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Kilkenny's Richie Power and TJ Reid contest a high ball with Paddy Stapleton and Padraic Maher of Tipperary during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny's Richie Power and TJ Reid contest a high ball with Paddy Stapleton and Padraic Maher of Tipperary during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny's Richie Hogan controls possession as Paddy Stapleton of Tipperary closes in during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny's Richie Hogan controls possession as Paddy Stapleton of Tipperary closes in during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny's Richie Hogan, with Michael Fennelly in support, battles for possession with Tipperary pair Brendan Maher and Cathal Barrett during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny's Richie Hogan, with Michael Fennelly in support, battles for possession with Tipperary pair Brendan Maher and Cathal Barrett during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

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Kilkenny's Paul Murphy gets away from the grasp of Patrick Maher of Tipperary during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny's Paul Murphy gets away from the grasp of Patrick Maher of Tipperary during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

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Kilkenny's Colin Fennelly brushes off a challenge from James Woodlock of Tipperary during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny's Colin Fennelly brushes off a challenge from James Woodlock of Tipperary during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Tipperary's Patrick Maher is taken down by Paul Murphy of Kilkenny, resulting in referee Barry Kelly awarding a penalty during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Tipperary's Patrick Maher is taken down by Paul Murphy of Kilkenny, resulting in referee Barry Kelly awarding a penalty during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

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Kilkenny's Eoin Larkin is tripped by Tipperary's Paddy Stapleton, which resulted in a penalty for the Cats in the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny's Eoin Larkin is tripped by Tipperary's Paddy Stapleton, which resulted in a penalty for the Cats in the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

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Kilkenny's Walter Walsh attempts to get through the Tipperary wall of Paddy Stapleton, Cathal Barrett and Pádraic Maher during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny's Walter Walsh attempts to get through the Tipperary wall of Paddy Stapleton, Cathal Barrett and Pádraic Maher during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny's Joey Holden strides away from Noel McGrath of Tipperary during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny's Joey Holden strides away from Noel McGrath of Tipperary during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

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Tipperary's Lar Corbett fights to get past a challenge from Jackie Tyrell of Kilkenny during the 2014 All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Tipperary's Lar Corbett fights to get past a challenge from Jackie Tyrell of Kilkenny during the 2014 All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny's TJ Reid tries to escape the attentions of Shane McGrath of Tipperary during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny's TJ Reid tries to escape the attentions of Shane McGrath of Tipperary during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Referee Barry Kelly judges that Kilkenny's Brian Hogan committed a foul in the dying moments of the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park, resulting in a free for Tipperary. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Referee Barry Kelly judges that Kilkenny's Brian Hogan committed a foul in the dying moments of the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park, resulting in a free for Tipperary. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Tipperary's John O'Dwyer takes a late free with a chance to win the All-Ireland final at Croke Park, only to see it hit the post. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Tipperary's John O'Dwyer takes a late free with a chance to win the All-Ireland final at Croke Park, only to see it hit the post. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

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Kilkenny's Aidan Fogarty, TJ Reid and Conor Fogarty and Tipperary's Cathal Barrett show their contrasting viewpoints as John O'Dwyer's late free goes past the post in the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny's Aidan Fogarty, TJ Reid and Conor Fogarty and Tipperary's Cathal Barrett show their contrasting viewpoints as John O'Dwyer's late free goes past the post in the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

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The scoreboard shows Hawkeye's assessment of John O'Dwyer's late free for Tipperary in the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

The scoreboard shows Hawkeye's assessment of John O'Dwyer's late free for Tipperary in the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

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Kilkenny's Richie Power and TJ Reid contest a high ball with Paddy Stapleton and Padraic Maher of Tipperary during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Just when we thought the drama of last year's hurling final could not be surpassed, along comes this incredible blockbuster.

Not only did it take excitement levels to places the Clare-Cork clash last September never explored, it also launched a persuasive application for being regarded as the best final of all time.

Granted, there's a tendency to be disproportionately impressed by an event which is fresh in the memory but, even allowing for that, there's compelling evidence to support the view that this remarkable game will always retain a special status in the All-Ireland final roll of honour.

Firstly, there's its place in history as the highest-scoring 70-minute final, delivering a return of 4-50. There's also the unusual fact that a total of 31 points wasn't enough to win.

Intensity

Add in the breathtaking pace of the scoring, the fierce intensity and the relentless competitiveness and it all comes together as an epic encounter, which, fittingly, ended with an agonising wait as Hawk-Eye decided whether, for the third successive year, a replay would be required to decide on the destination of the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

John O'Dwyer, one of the day's big stars, thought he had posted the winning point for Tipperary from a long range point in the first minute of stoppage time and, with the umpires uncertain, it all came down to technology.

In what must have appeared like an age to both sides, Hawk-Eye deliberated before showing that the ball had drifted just wide of the post.

