Kilkenny return home this evening with the Dr Croke Cup, having secured their 17th Allianz Hurling League crown and their first ever ‘three-in-a-row’ of hurling league titles, having played in front of some 21,601 spectators.
It was Kilkenny’s TJ Reid whose last-minute point, aided by Richie Hogan (Latter named ‘Man Of The Match’), secured Kilkenny’s win here at Semple Stadium in Thurles this afternoon. Tipperary goalkeeper Darren Gleeson having launched the sliotar out of play, granted Reid that one, yet vital chance, to snatch the title outright, in a superb match in which both teams managed to draw level on some eleven different occasions.
The first Tipperary goal arrived courtesy of Killenaule man John O’Dwyer; tipping the sliotar into the right top corner of the Kilkenny net, from the edge of the square, having been fed the ball nicely by Noel McGrath.
Kilkenny’s two goals came either side of the half-time break, both successfully rifled into the Tipperary net, again by TJ Reid, from penalties. Reid would go on to score an incredible personal tally of 2-11 (17 pts) by the matches end.
However at the half-time mark this afternoon, Tipperary were still leading 1-11 (14 pts) to Kilkenny’s 1-09 (12 pts).
On the balance of overall play this afternoon, Tipperary did deserved a draw, having rallied from the start two points down to end on equal scores and in doing so ensured the two extra ten-minute periods of play were required to find the overall vanquisher.
In extra time superb goalkeeping from Kilkenny’s Eoin Murphy, crucially blocked what looked like a certain goal from Tipperary’s Seamus Callanan. However Murphy deflected same using his back, spinning it out for a 65 to which Callanan could only gain one point.
While a most enjoyable game to watch, Tipperary players will return home this evening with the knowledge that since winning the All-Ireland final against Kilkenny in 2010, disappointingly they have consistently failed against their constant rival, losing out in the 2011 All-Ireland, the 2012 semi-final, last year’s qualifier and now two League finals. Tipperary still remain the all-time record-holders of Hurling League titles, having won 19 since it was founded originally in 1925.
No doubt there will be much debate in the coming days on that disputed eleventh minute point awarded to Kilkenny, despite TV video footage appearing to show that Colin Fennelly’s best scoring efforts most likely had drifted somewhat wide of their initial intended target.
Final Score: Kilkenny 2-25 (31 pts) – Tipperary 1-27 (30 pts).
Tipperary Team: D. Gleeson; C. Barrett, P. Maher, M. Cahill, J. Barry, B. Maher, C. O’Mahony, K. Bergin, J. Woodlock, D. Maher, P. Maher, J. O’Dwyer, N. McGrath, S. Callanan and N. O’Meara.
Substitutions: T. Stapleton for B. Maher, G. Ryan for D. Maher, S. McGrath for J. Woodlock, S. Bourke for N. O’Meara , J. O’Brien for S. Callanan, S. Callanan for J. O’Brien (Latter in extra time), J. O’Brien for J. O’Dwyer and J. O’Dwyer for S. Bourke.
Referee: J. Owens (Wexford).