Flashback: 2010 All-Ireland SHC Final: Tipperary v Kilkenny
By John Harrington
The 2010 All-Ireland Hurling Final was a pressure-cooker before a ball was even pucked.
Kilkenny were bidding to become the first ever county to win five All-Ireland senior titles in a row in either code, and such was the hype in the county around the ‘Drive For Five’ that an estimated 7,500 supporters turned up to watch the team’s final training session before the match.
The Kilkenny players had to deal with a level of expectation beyond anything they’d ever experienced previously, but Tipperary had their own burden to carry coming into the match.
The 2009 All-Ireland Final was commonly regarded as a glorious opportunity missed.
They’d played the better hurling for most of the match but still couldn’t find a way to finish Kilkenny off.
2010 offered a chance of redemption, but now Kilkenny were perhaps better forewarned about the capabilities of this Tipperary team than they had been a year previously.
Also, such is the rivalry between the two counties, that the prospect of being the team that couldn’t prevent Kilkenny’s coronation as five-in-a-row champions would have weighed heavily on the county’s supporters, so quite possibly on the players themselves too.
Considering how high the stakes were, it would have been no surprise had the match not lived up to its lofty billing.
A wet, stormy day didn’t look like it would lend itself to a spectacular encounter, but, in the end, both teams defied the pressurised circumstances as well as the weather to produce a classic on a par with the previous year’s final.
And, in the end, Tipperary pulled off a victory that surely ranks as one of the county’s most satisfying ever, as they drilled four goals past arguably the greatest team to ever play the game.
For Tipperary captain, Eoin Kelly, there was as much relief as there was elation considering the effort everyone in the Premier County’s camp had put in during Liam Sheedy’s three-year term as manager.
“To be honest it kind of felt more like a sense of relief than satisfaction because we felt that the squad was on a journey and the journey started in September or October of 2007 when we really got down and got dirty in training and the workload really went up by 110 per cent,” Kelly told GAA.ie in 2015.
“The bit of silverware in 2008 gave us a bit of belief and 2009 was heart-breaking because we felt we had goal chances that day and we just didn't take them.
“When we did get back in 2010, Eamon O'Shea had it drilled into us that we were going to get more goal chances, but this time we were going to score them.
“We got four goal chances that day and the rest is history. We really, really deserved to win that 2010 final because we outfought Kilkenny and we took our chances on the day.
“That's the key in an All-Ireland final - you have to take your chances. It was massive.”
“2010 was a journey and with it came a huge sense of relief that we had won. I went through barren years from 2001 to 2010, and I suppose you do wonder if you are ever going to win another All-Ireland.
“You see great players from other counties that never got a chance to win All-Irelands, so every time you win one it's special because you don't know if it's going to be your last or if you'll ever get the chance to play in the final again.”
For Kilkenny, it was an especially sore defeat. The sting of failing to complete the ‘Drive for Five’ stayed with players like Jackie Tyrrell longer than the joy of winning the four Finals that preceded 2010.
“It’s horrific, it really is,” said Tyrrell, when looking back on how the 2010 All-Ireland Final defeat felt.
“It’s terrible, it really is. It’s just a bad, bad place to be and you just want to get out of there as soon as possible.
“And I’ll remember that better than probably any of the ones I won which is terrible. It’s terrible to think that but I do. I still remember 2010 and the ones we lost, it’s heartbreaking
“For me the worst part of 2010 was, there was so many days, September and October, when I’d be driving along in the car maybe of a Wednesday or that.
"You’d be going down the motorway and you feel like pulling in and crying for half an hour.
“I remember talking to Tommy (Walsh) about it and he said he used to be like that.
“You just want to play it again and it’s gone, you just can’t wait for the year to start again.”
The 2010 All-Ireland Final will always be remembered as Lar Corbett’s most special day as a Tipperary hurler.
He scored three-goals in a man of the match performance that also sealed his status as the 2010 Hurler of the Year.
“Lar brought his game to a different level completely,” said Kelly. “Lar was the best forward in the country for three years, ’09, ’10, and ’11.
“His form was just…people would turn on the TV to watch Lar. Just his movement and how he’d ghost into positions, and he was matching that with his finishing.
“When you get those chances you have to finish. Once you have a marquee forward delivering day in, day out, you’re always going to be very, very competitive and that’s the level that Lar brought us to.”
Corbett’s first two goals were especially decisive to the outcome of the match.
The first came after 10 minutes when he rose above Noel Hickey to claim a delivery from Shane McGrath and then rattled the back of PJ Ryan’s net.
It felt all the more significant a moment because Ryan had been the hero of the previous year's All-Ireland Final when he kept a clean sheet and made four top-quality saves.
Corbett's second goal in the 42nd minute really set Tipperary on their way, and summed up everything that was good about their fluid attacking play as Noel McGrath provided a sublime assist for Corbett’s emphatic finish.
The third goal was a matador’s coup de grace in injury-time that ended the game with a fitting exclamation mark as far as Tipperary were concerned.
“That day was surreal, you just don’t believe it at the time,” said Corbett in an interview with Eir Sport in 2016.
“You look back on the video after 2010 and you’re still waiting for a ball to go wide, you don’t believe that the three of them went in.
“The second goal that day, that’s what Tipperary were. Noel McGrath got the ball and I knew before Noel got it that I was getting it (next). Because we had done that, that was Noel’s game.
“We would have done that over and over again, it was just lucky that it happened in an All-Ireland Final.
“You could make that run a few years beforehand and you maybe wouldn’t have gotten it because we didn’t know each others play as much.
“But that ball that Noel got, I knew I was getting it. Eamon O’Shea had (drilled) that over and over again.
“Once Noel caught it he’d hand-pass. I was after making my run before Noel got it because I knew what was going to happen.”
It was always going to take something special to stop Kilkenny’s Drive for Five and Tipperary produced it.
But the manner in which Kilkenny reacted to the devastating loss in subsequent years only served to further emphasise their greatness.