When the history of hurling is written, the 2009 All-Ireland final will stand out among the best ever.
Kilkenny may well be the best team of all time. They are the only four-time successive winning champions since Cork in the 1940s. Next year they go for the mythical five in a row, not often attempted and never achieved.
They will find TIpperary in the gap waiting to meet them. This is an exceptionally young Tipperary team, one that has extraordinary talent. Today was their coming-out day in Croke Park and they did not shirk the challenge.
Were it not for the sending off of of Bennie Dunne, they might well have won this game. Dunne of all people to get send off! He has been a Tipperary fixture for over a decade and never known as a dirty hurler. What madness possessed him to pull savagely across Tommy Walsh we will never know, but it changed the game completely.
All champions need luck, and Kilkenny got it. Soon after Dunne got sent off, Tipperary conceded a very dubious penalty which Henry Shefflin duly converted. Suddenly Tipp had gone from three points up amid obvious signs of KIlkenny panic to falling behind. A moment later came the hammer blow, a great goal from Martin Comerford.
It was always obvious that whoever scored the first goal would win this game. Of the two goalkeepers, Brendan Cummins was by far the less-tested, and Tipp should certainly have had one goal when Eoin Kelly missed a sitter early in the second half.
But Kilkenny dug deep when they had to, and they ran out worthy winners in the end. In the last two Ireland finals, Kilkenny won by cricket scores — but not today. Ths is a young Tipp team and we can plan on being in Croke Park for a return match up next September. Now there is something to contemplate as we while away the idle time during the winter months!
The sublime skills on display today from the likes of Tommy Walsh, Eoin Kelly, Henry Shefflin and Padraig Maher can be on display a year from now on the greatest stage of all with history on the line. Roll on 2010!