Rivalry that never falls short

Rivalry that never falls short

‘Old firm’ of Kilkenny and Tipperary has thrown up endless classics during the Cody era – Colm Keys picks his perfect 10

6 September 2009; Martin Comerford, Kilkenny, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal as Brendan Maher, Tipperary, falls dejected. GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final, Kilkenny v Tipperary, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Kilkenny’s Martin Comerford wheels away after scoring a goal against Tipperary in the 2009 All-Ireland SHC final. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Change may have swept across the landscape in hurling’s order of merit in 2013, but the most compelling rivalry in the game still has the capacity to thrive with a fourth league final between them in 12 years taking place on Sunday.

Kilkenny and Tipperary’s propensity to produce classic games has never waned and, if anything, has accelerated in the last 12 months.

We look at the best 10 meetings in league and championship of the Brian Cody era.

 

1. 2009 ALL-IRELAND FINAL

Kilkenny 2-22 Tipperary 0-23

A classic encounter; considered by some to be the greatest hurling game played and still rated above either of last year’s All-Ireland finals for the full-blooded, relentless physical dimension it brought.

An electrifying atmosphere saw Tipperary lead going down the final stretch and set to preserve their magnificent record against their old rivals in All-Ireland finals, with just one defeat – in the 1967 decider – up to that.

But Kilkenny drew on reserves of character to outscore Tipp by 2-3 to 0-2 in the last 10 minutes to prevail by five. The lead changed hands eight times, with Kilkenny goalkeeper PJ Ryan providing a masterclass, with three wonderful saves from Eoin Kelly (twice) and Seamus Callanan.

Diarmuid Kirwan’s 63rd-minute decision to award Richie Power a penalty, which Henry Shefflin converted, despite the foul being outside the box, tilted it Kilkenny’s way and they followed up with a Martin Comerford goal.

 

2. 2002 ALL-IRELAND SEMI-FINAL

Kilkenny 1-20 Tipperary 1-16

A match that will be remembered for DJ Carey’s contribution, but it was such an engrossing battle even before his intervention. He hadn’t been part of the Kilkenny squad until after the Leinster final, but got himself right with just six weeks of preparation.

He scored 0-4 and made the decisive run for Jimmy Coogan’s goal that gave the Cats breathing space after John Carroll’s goal had given Tipp prime position.

 

3. 2013 QUALIFIER

Kilkenny 0-20 Tipperary 1-14

For atmosphere, the drama of Henry Shefflin’s seasonal return and the prospect of Tipperary bringing an era to an end in Kilkenny’s own back yard, this match will always rate highly.

A full house was declared early in the week and many were in place an hour before the throw-in. When Shefflin’s name was added to the list of substitutes, the locals brought the house down. When he came on, they took the noise to a different level.

In between, Tipp led by a goal, lost Lar Corbett to injury and squandered opportunities to drive a stake through Kilkenny’s heart. “Tonight is something I think we’ll always remember in years to come,” said Shefflin afterwards.

 

4. 2014 DIVISION 1A

Kilkenny 5-20 Tipperary 5-14

In late February, with the roof off the stand courtesy of the storm that had ripped through Kilkenny the previous week, Nowlan Park may have looked a little eerie, but as the second half evolved the landscape faded into the background of another ‘old firm’ classic.

Their latest installment has to be right on the heels of anything they produced before; the quality of some of the goals from both sides was breathtaking.

Kilkenny’s Colin Fennelly and Tipperary’s Seamus Callanan each bagged a hat-trick; Fennelly’s third goal through a forest of bodies had everyone out of their seats; and Callanan’s third was also something extra-special.

Tipperary led by 3-3 to 0-3 after 13 minutes and were 10 points ahead after 29 minutes, but eventually lost by six. It was a lot to absorb.

 

5. 2009 LEAGUE FINAL

Kilkenny 2-26 Tipperary 4-17

The game that perhaps put the first comma in the narrative of Kilkenny’s extraordinary dominance of hurling at the end of the last decade.

Tipperary had shipped a 17-point defeat in a regular league tie at Nowlan Park only six weeks earlier, but were transformed for this thunderous final and had opened up an eight-point lead (3-7 to 0-8) just after half-time.

The Cats had lost Henry Shefflin and Martin Comerford to yellow cards (the 2009 league was played under experimental rules which saw yellow-carded players replaced in the same way as the black card now), while Brian Hogan went off with a damaged collarbone, underlining the greater physical engagement that was on display.

 

6. 2003 LEAGUE FINAL

Kilkenny 5-14 Tipperary 5-13

Only 17,153 bothered to travel to Croke Park on the Bank Holiday Monday in May, but those who did were treated to another blockbuster. As they would so often in subsequent years, Kilkenny had to dig deep and come from behind to rein in an eight-point deficit in a gripping finish. At the death, Henry Shefflin kicked over a winner after Tommy Dunne had snatched a ’65’ wide and PJ Ryan had been forced to save magnificently from John Carroll.

 

7. 2010 ALL-IRELAND FINAL

Tipperary 4-17 Kilkenny 1-18

Sometimes the exchanges of this day get lost in the scoreline. Tipperary won well to bring Kilkenny’s five-in-a-row dream to a crushing end, but the primal nature of the confrontation was still something to behold.

Kilkenny lost Henry Shefflin – who had come into the game with a cruciate ligament injury – after 14 minutes, but led at the break by 1-10 to 1-9.

The completion of a hat-trick by Lar Corbett brought Kilkenny’s 21-match unbeaten championship run to an end and halted their shot at history.

 

8. 2011 ALL-IRELAND FINAL

Kilkenny 2-17 Tipperary 1-16

Lacked the intrigue and drama of the previous two episodes, but the last of the trilogy still stands up in its own right as a great hurling contest. Kilkenny were almost always in control and a wonderful goal from Richie Hogan, following a defence-splitting run by Eddie Brennan, was the signature moment. Brian Cody and Tommy Walsh both acknowledged afterwards that it had been their sweetest All-Ireland final win.

 

9. 2003 ALL-IRELAND SEMI-FINAL

Kilkenny 3-18 Tipperary 0-15

Sometimes even the easy wins enrich the folklore of this rivalry. Tipperary actually led this game by two points early in the second half, but then Kilkenny laid siege to Brendan Cummins‘ goal with the great Tipperary goalkeeper forced into a series of top-class saves.

He was eventually beaten three times, but his heroic performance staved off a much heavier defeat.

 

10. 2013 LEAGUE FINAL

Kilkenny 2-17 Tipperary 0-20

A masterstroke to play this final at Nowlan Park, giving a foretaste of what was to come later in the summer; 21,447 spectators saw two cracking early Michael Fennelly goals put Kilkenny in the right direction, but Tipperary, to their credit, never stopped chasing. JJ Delaney and Lar Corbett were both sent off in the second half.

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