Wednesday 18 September 2019

Reaching summit seals Tipp's stunning seven-week recovery

Sheedy's talented Premier recover from slow start and power on with extra man in the second half to capture 28th All-Ireland title

Game over: Séamus Callanan of Tipperary celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal as Kilkenny players Paddy Deegan (No 7), Huw Lawlor (No 3) and goalkeeper Eoin Murphy turn away in frustration. Photo: Sportsfile
Game over: Séamus Callanan of Tipperary celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal as Kilkenny players Paddy Deegan (No 7), Huw Lawlor (No 3) and goalkeeper Eoin Murphy turn away in frustration. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

From the depressing lows of a 12-point Munster final demolition by Limerick in late June to the stratospheric heights of a 14-point All-Ireland final win mid-August - it really has been a remarkable seven weeks for Tipperary.

It was packed with drama for Kilkenny too as they defied the odds against Cork and Limerick, leaving their supporters convinced that they could do it again yesterday.

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And when they led by five points after an excellent opening 20 minutes, it looked as if they were on course to enjoy another special day in Croke Park.

It wasn't to be. They were hit by a 19-point turnaround over the next 50 minutes (3-22 to 0-12), leaving them 14 points adrift in what was Kilkenny's biggest defeat in an All-Ireland final since losing to Tipperary by the same margin (5-13 to 2-8) in 1964.

Miserable

It was also their biggest championship defeat in Brian Cody's 20 years as manager. Earlier, their minors lost to Galway by 11 points, completing a thoroughly miserable day for a county so accustomed to joyous All-Ireland final days.

Dismissal: The dismissal of Kilkenny’s Richie Hogan just before half time proved the turning point and effectively ended the contest. Photo: Sportsfile
Dismissal: The dismissal of Kilkenny’s Richie Hogan just before half time proved the turning point and effectively ended the contest. Photo: Sportsfile

The seniors will wonder for a long time what impact Richie Hogan's dismissal, just before half-time, had on a game that was bubbling up nicely at the time.

He was sent off for a crunching tackle on Cathal Barrett that flattened the Tipperary corner-back. Hogan was trying to force Barrett over the sideline, but left referee, James Owens with a decision to make on whether he had led with the elbow to the head.

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Owens had plenty of time to consider the situation as he waited for Barrett to recover and when it came to decision time he flashed red. As Hogan ruefully departed the scene, Kilkenny's hopes of landing a 37th title went with him.

Even with a full complement, it's unlikely they would have won, but being short-handed while toiling against a rising Tipperary surge in the second half left them with a handicap that not even their famous battling qualities could overcome. Kilkenny supporters will argue that Hogan should have been given the benefit of the doubt and, on another occasion with a different referee, Hogan might well have escaped with a yellow card.

Tipperary captain Séamus Callanan and team-mates celebrate with the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipperary captain Séamus Callanan and team-mates celebrate with the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Photo: Sportsfile

However, he can have no complaints as he took a huge risk with a clumsy challenge, which Owens obviously saw as sufficiently serious to merit dismissal. Tipperary led by a point at the time and while TJ Reid equalised with a free shortly afterwards, Kilkenny would have known they were in trouble.

Having trailed by 1-9 to 0-11 at half-time, they drew level on the re-start, but this time there was to be no repeat of their famed third quarter surges.

Once Seamus Callanan maintained his goal-a-game routine in the 37th minute, a sense of inevitability set in. Tipp added three more points before Callanan played John O'Dwyer in for their third goal in the 42nd minute.

There were still 28 minutes remaining but, effectively, the main business of the day had been decided. All Tipperary had to do was remain solid defensively against an under-manned attack, which they duly did.

Tipperary's Niall OMeara celebrates scoring. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipperary's Niall OMeara celebrates scoring. Photo: Sportsfile

Ronan and Padraic Maher, Seamus Kennedy and Barry Heffernan made sure that Brian Hogan was well-protected, a task made all the easier by Kilkenny's sloppy deliveries into attack.

Most of them were easily cut out and turned into counter-attacks, which kept the scoreboard ticking over nicely for a Tipp team now enjoying life to the full in the comfort zone.

Subs, Mark Kehoe, Ger Browne, Willie Connors and Jake Morris all picked off points, taking to 12 the number of Tipp players on the scoresheet. As the scores flowed at a steady pace, it was difficult to reconcile such a high yield with the opening 20 minutes when they scored 0-3, two from frees. The Kilkenny defence were well on top in that period and with the attack forcing frees, which Reid pointed, it all looked to be going to plan.

They were adapting better in the difficult conditions brought on by a heavy shower and with Tipperary operating well below maximum power, Liam Sheedy had cause for concern.

That all changed in the space of five minutes when they scored an unanswered 1-3, the goal coming from Niall O'Meara in the 26th minute. The momentum shift was very much in Tipperary's direction at that stage and Hogan's dismissal accelerated Kilkenny's demise.

They battled hard in the second half, but it never looked like getting them anywhere against opposition whose confidence levels rose with each passing minute.

By the end, they had secured a 28th All-Ireland title in circumstances that nobody would have envisaged.

Imposed

Granted, they were favourites, but after Kilkenny's impressive performances against Cork and Limerick, Tipperary would have expected a fierce battle. They got it in the first half, but in the second Tipperary imposed themselves all over the pitch. The defence held firm, Noel McGrath had the freedom on the park in the middle third and the attack enjoyed themselves, thanks to the quality of the flow coming in their direction.

Team captain Callanan, scored an eighth successive goal in eight games, while O'Dwyer and John McGrath also enjoyed themselves immensely, just as they had done against Kilkenny in the 2016 final.

It's very encouraging too for Tipperary that once again their subs did well. Billy Ryan apart, Kilkenny's replacements didn't have anything like the same impact. And with a numerical handicap for all of the second half, they were carrying an unsustainable load.

And so, Tipperary finish the decade as they started it, with an easy win over Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final. They will enjoy this one just as much as when they ended the five-in-a-row drive in 2010.

Scorers: J Forde 0-8 (4f, 2'65s), J O'Dwyer, S Callanan (1f) 1-2 each, N O'Meara 1-0, J McGrath 0-3, N McGrath (1f), W Connors, S Kennedy 0-2 each, M Breen, M Kehoe, J Morris, G Browne 0-1 each.

Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-11 (10f), J Donnelly 0-3, R Ryan 0-2, C Fennelly, W Walsh, R Hogan, P Walsh 0-1 each.

Tipperary: B Hogan; C Barrett, R Maher, B Heffernan; B Maher, P Maher, S Kennedy; N McGrath, M Breen; D McCormack, N O'Meara, J Forde; S Callanan, J O'Dwyer, J McGrath.

Subs: M Kehoe for O'Meara (51), W Connors for McCormack (56), J Morris for Forde (61), S O'Brien for Barrett (61), G Browne for Breen (64).

Kilkenny: E Murphy, P Murphy, H Lawlor, J Holden; C Fogarty, P Walsh, P Deegan; C Browne, C Buckley; J Donnelly, TJ Reid, W Walsh; A Mullen, C Fennelly, R Hogan.

Subs: B Ryan for Mullen (40),R Leahy for Buckley (47), J Maher for Browne (54), C Delaney for Holden (56).

Ref - J Owens (Wexford)

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