1A
Kilkenny 2-17 Tipperary 0-18
Allianz HL Division 1B
Limerick 1-19 Kerry 1-15
Offaly 1-17 Laois 0-15
Clare 0-18 Wexford 1-11
Allianz HL Division 2A
London 5-16; Carlow 1-11
Antrim 3-15 Kildare 3-13
Westmeath 2-11 Derry 0-13
Allianz HL Division 2B
Armagh 2-9 Donegal 1-7
Down 3-8 Wicklow 0-8
Mayo 0-19 Meath 2-9
Allianz HL Division 3A
Roscommon 1-12 Monaghan 0-10
Fingal 4-10 Tyrone 1-17