All Ireland SHC Final: Terrific Tipperary return to summit
All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Final
TIPPERARY 3-25 KILKENNY 0-20
By Cian O'Connell at Croke Park
Every single All Ireland carries deep meaning in Tipperary, but there was no disguising the sense of satisfaction which accompanied this triumph at Croke Park.
The pain of 2018 when Tipperary failed to glean a top three spot in Munster was replaced by pleasure at the Jones Road venue.
That Tipperary defeated Kilkenny in such daring and convincing fashion merely brought another layer of excitement. A blend of industry and imagination ensured the blue and gold brigade gleefully celebrated the Liam MacCarthy Cup being hoisted by Seamus Callanan.
Liam Sheedy’s return to the sideline brought passion alongside a most able backroom team meaning there was no shortage of purpose either. On the most important day of the lot Tipperary excelled.
Initially Tipperary had to demonstrate grit to survive, but in the second period the crafty, inventive forward play thrived.
When these old foes collide drama is inevitable and a tight and tense opening period was almost inevitable.
It is precisely what unfolded in front of an expectant audience at GAA headquarters with Kilkenny settling smartly before Tipperary thundered back as the interval approached.
Ultimately at the break Tipperary were content to depart armed with a narrow 1-9 to 0-11 advantage, but Kilkenny would be forced to play the second half without Richie Hogan, who was sent off in the 33rd minute.
The gifted Danesfort forward was red carded by James Owens after a challenge on Cathal Barrett as Tipperary eventually went in one ahead.
Early on such a scenario appeared unlikely because by the 21st minute Kilkenny had accumulated a 0-8 to 0-3 cushion.
Kilkenny’s start was chiefly due to the sharp free taking of TJ Reid, who nailed five of those efforts, while the bustling John Donnelly dashed about craving involvement.
Gradually, though, Tipp began to enjoy some encouraging moments with Jason Forde drilling a 65 and then adding a free awarded in the aftermath of an inspirational Brendan Maher run.
Then a 26th minute goal was pocketed when Niall O’Meara rattled the Kilkenny net and Tipp made it 1-3 without reply courtesy of a Forde 65.
Suddenly Tipperary, buoyed up by a brilliant six minute burst were in the ascendancy, but it stayed intriguing until the turnaround.
A Reid free and a sweet Donnelly attempt edged Kilkenny 0-10 to 1-6 ahead, but Tipp struck three of the last four scores before the break to hold a slight lead.
When the action recommenced Tipperary briskly made their numerical superiority count blasting 2-3 compared to Kilkenny’s 0-2 in seven minutes.
Subsequently a Reid free had Kilkenny back trading on terms, but then Callanan bravely batted a 37th minute goal.
Now Tipperary were in the groove with the delightful Drom-Inch attacker turning provider on 42 when controlling Barry Heffernan’s pass.
John O’Dwyer, all clever flicks and tricks, had the skill and style to convert and Tipperary were 3-12 to 0-13 clear.
Kilkenny were in severe bother with Tipperary exploiting the extra man expertly with Cathal Barrett, Brendan Maher, and the Maher brothers, Ronan and Padraic, majestic alongside Seamus Kennedy and Barry Heffernan, who also contributed handsomely.
Tipperary’s defence had the doors bolted shut and one half Kilkenny goal chance was easily gathered by Brian Hogan, who thwarted Conor Browne.
In the dying embers Tipperary substitutes Ger Browne, Willie Connors, Mark Kehoe, and Jake Morris fired over brilliant long range points.
Tipperary’s flag is perched on the hurling summit once more.
Scorers for Tipperary: Jason Forde 0-8 (4fs, 265s), John O’Dwyer and Seamus Callanan (1f) 1-2 each, Niall O’Meara 1-0, John McGrath 0-3, Seamus Kennedy, Willie Connors, and Noel McGrath (1f) 0-2 each, Jake Morris, Ger Browne, Michael Breen, and Mark Kehoe 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-11 (10fs), John Donnelly 0-3, Billy Ryan 0-2, Padraig Walsh, Colin Fennelly, Walter Walsh, and Richie Hogan 0-1 each.
TIPPERARY: Brian Hogan; Cathal Barrett, Ronan Maher, Barry Heffernan; Seamus Kennedy, Brendan Maher, Padraic Maher; Noel McGrath, Michael Breen; Dan McCormack, Niall O’Meara, John McGrath; Seamus Callanan, John O’Dwyer, Jason Forde.
Subs: Mark Kehoe for O’Meara (51), Willie Connors for McCormack (57), Jake Morris for Forde (60), Sean O’Brien for Barrett (61), Ger Browne for Breen (64).
KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Paul Murphy, Huw Lawlor, Joey Holden; Paddy Deegan, Padraig Walsh, Conor Fogarty; Conor Browne, Cillian Buckley; Walter Walsh, TJ Reid, John Donnelly; Adrian Mullen, Colin Fennelly, Richie Hogan.
Subs: Billy Ryan for Mullen (40), Richie Leahy for Buckley (48), James Maher for Browne (54), Conor Delaney for Holden (59).
REFEREE: James Owens (Wexford).