By Mike Fitzpatrick
Tipperary 3-16, Limerick 1-17
Tipperary retained their New York hurling crown with a hard fought victory over archrivals Limerick in a high scoring game at Gaelic Park on Sunday. Summer had left us, and so, clearly, had quite a number of the Park regulars, who perhaps wisely in one respect, chose to stay in their warm homes rather than brave the wintry conditions left of Broadway.
In what was an identical final lineup as 1998 and ’99, when these two teams faced off, it was a stunning Kevin Kennedy hat trick for Tipperary that, in effect, eventually killed off any hopes Limerick had of claiming revenge over the side that stole their title the previous year.
Kennedy however, was not the sole star of the show. Indeed, there were phenomenal performances from his clubmates Jimmy Lyons and Liam Cahill.
Following what was a disappointing football final last week when Donegal overcame previous champs Kerry, the two sides on display here on Sunday more than made up for any feelings one may have had involving anti-climaxes in senior finals. A thrilling game from start to finish ensued, with either side capable of pulling off the victory.
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Throughout the first 35 minutes, the lead changed hands on numerous occasions, with Limerick’s scoring machine, Dave Simms, matching Cahill point for point. With further efforts from Tom Simms, James Butler and Callaghan McCarthy, Limerick looked good for a halftime lead. It was Tipp’s goalkeeper, Ian Duggan, who made a number of fabulous saves to deny Dave Simms and Butler goals before the break, and approaching the interval, it was Kevin Kennedy’s first goal that separated the sides.
After the break, both sides battled wearily on through the dreadful weather conditions. As a mixture of snow, rain and sleet fell on the park’s surface, the hurlers from both sides seemed barely to notice. The temperatures dropped to Arctic like conditions, but the pace of the game kept momentum. Declan O’Meara, Cahill and veteran John Madden continued scoring for Tipp, but the livewire Dave Simms could not be stopped.
Limerick fought bravely on, coming right back into the game, but it was "Special K," Kevin Kennedy, who once again stole the limelight with two more goals to the delight of the hardy Tipperary support. Limerick continued to press forward, but with time running out it was clearly not to be their day. Tipp marched on to collect their 23rd New York hurling championship.
Tipperary: Ian Duggan, Jimmy Lyons, Tomas Keane, Noel Morris, Owen Cummins, Alan Slattery, John Madden (0-1), Mark Comerford (0-1), Mark O’Leary (0-3), Mike Kennedy, Damien Sheehan, Liam Cahill (0-9), Kevin Kennedy (3-1). Subs: Paul Hogan, Donal Cummins, Willie Hackett, Robbie Quinlan, Jack O’Donnell, Ray Duggan, Conor Dorrian, Mike Carey, Declan O’Meara (0-1).
Limerick: Finbarr Flood, Barry Fitzgerald, Philip Wickham, John Riordan, Ollie Moran, Sean Og O’Hailpin, Eamonn Shields, James McSweeney, Tom Simms, James Moran, Dave Simms, James Butler, Tadhg O’Callaghan. Subs: Callaghan McCarthy, William Joyce, Tony Burns, James O’Donnell, Mark Landers, Morgan Burns.