Major lift for battling Tipp

Major lift for battling Tipp


By Diarmuid O’Flynn

YOU would have got really long odds on the two results from Nowlan Park yesterday.

Kilkenny to finally win a NFL game, having returned to the fold this year after nearly a decade of non-participation; Kilkenny to lose to Tipperary in the NHL semi-final, having stormed through the campaign to date.

Tipperary have also been enjoying an unbeaten league run, had also won the Waterford Crystal tournament in January. Throw in the fact that Kilkenny were without the services of Noel Hickey, John Tennyson, John Dalton, Derek Lyng, Eoin Larkin, and Henry Shefflin; add in the nugget that on their last league visit to Nowlan Park, a year ago, Tipperary also came out on top, winners by 3-13 to 2-13 and the signs were definitely there.

The signs in the opening few minutes were ominous for the visitors, however. Though backed by a strong wind they were struggling to make any impression up front, and in the third minute were rocked by a superb Eddie Brennan Kilkenny goal.

Latching onto a huge sideline cut by Michael Fennelly, Eddie turned on the after-burners and scorched round Conor O’Brien, giving Brendan Cummins no chance from point-blank range. It was a harsh lesson for the impressive young Tipp corner-back but it was one he learnt and was never caught again.

It took Tipp until the sixth minute to register their first score, a pointed free from midfield by Eoin Kelly, then a minute later we had our second moment of magic in a game that was more and more becoming a dog-fight. A massive wind-assisted clearance by Cummins was grabbed by Tipp corner-forward Lar Corbett who rounded Michael Kavanagh and rocketed a shot past PJ Ryan: 1-1 to 1-0 after seven minutes.

That score really lifted Tipperary and for the next ten minutes, they were the better team by far, adding four points (Kelly with two, midfielder Shane McGrath – another superb outing) to just one by Kilkenny, from a Richie Power free.

Three points from Power – one a beauty, turn and shoot after a soaring puckout catch – and one from midfielder and captain Cha Fitzpatrick had the game back on level terms in the 25th minute, 1-5 apiece.

Given the strength of the wind, the pendulum had now swung back in favour of the Cats and how their supporters in the fine crowd of 12,000 responded.

Four unanswered points for Tipp before the break gave them a bit of breathing space, but would it be enough? That was the question at half-time among the strong visiting contingent; 1-9 to 1-5, Kilkenny would surely score a lot more than that in the second half – would Tipp be able to hold out?

As we now know, yes, they would; not only did they protect that four-point lead, they even managed to extend it, if just by a single point, but it took a heroic defensive effort.

Note here that we don’t say a rearguard effort; this was very much a team performance by Tipp, every single player in every part of the field battling like blazes for every ball.

Brendan Cummins made a couple of timely interceptions, including for the huge clearance that led to the Corbett goal, and the big man also made a critical body-block from Willie O’Dwyer in the 58th minute, conceded a pointed Power 65 but preserved his goal at a time when Kilkenny could have drawn level; Paul Curran was man-of-the-match at full-back, justified the management’s decision to leave fit-again current Allstar Declan Fanning on the bench, Conor O’Mahony was rock solid at centre-back, Eamonn Corcoran was his usual brilliant self on the wing, Shane Maher also impressive on the other side.

In midfield, another outstanding performance from Shane McGrath, who continues to grow in stature with every game.

Five points was all they managed between them in the second half (Corcoran has Tipperary’s sixth, a superb line-ball), two from super sub Seamus Callinan, the other three from Eoin Kelly. It wasn’t Kelly’s scoring that impressed in this game, however, it was his willingness to get stuck in, his eagerness even.

Yes, Kilkenny can offer excuses for this loss, six major excuses in the form of those who were missing, and no-one will be writing them off just yet! But there is now growing evidence that this Tipperary side is looking more and more like the real deal.

Scorers for Tipperary: E. Kelly 0-7 (0-4 frees 0-1 65); L. Corbett 1-0; T. Fitzgerald 0-2; S. Callinan 0-2; S. McGrath 0-2; E. Corcoran (s/l), S. Butler, 0-1 each.

