Cats seal U-21 clash against Tipperary


KILKENNY 2-13 TIPPERARY 0-15, Croke Park

The icing was put on a fantastic year for Kilkenny hurling as the Cats held off a Tipperary comeback to secure the All-Ireland Under-21 title and confirm an historic quadruple.

At a rain-soaked Croke Park, Michael Walsh’s youngsters prevailed thanks to a two-goal blast from Matthew Ruth.

The win, Kilkenny’s second at this grade in three years, completed a clean sweep of 2008 titles as the Under-21s added to the successes of the seniors, minors and intermediates.

TJ Reid and Richie Hogan teed up Ruth’s goals after 14 and 30 minutes, with Reid, who played his part in that senior triumph, excelling in open play during the first half.

2-07 to 0-07 behind at half-time, Tipperary valiantly closed the gap to two points on three occasions thanks to a stirring second half display.

Senior squad member Pa Bourke showed his placed-ball brilliance and top-scored with eight points, but it was not to be as late efforts from Niall Walsh, Reid and Hogan got Kilkenny over the finish line.

Munster champions Tipp, managed by Declan Carr, made one change to the side they fielded for their semi-final win over Derry.

Knockshegowna clubman Mark O’Meara was drafted in at full-forward, to replace the injured Joey McLoughney.

Carr’s charges had three outings before the final, including tight provincial wins over Limerick (1-13 to 0-15) and Clare (1-16 to 2-12) – with the latter game ending in controversy.

Kilkenny boss Walsh kept faith with the team he chose for the recent semi-final defeat of Galway, with his selection worries soothed by Reid’s recovery from a hand injury.

Reid marked himself out as a star of the future by scoring four points from play in last week’s demolition of Waterford, and he continued where he left off during today’s first half.

The Ballyhale ace showed his process under the high ball with a series of excellent catches and his run and lay-off for Ruth’s second goal capped off an impressive opening half-hour for the Cats.

A repeat of the 2006 All-Ireland U-21 final which Kilkenny won after a replay, this clash never really caught fire in the opening half.

Kilkenny moved ahead just 20 seconds after the throw-in when Reid set up a point for corner forward Ruth.

Tipp responded well over the next five minutes as Shane Bourke landed a towering point from the left, Pa Bourke opened his free-taking account and defender Kevin Lanigan also scored from distance.

In between, Richie Hogan, a cousin of DJ Carey, was wide of the mark from a ’65’ and Kilkenny goalkeeper Colin McGrath had to be on his toes to save a tame enough shot from Patrick Maher.

Hogan, who hit some poor wides, doubled his side’s tally and then the in-form Reid settled for a point after a short raid up the right wing.

The sides were level for the fourth time when Tipp danger man Seamus Callinan shrugged off three defenders to point and Ruth replied at the other end, pointing over his shoulder after turning onto his right side.

Callinan could not wield the influence he wanted to, however, and although Carr switched things around by moving the senior star to full-forward and then back out to the forty, it was Kilkenny’s forwards who dominated the second quarter.

Callinan was brilliantly blocked by Kilkenny captain James Dowling and the Cats quickly turned defence into attack.

Off a particularly skill-laden move, Reid raced in from the right and hand-passed to the unmarked Ruth who blasted to the net from just outside the square.

Goal number one down and only Padraig Maher’s superb block at full stretch prevent Ruth from doing an ‘Eddie Brennan’, barely a minute later.

Continuing to pluck balls out of the sky, Reid won a well-placed free which Hogan comfortably pointed, before Pa Bourke did likewise to keep Tipp in the hunt at 1-05 to 0-05.

Some clever play from Kilkenny’s front men again outfoxed the Tipp defence. In the 20th minute, Richie Hogan floated an incisive pass across to set up a point for Nicky Cleere, who had been moved to full-forward.

Reid gained another free for his side, two minutes later, and Hogan clipped the sliotar between the posts again, as the rain began to fall quite heavily.

