By Mike Fitzpatrick
Kilkenny 4-12, Tipperary 3-9
Kilkenny guaranteed themselves a playoff spot by securing a hard-fought victory against the already qualified Tipperary at Gaelic Park on Sunday. Right from the off, Kilkenny were on the attack. Tipperary were caught napping at the throw-in and Luke Doyle took full advantage, passing to Richie Hogan, who made no mistake in opening the scoring for the Cats.
Hogan came close seconds later with a swerving shot that hit the post and bounced wide, much to his annoyance. The game flowed along evenly throughout the first half, with the score seesawing in either side’s favor during the first 30 minutes, Tipperary answering Kilkenny’s early onslaught by knocking in points courtesy of Dave Lonergan and Mick Kennedy.
Lonergan capped a fine first-half display for himself by scoring a goal for Tipp after some mix-ups in the Kilkenny box. The ball landed at Lonergan’s feet and seemingly having little time to swing his hurl, he placed the sliotar in the Kilkenny net with his right boot.
With a James Joyce in goal for Kilkenny, and a Paul Hogan up front for Tipperary, an outside observer would have assumed this to be a battle of Dubliner wit and Aussie humor. However, there was no comedic element involved in the performances of either sportsman. Joyce has been having a tremendous season and continued his good run with another tireless display between the sticks. Hogan of Kilkenny also stood out, grabbing a goal and a point for Tipperary.
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After a while, though, Tipperary continued to score points through John Madden and Michael Kennedy. It became obvious that Kilkenny needed the win. The Cats shot for goals rather than points and both Mick Collins — Kilkenny Mick — and his namesake from Derry clinched goals for Kilkenny within minutes of each other. Kilkenny Mick’s hitting a snapshot past the despairing dive of Tipp’s Ian Duggan.
The sides went in at halftime with Kilkenny leading Tipperary by 2-6 to 1-3. After the interval the game picked up. Even in the 90 degree heat Tipp’s Shane Ryan and Shane Comerford both grabbed points to bring the tie closer and Raymie Ryan hit another one to leave a 3-point gap in Kilkenny’s favor. The game charged along at a furious pace with Kilkenny’s Brian Barcoe scoring a controversial goal which had the Tipperary bench seething as it seemed to have resulted from a foul on the way in. His second goal, however, had class written all over it. Some great interactive play along the right wing from Richie Hogan and a long ball, Peter Breen fired into the box, where Barcoe slammed it into the bottom left-hand corner.
Shane Ryan replied for Tipperary with a virtually unchallenged dash through the Kilkenny back line to strike a goal for Tipperary. Hogan rifled another one in the dying minutes, but points from Kilkenny’s Kevin Corbett and Vinnie Norton sealed the all-important win for Kilkenny. Playoffs, here they come.
Kilkenny: James Joyce, Daragh Moore, Kieran Gaughan, Vinnie Norton (0-2), John Nolan, Peter Breen, Luke Doyle, Kevin Corbett (0-3), Richie Hogan (0-3), Mick Collins (1-0), ‘Derry’ Mick Collins (1-3), Jerome Edge, Brian Barcoe (2-0). Subs — Seamus Carey (0-1), Davey Brennan, Aidan Ryan.
Tipperary: Ian Duggan, Tony O’Brien, Jim Lyons, Seamus Collison, Raymond Ryan (0-1), Shane Ryan (1-1), Mick Kennedy (0-2), Shane Comerford (0-1), Eamonn Faulkner, John Madden (0-2), Dave Lonergan (1-1), Eamonn Ryan, Paul Hogan (1-1).