Kilkenny scorers: R. Power 0-6 (0-3 frees 0-1 65); E. Brennan 1-0; M.

Rice, E. Reid, A. Fogarty, J. Fitzpatrick (free), 0-1 each.

TIPPERARY: B. Cummins; E. Buckley, P. Curran, C. O’Brien; E. Corcoran , C. O’Mahony, S. Maher; B. Dunne, S. McGrath; S. Butler, R. O’Dwyer, J.

Woodlock; E. Kelly (c), T. Fitzgerald, L. Corbett. Subs: J. O’Brien (Dunne 53); M. Webster (Fitzgerald 56); S. Callinan (Butler 60); D.

Hickey (Corbett 70+2). Blood sub: P. Kerwick (Woodlock 68/69).

KILKENNY: PJ Ryan; M. Kavanagh, JJ Delaney, J. Tyrell; T. Walsh, B.

Hogan, J. Ryall; J. Fitzpatrick (c), M. Fennelly; R. Power, M. Rice, W.

O’Dwyer; E. Brennan, M. Comerford, A. Fogarty. Subs: TJ Reid (Fennelly inj. 19); PJ Delaney (Ryall 27); E. Reid (Comerford 45); R. Hogan (Fogarty 58).

Referee: M. Wadding (Waterford).


Premier outfight Cats in real scrap


By Colm Keys

Monday April 14 2008

Rarely has a team warm-down been watched by such a sizeable and adoring crowd. As the Tipperary players congregated in one corner of Nowlan Park after this gripping Allianz NHL semi-final yesterday the blue and gold faithful were magnetised by their presence there.

From the stands they spilled out and over, purring with the satisfaction that comes with lowering the colours of the All-Ireland champions in their own back yard.

They feel like they have a team to follow again, an honest committed team that has collectively hauled itself off the floor again.

‘Babs’ Keating had that satisfaction as manager here too last year, it must be remembered.

But there was something more tangible, more substantial to what Tipperary did here. They muzzled Kilkenny, they cornered them at every available opportunity and they stared them down in that critical last quarter when the home side prepared for their inevitable ‘kick’.

In effect Kilkenny had their own gun turned on them and they came out with their hands in the air. This time.

It was a wonderful contest, perhaps lacking real, quality scores, but if it’s cutting edge wholesome hurling you desire then Nowlan Park was certainly your theatre yesterday.

The challenges were hard but almost always fair and the standard of blocking, hooking and tackling was text book material.

Every square yard of ground was a battlefield, every ball was treated preciously. The crowd of 12,000 appreciated a clean lift as much as they lauded a telling clearance.

Tipperary more than met the physical requirements set by Kilkenny in any hurling contest in a way than no team has done in the last few seasons.

Even Brian Cody had to concede afterwards that Kilkenny had been outfought, not words he has been used to uttering too often in 10 seasons of front line inter-county management


"It certainly came across that way [that Tipperary were hungrier]. They came onto breaking ball quicker and of course that disappoints me.

That’s not what you want to see happening. It happened and that’s it,"

reflected Cody.

It’s not a result that will unduly unnerve him though. As he sees it Kilkenny are no better or now worse than they were 12 months ago. It’s just that Tipperary have made up ground.

"We got to the League final last year and we lost that and we’ve gotten to the League semi-final this year and lost that. We didn’t play any better in last year’s League final than we did today. So, I’d say we were pretty similar to where we are now."

Liam Sheedy hasn’t watched a beaten Tipperary team since he took over as manager but isn’t given to over statement as a consequence.

His analysis was simple and straightforward. Tipperary have worked harder in the last six months than Kilkenny have. He told his players that at half-time too as they turned to face a stiffening breeze with just a four point lead. It galvanised them.

"The reality of this is that we’re together since last November and we’ve a lot of work done so in terms of fitness we’ve a lot more work done so we were under no illusions," said Sheedy.

"When they were away celebrating last year we were trying to do laps of Thurles that has to have an impact and I said it to the lads at half-time if we get it to the last 10 or 15 minutes I’d be confident that we’d have enough in reserve to go on.

