Monday, September 5, 2011

Ireland: GAA All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final September 4, 2011-Match Report

Kilkenny 2-17 Tipperary 1-16
Match Report via GAA News
Kilkenny regained the Liam MacCarthy Cup with a performance borne of pure desire, clearly motivated by the pain of having it snatched from their possession by Tipperary 12 months ago.
The coveted trophy returns to Noreside for the fifth time in six years and the 33rd in total, but few of their victories will have felt as sweet as this.

They hurled like their lives depended on it and delivered the perfect answer to the critics who had predicted their demise as the premier hurling force in the country after their five-in-a-row dreams were shattered by Tipperary last year.

Fifteen minutes in, they led by five points to no score and at no point in the game did they really look like losing – not even when Tipperary came thundering back in the final quarter. They sucked the life out of Tipperary in the first half and the champions never really seemed to recover from that early onslaught. Tipperary had scored 15 goals en route to today’s final, but their forwards were denied the oxygen of space and any sort of decent ball for most of the game. The Kilkenny defence was awesome. Tommy Walsh had one of his finest days in a black and amber shirt, dominating Patrick Maher and inspiring those around him with some majestic catches and ferocious tackles.

All of Kilkenny’s big players shone. Henry Shefflin had a barnstorming first half, working himself into the ground and forcing Tipperary manager Declan Ryan to bring on Brendan Maher for the ailing John O’Keeffe after 25 minutes. Michael Fennelly, too, capped a fine season with a typically powerful run and superb finish that helped the Cats to a 1-8 to 0-6 lead at half-time.
Lar Corbett, with 7-9 to his name this season, was held scoreless, Jackie Tyrrell shadowing the Hurler of the Year brilliantly, while Eoin Kelly failed to register a single point from play.

Kilkenny did it without resorting to any major tactical rethink. They simply went man for man and won the individual battles. With Brian Hogan back anchoring the defence from centre-back Kilkenny were far more solid and none of the cracks that appeared in last year’s final resurfaced.

And yet after Kilkenny appeared to have killed the game off with their second goal after 49 minutes, Tipperary reshaped their team and came back to make a game of it in the final quarter. Pa Bourke drove a shot through David Herity’s legs in the 55th minute and it looked like the drama that had been absent to that point was about to unfold in the final quarter. However, three points was as close as Tipperary came to them in the closing stages and Eoin Larkin’s point in added time gave the Cats a four-point cushion in the end.

Kilkenny made the perfect start, Shefflin opening their account in the second minute. However, it could have been so much better had Larkin made the most of a brilliant chance. The Kilkenny full-forward was through on goal, but Michael Cahill saved the day for the champions, robbing him of the ball with a last-ditch tackle. Undeterred, Larkin got out in front of his marker, Paul Curran, and slotted over his first of the day and the second in a sequence of five unanswered Kilkenny points. In the middle of that spree, Kilkenny were denied a second time, as Curran clawed the ball off the line after Larkin and Tipperary goalkeeper Brendan Cummins had clashed under a high ball.

Kilkenny were playing with the greater intensity, winning ball in defence and denying Tipperary space. Richie Hogan, Richie Power and Shefflin all scored points from play as the Cats built a 0-5 to 0-0 lead by the 15th minute. Noel McGrath finally got Tipperary off the mark two minutes later, while two Eoin Kelly frees reduced the gap. However, Tipperary were struggling and manager Ryan decided to make a change in the 25th minute, bringing in Brendan Maher for O’Keeffe in the half-back line.

Tipperary, though, were in even bigger trouble just before half-time when Kilkenny worked a brilliant team goal. Shefflin beat his man to the ball, found Richie Hogan who laid it off quickly to the Michael Fennelly and the Ballyhale man slammed the ball home expertly to help Kilkenny to a 1-8 to 0-6 half-time lead. Nothing had worked for Tipperary in the first half and they made two more changes at the break, as Pa Bourke and Benny Dunne were brought in to see if they could make some difference. Dunne scored immediately after the restart, but Kilkenny answered with three points in a row in a three-minute spell.

Colin Fennelly finished with three points from play in his first All-Ireland final, while Brennan justified his selection with a point and the pass that set up Kilkenny’s second goal. It came on 49 minutes, and it was a sweet move, started - as so much of Kilkenny’s good work did – when they won ball in the half back line. Michael Rice’s clearance found Brennan and the veteran appeared to have taken too much out of the ball, but Richie Hogan controlled his pass expertly and planted his shot in the top corner. Kilkenny were eight points up and seemingly cruising. But it was around the three-quarter marker that their intensity levels inevitably dropped. Shefflin and Brennan were tiring after putting in Trojan shifts and the Cats started turning over ball for the first time.

Tipp’s goal arrived one of the few times Corbett managed to get his hands on the ball. He beat Tyrrell for pace and offloaded to Pa Bourke, who looked to have shot from too far out but the ball went through Herity’s legs. With 15 minutes left, the champions were just four points down and they were finally starting to play. Noel McGrath finished a fine move and Eoin Kelly sent over his sixth placed ball of the day to cut the arrears to just three with six minutes left.

Kilkenny dug deep and called on all their reserves of strength. Walsh, their inspirational wing-back, and JJ Delaney stood out like pillars. Shefflin, too, scored his seventh of the day to help erase the memories of last year. They weren’t about to let it slip. Not now. Kelly and GearĂ³id Ryan made it a three-point game in added time, but it was Eoin Larkin who secured the Cats’ 33rd title two minutes into added time.

Kilkenny Scorers: H Shefflin 0-7 (0-5f), R Hogan 1-1, M Fennelly 1-0, C Fennelly 0-3, E Larkin 0-2, R Power 0-2, E Brennan 0-1, M Rice 0-1.

Tipperary Scorers: E Kelly 0-8 (0-7f), P Bourke 1-0, N McGrath 0-3 (0-1sl), G Ryan 0-2, C O’Mahony 0-1, B Dunne 0-1, J O’Brien 0-1.
Kilkenny: D Herity, P Murphy, N Hickey, J Tyrrell, T Walsh, B Hogan, JJ Delaney, M Fennelly, M Rice, E Brennan, R Power, H Shefflin, C Fennelly, E Larkin, R Hogan. Subs: TJ Reid for C Fennelly (38-HT), TJ Reid for E Brennan (60), J Mulhall for R Hogan (65).

Tipperary: B Cummins; P Stapleton, P Curran, M Cahill; J O’Keeffe, C O’Mahony, P Maher; G Ryan, S McGrath; S Callanan, N McGrath, P Maher; E Kelly, J O’Brien, L Corbett. Subs: B Maher for J O’Keeffe (25), P Bourke for Callanan (HT), B Dunne for S McGrath (HT), D Young for C O’Mahony (58), J O’Neill for J O’Brien (66).

Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly)
Attendance: 81, 214
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