Classy Cats surprise at ease of victory in All-Ireland final repeat

It was a rousing opening that was hoped for and even expected in some quarters, but generally Kilkenny’s 2-17 to 0-15 win over Tipperary in the first round of the Allianz National Hurling League at Nowlan Park

It was a rousing opening that was hoped for and even expected in some quarters, but generally Kilkenny’s 2-17 to 0-15 win over Tipperary in the first round of the Allianz National Hurling League at Nowlan Park

on Sunday surprised local fans in the easy manner in which it was achieved, writes John Knox.

The clear message from Nowlan Park was that Kilkenny will be contenders….for everything.

The Noresiders won with relative ease in what was an attractive All-Ireland final repeat to kick start the Allianz League. If the Cats roared into action and satisfied manager, Brian Cody, with the level of their performance, the opposite was the case for Tipperary boss, Declan Ryan.

“We were beaten all over the park,” was the summary from the obviously disappointed Tipperary manager afterwards. “The performance overall was disappointing considering the amount of hard work we had put into

our preparations.

“We weren’t too worried about the result if we performed. But we didn’t perform and we didn’t get a result, so we failed on both counts. We didn’t win any hard ball and Kilkenny bossed us in nearly

every sector.”

While the hurling was neat and attractive and was dressed up with some wonderful individual skill on occasions, those in the 10,644 attendance who expected fire and brimstone were sold short. This was quality first round League hurling, but the fare was without the intensity that can set the pulse racing, have fans jumping out of

their seats.

Caught hold of game

Kilkenny caught hold of the game early on, and motored 1-5 to 0-1 clear after 11 minutes when Tipp looked booked for a bit of a pasting. The visitors claimed the next four scores which helped them settle, but they never got close enough afterwards to apply back breaking pressure on the opposition.

Eventually it was all more or less decided in the 41st minute. Home captain, Eoin Larkin, took a great low ball from T.J. Reid when operating at full-forward, and he drove past three tackles before finishing to the net.

The difference jumped to 2-10 to 0-10. Tipperary were never within calling distance after that.

“That a good start to the ’League,” was the summary from relaxed Kilkenny boss, Brian Cody. “It was a good display, a good win. Eoin Larkin’s goal gave us that bit of breathing space.

“The standard of hurling was good time for the time of the year. In a shortened League it was important to start with a win. Every game will be difficult. We want to try and win the League if we can, and we aim

to get the maximum out of it.”

With 12 of their All-Ireland team picked – Richie Hogan cried off the chosen side with a hamstring injury – the Cats served notice of their intent. After Richie Power (free) and Noel McGrath, a top class score from 50 metres on the right sideline, swopped early points the home side took over completely.

They hit the front when Richie Power converted a 65. Quickly the points flowed per Matt Ruth, after a great delivery from T.J. Reid who was torturing Tipp on the right flank, Michael Rice and Reid before the under pressure losers conceded a penalty after a foul on Power.

The Carrickshock man lashed the penalty to the net to leave a yawning gap of 1-5 to 0-1 between the teams after a mere 11 minutes. The power, the strength in Kilkenny’s play was serious.

Tipp, to their credit, picked themselves up off the floor and they fought their way back into the match. They dominated the following few minutes and back-to-back points from Conor O’Mahony, a huge effort from an 80-metre free, Noel McGrath and two from free taker Pa Bourke brought them brought them within striking distance of the opposition, 1-5 to 0-5, after 20 minutes.

Lost their way

Kilkenny, who had temporarily lost their way at midfield and on the opposing ‘40’, stopped the rot when a foul on Colin Fennelly offered Richie Power a handy point from a free, which he accepted with thanks.

The Cats recovered their stride again, and with defence rock solid, particularly Jackie Tyrrell and J.J. Delaney, they worked up a useful lead of 1-10 to 0-8 by the break.

Richie Power was immaculate on frees for the winners. He helped himself to a hefty 1-5 during that period, but it was his strong leadership, along with that of club colleague Michel Rice, that was

the source of a lot of the pain suffered by Tipp.

Tipperary claimed the opening two scores of the new half through Noel McGrath and free-taker Bourke, but next up was Larkin’s well worked and well taken goal.

The Kilkenny puck-out after Bourke’s point was won in the right half-forward position by T.J. Reid. He picked out Larkin running off the square with a firm, low delivery. The James Stephens man still had a lot of work to do, but after driving past three defenders he somehow planted the ball in the net.

Nearly 30 minutes from the finish you sensed it was all over for Tipperary. So it turned out. With Tommy Walsh and Brian Hogan joining the high line performers for Kilkenny during this half, the gains Tipp

were going to make were always going to be slim enough.

Sub Shane Bourke made a good impression and picked off three points from play, but once the Cats caught hold of the match they just wouldn’t let go.

Scorers: Kilkenny - R. Power (1-11, goal penalty, 0-10 frees); E. Larkin (1-2); M. Rice (0-2); T.J. Reid, M. Ruth (0-1 each).Tipperary: P. Bourke (0-6, five frees, one 65); N. McGrath, S. Bourke (0-3 each); C.

O’Mahony (0-1, free); B. Maher, E. Kelly (0-1 each).

Kilkenny – D. Herity, J. Tyrrell, J.J. Delaney (C. Fogarty 56th min), N. Hickey, T. Walsh, B. Hogan, P. Murphy, P. Hogan (R. Doyle 65th min), M. Fennelly, T.J. Reid, M. Rice, E. Larkin, C. Fennelly (J. Mulhall 62nd min), R. Power, M. Ruth.

Tipperary – B. Cummins, D. Maher, P. Curran (J. O’Keeffe 59th min), M. Cahill, S. Maher, C. O’Mahony, P. Maher, B. Maher, D. Young, G. Ryan (E. Kelly 48th min), N. McGrath, A. Ryan (S. Bourke ht), P. Bourke, B.

O’Meara, J. O’Brien (J. Woodlock 55th min).

Referee – M. Wadding (Waterford).