"It is very encouraging from our point of view. Our work ethic is something that we have been training on and I thought today again that it shone through. There were a lot of similarities to last Sunday’s match, our defence gave us the platform to get the vital scores up front."

The scoreline tells where the balance of Tipperary power lay. When was the last time Kilkenny were held to 1-10 in any game?

Tipp full-back Paul Curran is rapidly developing into one of the best exponents of the position and led the line superbly. Around him Eamonn Buckley, Eamonn Corcoran and Conor O’Mahony were resolute and unyielding.

At one stage in the second half, Kilkenny substitute Richie Hogan got a half a break that might have turned into something much more but, in an instant, three Tipp shirts appeared from nowhere to submerge him.

That was the theme all day, hard, uncompromising defence.

The tone for such a compelling game almost from throw-in when the sides exchanged wonderfully executed goals. At one end Eddie Brennan raced on to a sideline, scythed around Conor O’Brien on his outside and unleashed one of his trademark drives just two minutes in.

Eoin Kelly steadied a shaken Tipp with a free but the real riposte came from Lar Corbett who judged a 100 metre Cummins clearance to perfection and slipped Michael Kavanagh for an equally sublime finish.

Tipp pushed on into a 1-5 to 1-1 lead at one point but Richie Power belted over two fine points from play into the wind. And by the 24th minute they were level, 1-5 each.

Kilkenny were guilty of some uncharacteristic errors in that first-half.

Michael Kavanagh allowed far too much time and space for Corbett to make his catch and run for the Tipperary goal, James Ryall missed a crucial catch that presented Seamus Butler with a simple point and the virus even affected the normally assured J J Delaney who coughed up a 65 under no pressure that Eoin Kelly missed.

Cody didn’t stand long on ceremony. Michael Fennelly was whipped off, albeit with a back injury after 19 minutes and Ryall was called ashore minutes later.

Tipperary sensed that the appliance of pressure in every area of the field was having an effect and by the break they had stolen a four point lead, 1-9 to 1-5, as Tommy Fitzgerald (two), Shane McGrath and Eoin Kelly (free) found their range.

A four point cushion into the wind didn’t seem enough but Tipp clearly steeled themselves and maintained defiance.

Michael Rice and Aidan Fogarty edged Kilkenny closer but two points was as near as they got as Tipp drew a line in the sand. A converted sideline from Corcoran on 63 minutes lifted the siege for Tipp and was the cue for substitute Seamus Callanan (two) and Kelly to pour through with late scores that thrilled the visiting support.

Cody and Kilkenny were most gracious, the sight of Henry Shefflin, Noel Hickey, Eoin Larkin and John Tennyson in tracksuits no doubt providing the assurance that better days are ahead.

l A minute’s silence was observed before the game in memory of Tipperary senior and U-21 footballer Darrel Darcy who was tragically killed in a car accident during the week.

Scorers — Tipperary: E Kelly 0-7 (0-4f, 0-1 65), L Corbett 1-0; S McGrath, S Callanan, T Fitzgerald 0-2 each, E Corcoran (s/l), S Butler

0-1 each.

Kilkenny: R Power 0-6 (0-3f, 0-1 65s); E Brennan 1-0; M Rice, J Cha Fitzpatrick (0-1f); E Reid, A Fogarty 0-1 each.

Tipperary — B Cummins; E Buckley, P Curran, C O’Brien; E Corcoran, C O’Mahony, S Maher; B Dunne, S McGrath; S Butler, R O’Dwyer, J Woodlock; E Kelly, T Fitzgerald, L Corbett. Subs: J O’Brien for Dunne (52), M Webster for Fitzgerald (56), S Callanan for Butler (60), D Hickey for Corbett (71).

Kilkenny — P J Ryan; M Kavanagh, J J Delaney, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, J Ryall; J Cha Fitzpatrick, M Fennelly; R Power, M Rice, W O’Dwyer; E Brennan, M Comerford, A Fogarty. Subs: T J Reid for Fennelly (19), P J Delaney for Ryall (26), E Reid for Comerford (44), R Hogan for Fogarty (58).

Ref — M Wadding (Waterford).

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