Monday 18 December 2017

TJ Reid fires hat-trick but late Tipperary point secures draw in pulsating League clash

Tipperary 2-17 Kilkenny 3-14

Colin Fennelly of Kilkenny in action against Padraic Maher of Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile
Colin Fennelly of Kilkenny in action against Padraic Maher of Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

We ought never have doubted Kilkenny. During Brian Cody's 18-year reign the Cats have made it their business to deflate Tipperary's ego any time it threatens their supremacy.

They might have only finished level with Tipperary in Semple Stadium last night but it was enough to stop the All-Ireland title holders winning their ninth game on the spin.

Kilkenny's Richie Hogan in action. Photo: Sportsfile
Kilkenny's Richie Hogan in action. Photo: Sportsfile

This was definitely a point won by Kilkenny, who are back in the hunt for a place in the league quarter-finals.

A 3-5 contribution from TJ Reid - he converted two penalties - was the scoring highlight of the night for the visitors, though Richie Hogan's four second-half points from play were crucial as well.

Perhaps Tipperary started to think they were invincible, and that's always a dangerous frame of mind going into a game against Kilkenny. In terms of the bigger picture this wake-up call will probably benefit them in the longer term. They have already secured a place in the last eight of the League but their ten second-half wides proved costly in an absorbing match.

The contest had an explosive start with John McGrath finding the net in Tipp's first real attack after the visiting defence failed to deal with a dropping ball. But the Cats were level by the sixth minute after an absolute peach of a goal from Reid. He found the roof of the net from 25 metres for Kilkenny's first goal in this league campaign.

Tipperary's Niall O’Meara in action against Pádraig Walsh, Jason Cleere, Conor Fogarty and Conor O'Shea of Kilkenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipperary's Niall O’Meara in action against Pádraig Walsh, Jason Cleere, Conor Fogarty and Conor O'Shea of Kilkenny. Photo: Sportsfile

But once the contest settled, Tipp dominated - their half back line was in complete command, dominating the aerial battle when it came to contesting the Kilkenny puck-outs. They were far more aggressive than Kilkenny - illustrated by one cameo where Richie Hogan was initially blocked down and then his attempted pass resulted in a turnover from which Dan McCormack hit a sweet point.

The Cats hung in and trailed by just three (1-5; 1-2) at the end of the first quarter, though Tipp were unlucky not to score a second goal. Only a cynical pull-down foul stopped Seamus Callanan as he bore down on goal.

Tipp hit a purple scoring patch at the start of the second quarter, hitting 1-2 in less than three minutes. Niall O'Meara got the goal after a delightful inter-play between the McGrath brothers, Noel and John. Leading by eight points, Tipperary looked in complete control - but you write off the Cats at your peril. TJ Reid's move to corner forward yielded a huge dividend as he proved too able for John O'Keeffe, a late replacement for Donagh Maher.

Reid led the Kilkenny revival hitting 1-3 without reply - his tally included two frees and a brilliantly converted penalty after Michael Cahill was adjudged to have pushed Alan Murphy under a dropping ball in the Tipp square.

It was back to a two-point game, though Tipp did regain the initiative before the break, outscoring Kilkenny 4-2 to lead by four points (2-11; 2-7) after a breathtaking half.

The scoring rate dropped in the third quarter, though Kilkenny narrowed the gap to two as the Tipp wides tally began to mount. But it was back to a four-point game by the 47th minute after a brace of points from Noel O'Meara and John McGrath.

Tipp looked in control, but the game took another twist 15 minutes from the end. An attempt for a point from Richie Hogan rebounded off the upright into the hands of Liam Blanchfield, who was bundled over by Padraic Maher. TJ Reid blasted his second penalty of the game home to leave a point between the sides.

Even though errors abounded the game was being played at near championship pace. Five minutes from the end of normal time Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy saved brilliantly from McGrath and Callanan drove the rebound wide across the goal. Straight from the puck-out the influential Cillian Buckley hit his third point to give his side the lead for the first time.

Tipperary dual player Steven O'Brien levelled the tie and John O'Dwyer had a chance to win it at the death, but his effort drifted wide. So honours even, though Tipp will regret those wides.

Tipperary: D Mooney; J O'Keeffe, J Barry, M Cahill; T Hamill, R Maher, P Maher (0-1); S Curran (0-2), M Breen; D McCormack (0-2), N O'Meara (1-1), N McGrath (0-1); J O'Dwyer (0-1), S Callanan (0-6, 3f, 1 45), J McGrath (1-2). Subs: K Bergin for Breen 35m; J Forde for McCormack 55m; S Kennedy for Cahill; S O'Brien (0-1) for O'Meara 68m
Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, P Walsh, C O'Shea; C Fogarty, S Prendergast, J Cleere; P Deegan, C Buckley (0-3); C Fennelly, R Hogan (0-4), TJ Reid (3-5, 2 gls pen, 4f); A Murphy, W Walsh (0-2), L Blanchfield. Subs: J Maher for Murphy 40m;
Referee: James Owens (Wexford)

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