Cats strike late to claim famous four-in-a-row

From the web site

Sunday, September 6

Kilkenny 2-22 Tipperary 0-23

Kilkenny struck two late goals to secure the four-in-a-row and kill off Tipperary’s brave challenge in an epic All-Ireland final at Croke Park on Sunday.

Tipperary appeared to be in complete control of the game until substitute Benny Dunne was sent off for a wild pull on Tommy Walsh in the 54th minute, and the Cats produced a stunning finish to end up with a five-point winning margin.

However, Tipperary came closer than any other team to ending Kilkenny’s monopoly of the Liam MacCarthy Cup, and but for some poor shooting and the brilliance of Cats goalkeeper PJ Ryan, they could easily have won the title for the first time since 2001.

Seamus Callanan and Eoin Kelly were denied what looked like certain goals in the second half by Ryan, who pulled off spectacular saves that will leave him a front runner for an All Star.

Kilkenny were not at their best but as usual they came good when they really needed to in the final minutes, taking their two goal-scoring chances clinically. Shefflin struck from the penalty spot after Riche Power had been hauled down and then Martin Comerford completed a remarkable turnaround when he snaffled a second just a minute later.

Tipperary’s success this year has been based on their ability to score goals, but as Ryan single-handedly kept them out, they simply could not find a way past the Kilkenny defence in a thrilling final few minutes.

Kilkenny nearly made their trademark quick start to the game when Richie Hogan appeared to have found a way through on goal after the ball was dropped in the Tipperary defence. However, the ball was just out of his reach and Tipperary could breathe again.

The Cats served notice of their intentions in the second minute when Jackie Tyrrell floored Callanan with a ferocious shoulder that left the Tipperary centre-forward needing treatment. The opening minutes were tough and uncompromising; with Tipperary standing up to everything the Cats threw at them in the physical stakes. Referee Diarmuid Kirwan allowed the game to flow without too much interference before stepping in later in the game when matters threatened to boil over.

Shefflin and Eoin Kelly, both on free-taking duties for their respective teams, left the sides level inside eight minutes, but the big talking point of the opening exchanges came a minute later when Shefflin had a great chance to hammer home an early goal. However, the Kilkenny marksman was denied by a brilliant save from Brendan Cummins, who deflected the groundstroke out for a ’65.

Kelly and Lar Corbett, the only Tipperary players to score in the first half, were causing problems for Kilkenny’s much-heralded full-back line. Kelly was on hand to punish any fouls committed by the Kilkenny defence; Corbett was more of a threat in open play, his pace causing panic and leading to a fine point after 15 minutes. Kilkenny hit back with points from Tommy Walsh, Eoin Larkin, Eddie Brennan and Shefflin again to lead by two after 19 minutes.

But Tipperary were by no means overawed by the three-time champions and hit the next three scores to take the lead once again within five minutes. After a slow start, the game really opened up and some of the point-taking was an absolute pleasure to watch. However, Kilkenny hit the last two points of the half and led by two, 0-13 to 0-11, at the break.

Ryan made the fist of his vital interventions immediately after the restart, producing perhaps the save of the season to deny Callanan after Pat Kerwick had brilliantly fashioned the opening. Callanan was becoming increasingly influential for the underdogs after a quiet first half and he hit two in a row to level the game before Shane McGrath struck the point of the game to give Tipp the lead.

Shefflin responded with a free before Ryan again produced a heroic save to deny Eoin Kelly. The Tipperary full-forward was straight through on goal, but he appeared to slip at the point of contact with the ball and his shot was deflected out for a ’65 by the Cats’ goalkeeper. Kelly picked himself up to send the ensuing dead ball over.

One of the games many talking points came in the 54th minute, when Tipperary substitute Benny Dunne, who had been introduced six minutes previously, was sent to the line for a strike on Tommy Walsh. The pair contested a high ball and the Toomevara man appeared to pull prematurely on the ball, striking his opponent in the chest area for a deserved red card.

The sending off appeared to have a galvanising effect on Liam Sheedy’s men and they reacted brilliantly, firing over three points in a row to take a three-point lead and all the momentum into the final ten minutes.

If the game had one decisive turning point, it came in the 63rd minute, when the referee awarded the champions a hotly-debated penalty for a foul by Paul Curran on Richie Power. Power appeared to have been dragged down just outside the area, but Kirwan pointed to the spot and Shefflin hammered home to give Kilkenny the lead.

It got worse for Tipperary a minute later. Comerford, who had lost his place in the starting line-up, made space for himself and struck a low shot past Cummins for a second goal.

