Wednesday 21 February 2018

John Mullane: Final masterclass from Tipperary rids them of Cody's Kilkenny monster

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody after the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Kilkenny and Tipperary at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody after the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Kilkenny and Tipperary at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile

John Mullane

THAT was just a sensational performance from Tipperary, a masterclass.

Their forward division was out of this world and they set the tone from the off.

In Saturday’s column I discussed what Tipperary had to do to win the game and much of it came to pass.

I felt it would be a high-scoring game and that Tipp would need something in the 24-26 point bracket to win it.

Kilkenny hit 2-20, or 26 points, but Tipp’s tally of 2-29 was frightening.

It was going to take an unbelievable performance from Tipperary to overcome Kilkenny and that’s what they delivered.

There were plenty of question marks hanging over them and John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer reflected that in his post-match interview, expressing delight that Tipp proved their doubters wrong.

They really did banish those question marks and there was a level of steel and aggression in the Tipperary team that I haven’t seen for years.

There was a passage of play before half-time where Dan McCormack, ‘Bonner’ Maher and Noel McGrath were working like dogs – their three half-forwards.

I said that they would have to break even with the Kilkenny half-backs to win the game but not only did they break even, they dominated.

I also mentioned how Michael Ryan would have to get everything spot on, in terms of team selection and substitutions – and he did.

He went with ‘Bubbles’ from the start, he delivered, and Jason Forde hit two points after coming off the bench, the first with his first touch.

Bubbles, in the corner but roving too, caused all sorts of problems for Paul Murphy.

The interchanging of the Tipp forwards throughout was eye-catching too.

They went back to what they’ve been good at in recent years, particularly during the Eamon O’Shea era, and that movement created the space for Callanan to go to town inside.

While there was plenty of top-quality movement and interplay, Tipp also out-worked Kilkenny, something that doesn’t happen too often. What was crucial, too, was how they responded during that critical period after half-time to Kevin Kelly’s goal.

Tipp were two points up at the break but Kelly’s effort put Kilkenny two ahead.

No panic from Tipp, who hit 1-4 without reply and in a real purple patch, outscored Kilkenny by 1-8 to 0-2.

After Kelly’s goal, there was a vital free won by Dan McCormack from Pádraig Walsh that stalled Kilkenny’s momentum and allowed Callanan to bring Tipp back to within a point.

McCormack was a huge player for Tipperary yesterday and when he was fouled on the sideline, Callanan put over a difficult free. A huge moment – but one of many for Tipp.

The skill levels on show throughout were unbelievable. In what was a free-flowing game, it was also crucial that Tipp nullified the influence of TJ Reid and Richie Hogan.

TJ scored 11 points, but all from placed balls, and Richie collected 1-1.

Richie really did come with a surge in the second half, after TJ’s frees kept them in it before half-time, but this was another box ticked for Tipp.

Another crucial match-up won by Tipp was Paudie Maher on Walter Walsh, and Paudie had an unbelievable game.

What also struck me was how long it took Kilkenny to make a change. 60 minutes in, Brian Cody brought in two subs but surely there was merit in bringing in Jackie Tyrrell?

I also thought he could have brought on Lester Ryan a little bit earlier but it was highlighted yesterday that Kilkenny don’t have the depth to call upon now. 

Players under-performing yesterday would have been whipped off after 40 or 45 minutes a couple of years back but now, Cody doesn’t have the numbers on the line to make an impact.

I don’t think the rebuild will be a massive job but there is a job to be done, nevertheless.

He has to find a full-back, a centre back and at midfield, Michael Fennelly was a colossal loss and isn’t getting any younger. I’m not sure what Michael will do next year but when the time comes, it’s going to be difficult to replace not only him, but also Jackie and Eoin Larkin.

Bear in mind that TJ and Richie are both 28, and pushing towards the 30 mark, and you realise that the time has come for Cody to call the scaffolders again.

I’ve mentioned Noel McGrath earlier but what a day for this guy and his family yesterday. I can only imagine what they went through over the last 12-18 months but there you had Brian captaining the minors before his older brothers, John and Noel, won senior medals. That’s just an unbelievable thing.

It was a super double for Tipp but they haven’t won back-to-back at senior level since 1964-65.

In 2010, there was plenty of talk about them driving on – on the back of senior and U21 success – but the problem then was that Kilkenny were still a monster.

Today, that monster no longer exists and that you saw yesterday was a very definite changing of the guard.

I certainly get the sense that there’s more to come from them and they have the right manager at the helm.

Michael Ryan’s been absolutely brilliant this summer and everything he touched turned to gold. I’ve said it before and it deserves repeating today – they didn’t get enough credit for the Munster final victory over Waterford.

The general consensus was that Waterford capitulated and weren’t good enough on the day but Tipp steam-rolled through Munster and we found out, on the biggest day of all, just how good a team they really are.

Online Editors

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport