Five things we learned from the League Final
Kilkenny and Tipperary served up yet another classic yesterday as they warmed-up for the summer ahead.
In the end it was the Cats that prevailed, though Tipp boss Eamonn O’Shea will take many positives out of the one-point defeat.
Here is what we learned.
Kilkenny are far from finished
Even when they are supposedly at their weakest, they still have a winning mentality that is hard for opponents to overcome.
The 2013 season will not go down as Kilkenny’s finest and while many have penned this great side’s obituary, they demonstrated all their skill and resilience yesterday.
Their dominance of this particular competition some suggested would come to an end, but once again they came out on top in the heat of the battle to extend their hoodoo over Tipperary with their third successive success.
Wrong side of the law
It is only the beginning of the summer, but in one game we had no shortage of controversial calls.
James Owens incurred the wrath of both teams throughout for his constant whistling – 34 frees were awarded in total - while the penalties were key moments in the game. Kilkenny can count themselves fortunate to have got both, as the second in particular seemed a harsh call on Cathal Barrett.
Then there were the pitfalls of being without HawkEye.
Colin Fennelly's score in the 11th minute appeared wide and was given, while in extra-time, Tipp's Noel McGrath scored a point that was inside the post and yet it was waved wide.
Let the season of talking points begin.
JJ is key
Brian Cody has been tinkering his panel during the league – 32 players involved – to give as many players game time as possible.
The defence has seen a lot of chopping and changing, but JJ Delaney demonstrated yesterday why he will be key to Kilkenny’s hopes of claiming Liam McCarthy next September.
He was tasked with keeping tabs on sharpshooter Seamus Callinan and while the Tipp forward was not at the same level as previous games, Delaney was faultless on the edge of the square.
Another sublime performance from the eight-time All-Ireland winner.
Rivalry alive and well
The intense rivalry between the two sides, stemming from the 2009 National League decider, was feared to be on the wane.
The theory was that both teams had reached their respective peaks with their current squads and last year’s championship was an indication that the rivals were now falling going into decline.
Yesterday’s thrilling final certainly allayed those fears as newer faces emerged to play their part, with Padraig Walsh and Cathal Barrett in particular eye-catching.
The drama, controversy, scoring and intensity - on the sidelines as well as on the pitch - has only served to whet the appetite for the championship.
Kilkenny not reliant on the King
It was an unusually quiet afternoon for Henry Shefflin as he remained scoreless for one of the few occasions in his career, with TJ Reid on free-taking duties.
A huge amount of credit must go to Cathal Barrett, who like Delaney at the other end stuck to his job manfully.
That Cody left Shefflin in the full-forward line for so long was a mystery, but on the day the Cats were able to overcome a quiet day at the office from the Ballyhale man.
Offaly will be unlikely to witness such a subdued Shefflin in the Leinster opener next month.