By Mike Fitzpatrick
Facing a side as hot as Tipperary on current form is an intimidating enough prospect. Doing so without three of your best players, and with others carrying injuries, you may as well be climbing Mount Everest barefooted.
This was the daunting scenario Kilkenny came up against Sunday at Gaelic Park in this senior hurling encounter. Having lost the services of Kevin Corbett and John Nolan, Luke Doyle not yet quite back at full strength, and the influential Brian Barcoe being reduced to the role of substitute due to a niggling injury, Kilkenny entered the fray a seemingly troubled side.
Introducing the highly effective sanctioned player, Jamesie Brennan for his second game with the Cats, and Ed Drea, Kilkenny went at least some of the way towards replacing top scorers Barcoe and Corbett.
Tipp, however, had their own lethal weapons. Kevin Kennedy consolidated his position in the top three hurling scorers in New York with a fabulous predatory display in front of goal for his side, and midfielders John Slattery and John Madden worked wonders in contributing to Tipperary’s scoreline.
The game opened at a frantic pace, with Don Ryan opening the scoring for Kilkenny, followed by efforts from Drea and Brennan.
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Tipperary got off the mark thanks to Kevin Kennedy’s first of three goals of the afternoon, and points from Madden, John Slattery and Mike Kennedy.
Stealing a march on their opponents, Tipperary commenced performing the way they have so often done in the recent past. Winning vital midfield balls and surging forward, the Tipp team gave their vocal support a glimpse as to why many feel that this may just be their year.
Half time came and went, with Kilkenny falling a little behind, despite some fine scores from Brennan and Drea.
Tempers flared, the fact that no love has been lost between these two sides certainly proving to be the case when a number of scuffles broke out, giving last minute replacement referee Mike Curtin no choice but to stamp his authority and expel James Joyce of Kilkenny, and Declan O’Meara of Tipperary after an incident in the Tipperary box.
And so it was to be twelve versus twelve.
The second half continued in much the same vein. Luke Doyle received a knock to his knee which curtailed his participation in the game, giving Tipperary more room to maneuver in his absence. Points from Richie Hogan and Drea brought Kilkenny back into proceedings, but some rapid scores from Slattery and Kennedy, followed by a goal from Slattery late in the game, moved the tie too far from the clutches of The Cats.
Kilkenny’s disastrous season is all but over, with no chance now of reaching the playoffs. Tipperary have gone from strength to strength, and certainly look good to give champions Limerick a good run for the title.
Kilkenny: James Joyce, Luke Doyle, Daragh Moore, Peter Breen, Ed Drea (0-4), Vinnie Norton, Jamsie Brennan (2-5), Pat Rohan, Mark Kennedy, Don Ryan (0-1), Richie Hogan (0-1), Kieran Gaughan. Subs: Brian Barcoe, David Brennan
Tipperary: Ian Duggan, Donal Cummins, Jim Lyons, Alan Slattery, Owen Cummins, Shane Ryan, John Madden (0-4), John Slattery (1-4), Michael Carroll (0-1), Mike Kennedy (0-3), Declan O’Meara, Kevin Kennedy (3-2), Tony O’Brien. Subs: Keith Hennessy, Davey Lonergan, Shane O’Donoghue