As the Kilkenny team and supporters sighed in relief, it was as if the air had been sucked out of Croke Park, before referee Barry Kelly sounded the final whistle. If O'Dwyer's radar had been on track, the point would have sparked off a major controversy as Kilkenny were furious that the free had been awarded in the first place.

Centre-back Brian Hogan was penalised for charging as he surged forward in search of the lead point, offering O'Dwyer the chance to score his eighth point. It was a very harsh decision against Hogan so Kilkenny would feel that justice was done when the free was struck wide.

They were also unhappy - and with equal justification - over an incident in the first half when Eoin Larkin was not awarded a free when clearly fouled. Tipperary broke downfield and Noel McGrath pointed.

It was, in effect, a two-point turnaround, a massive swing in a game where the sides were level on 12 occasions.

But then, we should not have been surprised by the closeness of the game. Both sides had returned precisely the same totals in their previous five games while there was only a single point between their respective concession rates. It suggested the tightest of contests, a pattern which developed into a reality quite early on. It was level six times in a first quarter, which set a furious pace that never relented.

Tipperary had wasted two goal chances in that period, before making what looked like the first really significant drive of the day when scoring an unanswered 1-3 between the 18th and 25th minutes. The goal (21 mins) was finished by 'Bonner' Maher and, a minute later, he created another goal opportunity after being hauled down as he raced in on the Kilkenny goal.

The referee awarded a penalty, which Seamus Callanan blasted at the three-man wall, only to see it saved and cleared.

A goal would have put Tipperary eight points clear and while Lar Corbett pointed shortly afterwards to open up a six-point gap, it wasn't nearly as damaging psychologically for Kilkenny as a second goal.

The Cats' response was typically direct and effective, striking back with 1-2, the goal coming from Richie Power in the 26th minute.

Tipperary led by 1-13 to 1-11 at the interval but found themselves trailing within seconds of the restart when T J Reid's rocket flew past Darren Gleeson for Kilkenny's second goal. And so began a half where the quality of the play defied logic. Kilkenny didn't shoot a single wide in the second half, during which they added 2-11 and while Tipperary had three wides, their impressive strike rate yielded 0-15.

It was level after 48 minutes, before Power struck for a third Kilkenny goal. Richie Hogan, now very much in his impressive pomp, put Kilkenny four points clear shortly afterwards and, for the first time, it looked as though their well-documented capacity to hit the front at a crucial stage might emerge as the tiebreaker.

Worried

Tipperary were facing the ultimate test and, given their poor record against Kilkenny since beating them in the 2010 All-Ireland final, their supporters were growing increasingly apprehensive. They needn't have worried. Tipperary underpinned their efforts with a stubborn streak.

Still, they were trailing by three points heading into the final five minutes before sub Jason Forde and O'Dwyer brought them level. There was still time for more drama when O'Dwyer came close to winning it but, in the end, even Tipperary would have to concede that a draw was a fair result.

Now the focus will switch to Saturday evening action at the end of the month. Whether it will live up to yesterday's standards remains to be seen, especially since both sides will spend the next two weeks trying to work out how to restrict each other's attack.

Reid, Power and Richie Hogan scored 3-15 between them for Kilkenny while Callanan, O'Dwyer, Maher and Noel McGrath countered with 1-19 between them for Tipperary. No fewer than 11 Tipperary men got on the scoreboard while Kilkenny had nine marksmen. Interestingly, Henry Shefflin wasn't summoned for duty until the 66th minute, a significant statement in itself. Aidan Fogarty had been used 18 minutes earlier as Kilkenny's first forward sub.

Tipperary sent on Eoin Kelly in the 63rd minute, no doubt hoping that his experience would find a way of adding further unease for a Kilkenny defence which is not accustomed to conceding such a high score. He didn't get any real chance but Tipperary still found a way to level it all up, thus producing the first ever championship draw between the counties.

Scorers: Kilkenny: T J Reid 1-8 (0-6f), R Power 2-1, R Hogan 0-6, E Larkin 0-2, M Fennelly, C Fennelly, W Walsh, C Fogarty, B Hogan 0-1 each. Tipperary: J O'Dwyer (2f), S Callanan (2f) 0-7 each, Patrick Maher 1-1, N McGrath 0-4, L Corbett, S McGrath 0-2 each, G Ryan, J Woodlock, M Cahill, P Stapleton, J Forde 0-1 each.

Tipperary: D Gleeson; C Barrett, J Barry, P Stapleton; K Bergin, B Maher, Padraic Maher; S McGrath, J Woodlock; G Ryan, L Corbett, Patrick Maher; J O'Dwyer, L Corbett, N McGrath. Subs: M Cahill for Ryan (49), E Kelly for Woodlock (63), J Forde for S McGrath (66), J O'Brien for Callanan (70).

Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; J Holden, B Hogan, C Buckley; R Hogan, C Fogarty; C Fennelly, M Fennelly, E Larkin; R Power, TJ Reid, W Walsh. Subs: A Fogarty for Walsh (48), P Walsh for Holden (61), H Shefflin for C Fennelly (66), J Power for R Hogan (71).

Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath).

Indo Sport