Kilkenny edge Tipperary in absorbing league decider after extra time
It took extra-time for Kilkeny to claim a third league title in a row after an enthralling final with a gallant Tipperary side at Semple Stadium.
Kieran Bergin struck in the fourth minute of injury time, in normal time, for Eamon O’Shea’s men to force extra time but despite heroics from the likes of Noel McGrath, TJ Reid’s late, late point was enough to claim a 2-25 to 1-27 win.
It was a game that didn’t spark into life until late in the second half but ignited afterwards into a clash to remember.
Kilkenny opened the scoring in the third minute after nice interplay released midfielder Padraig Walsh to fire over and a TJ Reid free quickly followed.
Richie Hogan pointed from distance before Reid knocked over his second free.
John O’Dwyer opened Tipp’s account in the sixth minute and Seamus Callanan landed his first free of the afternoon a minute later.
A beautiful strike from Noel McGrath was cancelled out by a disputed score for Colin Fennelly which television replays suggested had gone wide.
Tipp responded with three of the next four points with the tenacious James Woodlock pointing the equaliser.
Eamon O’Shea’s men were warming to the task and led for the first time when Niall O’Meara raced clear to raise a white flag and Noel McGrath flashed a point over from a tight angle.
O’Meara and Reid swapped points before Denis Maher restored Tipp’s three-point advantage.
The sides exchanged points before Kieran Bergin had his goalbound shot saved but Tipp did have a goal 30 seconds later as Noel McGrath’s sidleline cut was batted to the net by John O’Dwyer.
TJ Reid struck a free from distance before Kilkenny were awarded a penalty when Mark Kelly was pulled down and Reid blasted to the net and the Cats were just two points down at half-time on a scoreline of 1-11 to 1-9.
Denis Maher was the first man to score in the second period and Seamus Callanan added to this but these were cancelled out by two placed ball efforts from TJ Reid.
Seamus Callanan pointed another free before Kilkenny were awarded a second penalty when TJ Reid was pulled down in the area by Cathal Barrett.
Reid dusted himself down and slammed the sliotar to the net to restore parity with 20 minutes to go.
Kilkenny hit the front when Cathal Barrett was penalised very harshly and Reid slotted it.
Richie Hogan and Callanan exchanged scores before a magical point from Noel McGrath and an equally impressive point from John O’Dwyer put Tipp back into the lead with 10 minutes to go.
The lead lasted all of 45 seconds as Richie Power dissected the uprights to make it 1-17 to 2-14.
Callanan and Hogan again traded scores as the tit-for-tat nature of the game continued.
The game was there to be won and Michael Fennelly gave the Cats the advantage with a brace of superb points.
Shane Bourke sent the sliotar over for Tipp to put a solitary point in in the first minute of injury time.
Tipp had a last-gasp chance to win it with John O’Dwyer’s long range free but it hit the post but before the ref blew it up Tipp recycled the ball to Kieran Bergin and he scored the point to force extra-time.
It was no more than Tipp deserved.
Noel McGrath scored beautifully over his left shoulder at the beginning of extra-time but after some wayward shooting from both sides, Richie Hogan levelled matters.
Hogan then put the Cats in front only for Seamus Callanan, who had been subbed and then re-introduced, pointed.
Points before the end of the first half of extra time from TJ Reid and Richie Power for Kilkenny and Noel McGrath for Tipp left the Cats up by a point with 10 more minutes to come.
Both sides scored in the opening minutes of the second period through a TJ Reid free and a sublime Noel McGrath sideline cut.
Seamus Callanan had a huge goal chance to put Tipp ahead but Eoin Murphy produced a magnificent save though Callanan’s 65 restored parity.
The influential Noel McGrath was fouled next and Callanan pushed the Premier men in front only for padraig Walsh to level it up again.
When Richie Power pointed from distance again, Tipp needed to come back from behind again and they did thanks to another Callanan free.
The game needed a winner and TJ Reid provided after a cleverly worked sideline with Rich Hogan sent him into space and the wing-forward did the rest for a one-point win.