Saturday 21 July 2018

Kilkenny whirlwind blows Tipperary away as Brian Cody claims ninth league title

Kilkenny 2-23 Tipperary 2-17

Kilkenny captain Cillian Buckley lifts the cup following the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Final match between Kilkenny and Tipperary at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny
Kilkenny captain Cillian Buckley lifts the cup following the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Final match between Kilkenny and Tipperary at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny

Sean McGoldrick

Kilkenny's version of a hurling famine is over with Brian Cody's new look side securing their first silverware after overpowering Tipperary in the second half of this afternoon's league final at Nowlan Park.

It is the Cat's eighteenth title – one shy of Tipperary's record total of 19; though few of their triumphs were as sweet as this one.

Pointless after two rounds of the competition, Kilkenny's fate looked sealed. Eight weeks later they're now on a six match unbeaten run, while this six-point win reinforces their near total superiority in knockout games against Tipperary.

TJ Reid hit 0-15 though remarkably he wasn't the game's top score – the honour belonged to Jason Forde who hit 2-12, 1-11 of which came from placed balls.

But it was poor consolation for Tipperary who were totally outplayed in the second half. The poverty of their effort is summed up by one statistic – they scored just one point from play after the break through John McGrath in the 38th minute.

This was their sixth win in seven knockout league games against the Premier County. They have now triumphed in 14 of their last 17 knockout matches against Tipp and haven't lost to their neighbours on home soil in a knock out match since 2008.

Given that six of their starting 15 have never played championship hurling while Richie Leahy's only appearance was when he came off the bench against Waterford, this was a remarkable achievement – particularly for Cody who was winning his ninth league title as a manager.

It was a thoroughly miserable afternoon for Tipperary who have now lost five league finals – four against the Cats – since winning their last title in 2008. Granted they too were missing first choice players such as Seamus Callanan, Patrick 'Bonner' Maher and Noel McGrath, but this doesn't excuse the loss.

The first quarter was a mostly tame affair as defences dominated, though Tipperary had a slight edge and led 0-3 to 0-1 after ten minutes. Kilkenny were experiencing real problems securing primary possession from Eoin Murphy's puck outs.

All but one of them went long, but the home side only won seven of his 14 first half re-starts. The outstanding work of their defence and in particular Paddy Deegan – who also set up two scores - kept the visitors at bay.

Twenty minutes had elapsed before Kilkenny scored their first point from play – inevitably it was TJ Reid who scored it and he was the only forward who threatened the Tipp defence in the first half.

Ronan Maher switched to mark him at the start but it was advantage Reid at the break with a 0-3 tally from play.

At the other end Jason Forde was Tipperary's scorer in chief in the first half, in which the visitors had the advantage of the breeze.

He hit 1-6 in the opening 35 minutes. The goal came 11 minutes from the break when after receiving a long clearance from Alan Flynn, John McGrath sold a couple of dummies before putting Forde in the clear.

The goal, followed immediately by a Sean Curran point put Tipp 1-6 to 0-6 ahead but mostly through the excellence of Reid – his colleagues registered five first half wides – the home side stayed in touch.

Reid's eighth point of the half deep in injury time kept Kilkenny in the frame as the trailed by two points at the break (1-10; 0-11).

Tipperary introduced John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer at the start of the second half with Michael Breen making way.

But it was Kilkenny who made the most dramatic of starts to the half with Walter Walsh – who had failed to make an impact before the break – grabbing a delivery from Conor Delaney and rifling the ball to the net.

The goal changed the pattern of the game with Kilkenny outscoring the visitors 0-5 to 0-3 during the next ten minutes. Walsh's influence increased significantly though goalkeeper Eoin Murphy played a big role with a wonderful save from 'Bubbles O'Dwyer in the 41st minute.

But overall it was Kilkenny who now controlled the tempo of the match and by the 54th minute TJ Reid had scored more (0-15) than the entire Tipperary side as the home side stretched their lead to seven points.

The Tipperary defence were under so much pressure that they coughed up a succession of frees, which Reid converted.

There were other fascinating side issues; Paddy Deegan continued to perform brilliantly at corner back and he almost scored a long range point but it drifted past the post for the first wide in the second half after 63 minutes.

Such was the influence of Walter Walsh – who was game's top scorer from play with 1-2 – that Tipp withdrew full back James Barry with ten minutes left.

Kilkenny substitute Conor Fogarty and Jason Forde – direct from a free – exchanged goals in the closing ten minutes but it mattered little to the final outcome. The Cats are back but they never really went away.

Kilkenny: E Murphy (0-1, 1f); J Holden, P Walsh, P Deegan; C Delaney, C Buckley, E Morrissey; R Leahy (0-1), J Maher; M Keoghan (0-1), TJ Reid (0-15, 11f, 1 sideline), J Donnelly (0-2); A Murphy, W Walsh (1-2), B Sheehan Subs: L Blanchfield (0-1) for Murphy 41m; L Scanlon for Sheehan 44m; C Fogarty (1-0) for Leahy 48m; C Martin for Donnelly 63m

Tipperary: D Mooney, A Flynn, J Barry, M Cahill. B Heffernan, R Maher, P Maher; B Maher, S Kennedy (0-1); S Curran (0-1), B McCarthy, J McGrath (0-2), M Breen, J Forde (2-12, 1- 9f, 1 65, 1 sideline), W Connors (0-1) Subs: John O'Dwyer for Breen ht; C Barrett for Kennedy 45m; M Russell for Curran 60m; D Maher for J Barry 60m, C Darcy for McCarthy 66m

Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway)

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