The divide was so pronounced it was like looking at two games. In the first, Kilkenny were hammered. In the second, they did the hammering.
Crucially, at the end of the 70 minutes, and after forcing a 16-point turn around from their worst position, the Cats finished in front.
These age old rivals have produced many a stirring contest. This offering in the second round of the Allianz National Hurling League at throbbing Nowlan Park on Sunday was right up there with the best of them.
During the first half Tipp sparkled. They went on a goal scoring spree. They weren’t at all flattered to be leading by 4-9 to 2-9 at the break.
Kilkenny rebuilt. A defender had already been withdraw. Two more were substituted during the break. Reshaped, refocussed, all action Kilkenny blasted away. They won the second half by 3-11 to 1-5, and with it the match.
This League could yet turn out to be a cracker, with each county having scored a win and suffered a defeat to leave everyone all square.
Like in any game, this one had its heroes and other performers. The forwards were great throughout. The defence just wasn’t cohesive until the second half.
Colin Fennelly hit a career high. He scored a best ever 3-5 from play. His speed, direct line running and terrific work rate played a huge part in toppling Tipp. A 5-star showing! He was asked at the season’s start to have a go at the centre-forward role. Five games in he is getting there!
Walter Walsh was wonderful during the first half when he did what a forward should do - score. He was the most productive of the lot from play. He grabbed four. Joey Holden, Padraig Walsh and Brian Kennedy hurled up a storm too, and Mark Kelly had his most impressive outing ever at this level.
The common denominator? All are part of new age Kilkenny! Let’s not get carried away. It is early in the season. The signs are encouraging.
Lester Ryan, what a brave hearted captain he is proving to be, Paul Murphy, the bold Henry (Shefflin) and second half sub Richie Hogan were others who made big things happen for a team that once was so far down it was almost buried.
That worst stage was reached in the 29th minute when Brendan Maher placed Michael Cahill for a point which left wind assisted and cock-a-hoop Tipp leaders by 4-9 to 1-8 (10 points). Three of the goals were the products of Tipp’s lovely inventive touch.
The first from Noel McGrath (4th minute) saw him turn a ball that was being shephered wide into the net; the second from Brendan Maher (11th min) came at the end of a strong penetrating run; the third from Seamus Callanan (14th min) after rounding a defender arrived when the ball was lashed down the field after Jonjo Farrell barely missed touching home for Kilkenny at the other end and the fourth from Callanan (26th min) was the product of another snappy clearance after a Kilkenny attack was repelled.
Kilkenny finished the half with a badly need goal and point (free) from Henry Shefflin. The finish for the goal was sublime, a master’s touch at close range as he squeeze a pass from Farrell between a defender and advancing ’keeper, Darren Gleeson.
Half-time: Tipperary 4-9, Kilkenny 2-9.
For the new half Kilkenny introduced Richie Hogan in midfield to partner the strong hurling Padraig Walsh. Cillian Buckley was off the bench too. Earlier Paul Murphy had been sent on.
Taken off were Willie Phelan, Brian Hogan and Tommy Walsh.
Team captain Lester Ryan was moved to centre-back. The changes lit the fuse. Kilkenny exploded!
The action opened with a terrific point from Walter Walsh, shooting into the country end from 45 metres on the right sideline. A down the middle run by Colin Fennelly earned a like score within 30 seconds.
After Callanan out-foxed a defender to convert a pass from Noel McGrath, Kilkenny grabbed a goal. Colin Fennelly won the puck-out after Tipp’s score, galloped 30 metres before drilling the ball home (4-10 to 3-11). A great score!
The winners chase wasn’t easy. They didn’t catch up until the 57th minute when Fennelly rattled home his third goal (5-12 to 4-15). His other goal in between was mighty altogether.
The Ballyhale Shamrocks man hung up the ball in the top left corner of the net after Walsh Walsh caused all sort of mayhem before a defender spilled possession. If Messi were a hurler, this is how he would finish!
Twice subsequently the contest was level, the last time in the 64th minute at 4-17 to 5-14. Tipp might have goaled again in the 65th minute, but a body block deprived Callanan before goalie David Herity cleared.
In the 67th minute the Cats nailed it. Fennelly made a penetrating run and he appeared to be fouled. The ball ran loose to Mark Kelly, who drove forward, eventually booting to the net. The clincher. Late points from Richie Hogan (2) and Fennelly bloated the finishing scoreline.
Scorers: Kilkenny - Colin Fennelly (3-5); Henry Shefflin (1-5, points frees); Walter Walsh (0-5); Mark Kelly (1-1); Richie Hogan (0-2); Padraig Walsh, T.J. Reid (0-1 each). Tipperary - Seamus Callanan (3-6, three points frees, two 65s’); Noel McGrath (1-3); Jason Forde (1-0); Michael Cahill (0-2); Brendan Maher, James Woodlock, Paddy Murphy (0-1 each).
Kilkenny - David Herity, Willie Phelan, Kieran Joyce, Brian Kennedy, Joey Holden, Brian Hogan, Tommy Walsh, Lester Ryan, Padraig Walsh, Walter Walsh, Colin Fennelly, Henry Shefflin, Jonjo Farrell, Mark Kelly, T.J. Reid. Subs - Paul Murphy for Phelan 25th min; Richie Hogan for B. Hogan ht; Cillian Buckley for T. Walsh ht; Eoin Larkin for Farrell 52nd min; Joe Brennan for Fennelly 69th min.
Tipperary - Darren Gleeson, Paddy Stapleton, Thomas Stapleton, Cathal Barrett, Shane McGrath, Conor O’Brien, Michael Cahill, James Woodlock, Padraic Maher, Kieran Bergin, Paddy Murphy, Brendan Maher, Noel Maher, Seamus Callanan, Jason Forde. Subs - Patrick Maher for Forde 50th min; John O’Dwyer for Bergin 59th min; Denis Maher for S. McGrath 62nd min; Michael Heffernan for Murphy 66th min; Ronan Maher for C. O’Brien 69th min.
Referee - Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).
Attendance - 8,651.