The Premier men went in search of goals in the final minutes, but found Ryan, who saved from an angled Noel McGrath shot, in imperious form between the sticks. Jackie Tyrrell added another for the Cats, with Kelly responding, but it was Eoin Larkin who fired the final two points of the game to complete an amazing turnaround for the champions.

Kilkenny: PJ Ryan; M Kavanagh, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell (0-1); T Walsh (0-1), B Hogan, J Tennyson; D Lyng (0-1), M Rice; R Hogan (0-2), H Shefflin (1-9, 0-8f, 1-0 pen), E Larkin (0-3); E Brennan (0-2), R Power (0-1), A Fogarty.

Subs: TJ Reid (0-1) for A Fogarty ’50, M Fennelly (0-1) for D Lyng ’50, M Comerford (1-0) for R Hogan ’55.

Tipperary: B Cummins; P Stapleton, P Maher, P Crran; D Fanning, C O’Mahony, B Maher; J Woodlock, S McGrath (0-1); P Kerwick, S Callanan (0-3), J O’Brien; N McGrath (0-2), E Kelly (0-13, 0-8f, 0-3 ’65), L Corbett (0-4).

Subs: B Dunne for J O’Brien ’47, W Ryan for P Kerwick ’66, M Webster for J Woodlock ’68.

Referee: D Kirwan (Cork)

Attendance: 82,106

From Irish Independant
By Martin Breheny

Monday September 07 2009

IT provided enough talking points to fuel a debating society long into the winter but, first, let’s acknowledge yesterday’s encounter for the incredible contest and spectacle that it was.

How fitting that in the GAA’s 125th year and with Kilkenny bidding for a place in history as the first county to win seven All-Ireland titles in a decade — not to mention becoming the first to win four-in-a-row for 65 years — the game didn’t just live up to expectations but exceeded them with a spectacular flourish which illuminated a dark afternoon in Croke Park.

The 2009 final can make an immediate application for admission to the ‘Epic Hall of Fame’ and only the most carping would advocate rejection. Even then, they will be ridiculed for their lack of soul after a wonderful occasion which more than compensated for the disappointing finals of the last two years.

Now — as in 2007 and 2008 — it ended with Kilkenny as All-Ireland champions, only this time after being driven to the limits of their remarkable endurance by an outstanding Tipperary effort. If Limerick and Waterford lacked the necessary substance to seriously test Kilkenny in the last two finals, Tipperary matched the champions in just about every department, except experience, as they drove themselves through new frontiers.

Ultimately, they came up short as Kilkenny took their total to 28 points which has been their consistent championship average over recent years. However, unlike so many other days where they harvested their bountiful yields in a fairly even spread over the full game, they packed the match-winning salvo into the final seven minutes.

They outgunned Tipperary by 2-3 to 0-2 over that closing stretch with the launch pad arriving in rather controversial circumstances at a time when it looked as if Tipperary’s relentless effort might have put them in a winning position.

Noel McGrath’s 62nd-minute point gave Tipperary a two-point lead (21-19) which was more than satisfactory for the challengers, who had coped superbly with being a man down after sub Benny Dunne was dismissed on a straight red car for a pull on Tommy Walsh in the 54th minute.

It was a serious error of judgement by such an experienced player and when Henry Shefflin pointed the resultant free to bring the sides level for the 11th time, the initiative appeared to have nudged in Kilkenny’s direction. But, not for the first time in the course of an afternoon when Tipperary underlined in the most emphatic terms just how a formidable force they now are, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

Tipperary hadn’t shirked their responsibilities all day and now dug in for another session of heavy lifting during which they opened a three-point lead on the hour mark and were still two clear when Richie Power began a surge towards goal three minutes later.

He looked to have been fouled outside the square but referee Diarmuid Kirwan didn’t blow and as the Kilkenny poacher drove into the square he was adjudged to have been impeded illegally by Paul Curran.

The call was tough on Tipperary as Kirwan awarded a penalty which Shefflin powered to the net. It was a superb strike in highly-pressurised circumstances but then Shefflin has specialised in delivering under the most intense scrutiny right through this decade.

With the Tipperary defence doing an excellent job in restricting his space through most of yesterday’s game, he managed just one point from play but still ended up on 1-8 to take him within three points of Eddie Keher on the all-time championship scoring lists.

His goal put Kilkenny a point ahead and, typical of their instinctive ability to exploit a new-found advantage, they struck for a crucial second goal a minute later when sub Martin Comerford underlined his predatory nature by beating Brendan Cummins with a low drive.

