Cillian Buckley nearly won it for Kilkenny with late point
Kilkenny dug a magnificent performance from who knows where, and it was brilliant enough to earn a draw with unbeaten All-Ireland champions, Tipperary, in a wonderful National Hurling League tie in Semple Stadium this evening.
In the end a 69th minute point from sub Steve O'Brien cancelled out a minor from Cillian Buckley to earn Tipp a thrilling draw in front of an enthralled attendance of 14,763.
This was hurling at its absolute best, with both sides pushing themselves to the absolute limit. March hurling it may have been, but it produced thrills and spill galore that would measure up to any championship contest.
Tipp looked the better team during most of the first half, and they led by 2-11 to 2-7 at the break after playing with the wind.
It took Kilkenny until the 55th minute to catch up. They did so through a penalty goal from T.J. Reid, his second such score, after Liam Blanchfield had been fouled (2-14 to 3-11).
Tipp went ahead through Seamus Callanan. Richie Hogan called them back. Callanan won the home side the lead again, before Hogan posted another reply.
The next score was the lead point from the magnificent Buckley, but O'Brien saved Tipp's unbeaten record. Saves and misses followed, but both sets of supporters went home happy after as good as game as they are likely to see in the League.
Tipp enjoyed a great start when John McGrath goaled in the second minute after a massive Ronan Maher clearance broke on the edge of the Kilkenny square. When a covering defender slipped, McGrath scooped the ball home from close range.
T.J. Reid hit back to score 1-1 for the Cats to leave it level at 1-1 each after four explosive minutes of play. Already the fast and furious tone of the game was set.
Tipp, backed by the wind, were looking the more dangerous, however, and a brilliantly worked second goal in the 21st minute from Niall O'Meara, made by a killer pass from John O'Dwyer, shot the home side a commanding 2-7 to 1-2 clear.
Three points on the trot from the Cats kept their chase strong, and when Reid snatched a goal from a penalty following a foul on Alan Murphy, they were right back in contention (2-7 to 2-5).
The All-Ireland champions wound up again, and with Callanan throwing over two points they showed 2-11 to 2-7 in front at the break.
The real action was still ahead, however.
SCORERS: Kilkenny - T.J. Reid (3-5); R. Hogan (0-4); C. Buckley (0-3); W. Walsh (0-2). Tipperary - S. Callanan (0-6); J. McGrath (1-2); N. O'Meara (1-1); S. Curran, D. McCormack (0-2 each); P. Maher, N. McGrath, J. O'Dwyer, S. O'Brien (0-1 each).
Tipperary - D. Mooney; J. O'Keeffe, J. Barry, M. Cahill; T. Hamill, R. Maher, P. Maher; S. Curran, M. Breen; D. McCormack, N. O'Meara, N. McGrath; J. O'Dwyer, S. Callanan, J. McGrath. Subs - K. Bergin for Breen; J. Forde for McCormack; S. O'Brien for N. O'Meara.
Kilkenny - E. Murphy; P. Murphy, P. Walsh, C. O'Shea; C. Fogarty, S. Prendergast, J. Cleere; P. Deegan, C. Buckley; R. Hogan, T.J. Reid, C. Fennelly; A. Murphy, L. Blanchfield, W. Walsh. Subs - J. Maher for A. Murphy;
Referee - J. Owens (Wexford).