Unfortunately, wides did blight both sides’ play at stages. Bourke and Thomas McGrath both should have done better at the Hill 16 end and that really hit home when Ruth scrambled home his second goal.

Kilkenny seemed to have lost control of an attack but Richie Hogan snaffled possession and hared through the centre of the Tipp defence on an arcing run.

Goalkeeper Matthew Ryan could do little as the ball found its way through for Ruth to bulge the net once more.

Eight points down, Tipp had a timely rally just before the break when Brendan Maher and Gearoid Ryan rattled off scores.

The Premier county side did exactly what they needed to do in the early stages of the second period, composing themselves and taking their points when they came.

Kilkenny looked a little jittery as Bourke landed an early free and after a surge from Callinan, the impressive Ryan tapped over his second point.

Hogan missed a ’65’ and when Bourke connected well with a 40th-minute free, there were only three points separating the sides.

The tit-for-tat nature of the game continued as Hogan and Bourke entered into a free-taking duel. The latter hit two more points, the second a terrific effort from near the right sideline, to reduce the arrears to 2-08 to 0-12.

John Mulhall, who had been quiet, exploded into life over the next few minutes and Kilkenny needed him to do so as Tipp were beginning to get on top.

The Kilkenny number 14 won a free which Hogan missed, but the latter did redeem himself with a 47th-minute effort and Mulhall followed up with an inspirational point from play.

Tipp created a goal-scoring opportunity in the 48th minute, but Callinan’s ground shot was disappointingly struck straight at McGrath who had a comfortable save.

Tipp recovered the ball around the forty though, and Gearoid Ryan steadied himself before landing his third point  an excellent return from the midfielder.

Still three points ahead, Kilkenny’s lead was never really a comfortable one and when their goalkeeper McGrath was deemed to have tried to pick the ball straight off the ground, as Tipp pressed him in his square, Carr’s men had a close range to consider.

Pa Bourke stepped forward and bravely went for goal. His powerful shot, aimed to the left side of the goal, was deflected over by McGrath for the concession of a point and the Kilkenny faithful could breathe again.

Another great effort from Padraig Maher to block a JJ Farrell point attempt emphasised that Tipperary were beginning to win the individual battles.

Patrick Maher, the wing forward, was involved in what might have been a match-defining incident, just a couple of minutes later.

Scrambling his way forward at the left edge of the Kilkenny square, he tried to find space to get a strike through on goal but Neil Prendergast came in with a strong challenge and the Cats won a relieving free.

The Tipp players and many in the stadium felt that Prendergast’s challenge from the side might have been too robust and that Maher had legitimate claims for a free.

Referee James Owens’ decision stood and with Pa Bourke’s 58th-minute free proving to be Tipp’s final point, those closing efforts from Walsh, Reid and Hogan copperfastened the win.

KILKENNY – C McGrath; P Murphy, K Joyce, E O’Shea; L Ryan, P Hogan, N Prendergast; J Dowling (capt), N Walsh (0-01); C Fennelly, N Cleere (0-01), TJ Reid (0-02); M Ruth (2-02), J Mulhall (0-01), R Hogan (0-06, 0-06f).

Subs used: JJ Farrell for Cleere (36 mins), J Maher for Dowling (54), M Bergin for Farrell (60+1).

TIPPERARY – M Ryan; M Cahill, Padraig Maher, K Maher; K Lanigan (0-01), T Stapleton, B Maher (0-01); G Ryan (0-03), S Hennessy (capt); Patrick Maher, S Callinan (0-01), T McGrath; P Bourke (0-08, 0-08f), M O’Meara, S Bourke (0-01).

Subs used: J O’Keeffe for Lanigan (30+2 mins), D O’Hanlon for O’Meara (39), P Ivors for S Bourke (48), J Ryan for McGrath (50).

Referee: James Owens (Wexford)

Leave a Reply