Tipperary twice cut the gap to three points in the closing minutes but two late points by Eoin Larkin gave Kilkenny a cushion as they motored on to their 32nd All-Ireland title, taking them two clear of Cork.

There were times when even Kilkenny’s steel-hard character must have wondered if an 18th successive championship win would elude them against a Tipperary team that rose magnificently to the biggest challenge of their rapidly-expanding careers. They matched Kilkenny in intensity and physicality all the way in a game where the referee let play flow if all possible.

At the same time, Tipperary enjoyed a substantial advantage in the free count, having been awarded 19 to Kilkenny’s eight. It was quite a differential, the reason for which wasn’t immediately apparent but, in the end, Tipperary will feel that the crucial penalty award was the most significant decision of all.

The sides were level seven times in the first half before Kilkenny scored two points in stoppage time to lead 0-13 to 0-11 at the interval. It was the most marginal of swings but Tipperary would have been happy with their first-half performance as it proved they really were up to the challenge.

Declan Fanning and Conor O’Mahony had hurled superbly in the half-back line; Shane McGrath and James Woodlock were productive off midfield breaks; Lar Corbett’s outfield adventures enabled him to pick off three points in half an hour while Eoin Kelly, who finished on 0-13, was threatening to revisit his very best days at full-forward.

Kilkenny, as is their wont, prospered in high-powered bursts, scoring four points between the 16th and 19th minutes and another five in the last seven minutes of the half.

Nevertheless, the first half would have reinforced Tipperary’s view that they were onto something. They had a clear chance of a goal two minutes after the restart when Seamus Callanan cut in on goal but his drive was brilliantly turned out for a ’65 by PJ Ryan. It was a crucial moment and Ryan delivered again in the 45th minute, turning Kelly’s low drive out for another ’65.

Significantly, Tipperary had begun to create the goal openings but unlike the rest of the campaign where they yielded rich pickings, Ryan’s excellence denied them this time.

Still, Tipperary enjoyed a good spell during which they should have scored more than they did. They hit six wides to Kilkenny’s two in the second half, a telling statistic which will be a source of regret for a very long time.

Brian Cody began unloading his impressive subs’ bench in the 50th minute, sending on TJ Reid, Michael Fennelly and Comerford in quick succession. All three made a significant impact, scoring 1-2 between them, whereas Tipperary’s first sub was back on the bench on a red card after just seven minutes and Liam Sheedy didn’t despatch any others into action until the 66th minute.

If Kilkenny’s subs made a big impact in the final quarter, Tommy Walsh did it for the full 70 minutes. Truly a wonderful talent, his capacity to deliver at the peak of his magical powers every time he plays is quite remarkable.

John Tennyson also resisted well while Jackie Tyrrell embellished his defensive efforts with an inspiring long-range point late on. Eddie Brennan made most impact in the first half; Larkin reserved his best for the last quarter while Shefflin kept the score-board ticking over from frees.

And when the chance to make a match-turning intervention presented itself with the penalty, he was man enough to respond. That’s hardly a surprise but then the same applies to all of this Kilkenny squad in their many and varied ways as they asserted themselves as the greatest of all time.

Results don’t lie and Kilkenny’s title haul — seven All-Irelands, nine Leinster and five National Leagues in a decade — is something that was never previously achieved. What’s more, it’s a target that may never be reached again.

Scorers — Kilkenny: H Shefflin 1-8 (7f, 1-0 pen), E Brennan, E Larkin 0-3 each, M Comerford 1-0, R Hogan 0-2, T Walsh, D Lyng, R Power, M Fennelly, TJ Reid, J Tyrrell 0-1 each. Tipperary: E Kelly 0-13 (7f, 3 ’65s), L Corbett 0-4, S Callanan 0-3, N McGrath 0-2, S McGrath 0-1.

Kilkenny — PJ Ryan; M Kavanagh, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, J Tennyson; D Lyng, M Rice; E Brennan, E Larkin, R Power; R Hogan, H Shefflin, A Fogarty. Subs: TJ Reid for Fogarty (50), M Fennelly for Lyng (52), M Comerford for R Hogan (55).

Tipperary — B Cummins; P Stapleton, P Maher, P Curran; D Fanning, C O’Mahony, B Maher; J Woodlock, S McGrath; N McGrath, J O’Brien, S Callanan; P Kerwick, E Kelly, L Corbett. Subs: B Dunne for O’Brien (47), W Ryan for Kerwick (66), M Webster for Woodlock (69).

Ref — D Kirwan (Cork).

– Martin Breheny

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