Killkenny Cats purr in big win over Tipperary
Tipperary's John O'Keefe and Shane McGrath tackle Henry Shefflin of Kilkenny during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park on Sunday.
Revenge was indeed sweet for Kilkenny as they lifted yet another All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship crown at Croke Park on Sunday, a sentiment even manager Brian Cody could identify with.
The Cats deservedly won a thrilling McCarthy Cup decider as they dethroned the reigning champions Tipperary by four points, 2-17 to 1-16, in front of almost 82,000 fans at headquarters.
The victory was of particular significance for Kilkenny, coming as it did a year almost to the day that Tipperary stopped their drive for five successive titles in its tracks.
Even the ice cool Cody could acknowledge that much on a day that saw goals from Michael Fennelly and Richie Hogan either side of half-time prove decisive.
A delighted Cody told RTE, “It’s massively sweet. For the last few years we have been coming in as champions and favorites to win the match. This year was very different. We were beaten by Tipperary last year.
“Tipperary were great champions, they set very high standards and they were hot favorites to win. In those situations it becomes sweet to win because we had to play at a serious level to win it from minute one.”
Kilkenny, inspired by the likes of Tommy Walsh and JJ Delaney, played with a real determination to win from the first whistle to the last as they kept the 2010 champions scoreless for the first 16 minutes.
“We got into the game very quickly,” admitted Cody. “There was a massive resolve within the panel to stamp a bit of authority on the game. We didn’t do that last year. We were playing catch-up the whole time and that is not a good recipe for success.
“We planned well for it and there was huge hunger and determination. It was very, very evident in the way played all over the field. We tackled very well, we chased, we harried and played intelligent hurling. When we had the ball we used it very well and created a huge amount of scoring chances.
“We had a plan for it. If we had said before the game that we’ll just go and do the best we wouldn’t be standing here with the McCarthy Cup, that is for certain.
“We had to look at the whole thing, look at Tipperary and make a plan to beat them. They had earned that kind of respect; we gave them that respect and we planned accordingly. It worked out very well.”
Cody won his eighth All-Ireland crown as manager of Kilkenny on Sunday, but once again he refused to speculate on his own future with the Cats.
“I will certainly enjoy this one and take it from there. I have no idea what I’m going to do as I always say but I will enjoy this,” said Cody.
Kilkenny captain Brian Hogan was also keen to savor the moment as the Cats fans saluted their team at the end of a frantic final and again at a triumphant homecoming on Monday night.
“It’s super,” said Hogan. “We came up here with nothing on the agenda but to make sure we won the match and came back with the Liam McCarthy.
“We came out with the plan to set the tempo and take the match to them and we did that. Maybe we caught Tipp on the hop a bit.
“In fairness to the backs, you only have to look down to the team sheet and you see the quality that is there. We were conscious that Tipp were racking up big scores all year and we needed to curtail that as much as possible.
“Keeping them scoreless for 16 minutes was unexpected but you go out and play each minute and don’t think beyond that. It just so happened that it was the case.”
Tipperary refused to lie down and down at any stage of Sunday’s game when a late Pa Bourke goal almost dragged the Munster champions right back into it.
Kilkenny, though, were as dogged in defense as they were determined in attack, a fact not lost on their captain.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be a case where we would romp home with a large lead. We knew it was going to go right down to the wire,” insisted Hogan.
“It came down to three points at one stage and we got a vital point to keep two scores in it. It was very important. We were very conscious of that.”
Full-back Noel Hickey won his eighth All-Ireland senior medal after a starring role in Sunday’s win, a year after Lar Corbett gave him the runaround in the 2010 final.
“Winning All-Ireland medals always are special when you come back. This time last year we were in the dressing room there and we were just sick,” said Hickey.
“We all controlled the wheel. Every one of us to a man said we’d take on our men this time and it worked okay. The one goal chance they got, they got a goal off it, but they never really threatened the goal after that.”
The failed five-in-a-row bid last season was another major factor in Sunday’s turnaround, according to Kilkenny star Richie Power.
“We bottled the hurt from last year and brought it with us,” said the center forward. “We said before the game that we’d been waiting 12 months for this and we have been, it’s true.
“We knew we had a point to prove and thankfully we have. We prepared as well as we ever have for an All-Ireland, the lads had us in tip-top shape, we were very fresh.”
Tipp will be stronger
Declan Ryan vowed that his Tipperary team will bounce back from their Croke Park heartache and be all the stronger for Sunday’s All-Ireland final defeat to Kilkenny.
A year after his predecessor Liam Sheedy guided Tipp to McCarthy Cup glory against the Cats, Ryan had to accept the boot was back on the other foot.
His first season as boss had ended with the biggest disappointment of them all, but Ryan had no complaints about the outcome of a game his team only lost by four points.
“These guys prepared very well all year, it just didn’t happen for us,” Ryan told RTE.
“We were lucky to go in only five points down at halftime. Kilkenny showed savage hunger again and they showed all the hallmarks that have made then a great team.
“Hats off to Kilkenny, they showed they were real champions to come back and play like that. We struggled to get out of the blocks today for whatever reason.
Kilkenny probably looked a bit that bit hungrier and that bit fresher than us.
“We were just hanging on to their coat-tails. Kilkenny seemed to be moving the ball a bit better and seemed to be hungrier.”
Tipperary never lived up to their billing as favorites to retain their trophy on Sunday as Kilkenny held them scoreless for the first 16 minutes.
The 2010 champions must lick their wounds now, but Ryan believes his team will live to fight another day.
“I’m very proud of the Tipperary guys,” added boss Ryan. “They’ve worn the blue and gold jersey with great pride all year, so full credit to our guys as well.
“The average age is something like 24 or 25. There are a lot of winners in that dressing room, guys that have been very successful at underage. I think the future is positive for Tipperary, we have a lot to look forward to despite this result.
“You go out every day and try to play as well as you can and if you do that you’re going to have a good chance. I suppose on Sunday we didn’t play as well as we can and maybe we weren’t let. We’ll have to sit down and have a look at it.”
Dublin forward Paul Ryan is winning his battle to be fit for the All-Ireland football final against Kerry on September 18 – and Diarmuid Connolly could yet beat the suspension that threats his place on the team for the decider.
Flynn expects to resume full training with the Dubs this week despite pulling a hamstring in the semifinal win over Donegal last month.
A scan has proven the hamstring tear is nowhere near as far as first feared, and Flynn has been told he can make a full return to training at least 10 days before the big game.
Full-back Rory O’Carroll also expects to be available for selection as he recovers from the hip injury which forced him to limp out of the first-half of the win over Donegal.
Meanwhile, Pat Gilroy is confident that Diarmuid Connolly will be cleared to play in the final despite picking up a four week suspension after his dismissal in the semi.
Dublin boss Gilroy believes Connolly will be cleared to play on a technicality.
“I genuinely believe that he has got more than a fair chance,” said Gilroy.
Kerry-born Aussie Rules legend Tadhg Kennelly has announced that will quit the sport and terminate his contract with the Sydney Swans at the end of the season after finally giving in to a long term knee injury.
The Listowel native, who won an All-Ireland football medal during a brief stint with Kerry two years ago before returning to Australia, wants to take up a career in the media, but not before he bows out with another rules championship medal.
“I’ve had an incredible career since arriving in Australia as a teenager,” said Kennelly.
“I couldn’t have asked for more, but now I feel the time is right to move on to the next phase of my career. I hope to still be involved in the AFL in some capacity, whether coaching or media.
“I’ve been here nearly half my life and want to thank the club for instilling such strong morals and values into not just my football life but my everyday life.”