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5 big picture takeaways from Kilkenny's 2009 All-Ireland hurling final victory over Tipperary

The Cats famously sealed the four-in-a-row over Liam Sheedy’s Premier.

Brian Cody and Henry Shefflin celebrate after the match.
Brian Cody and Henry Shefflin celebrate after the match.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The 2009 All-Ireland hurling final was aired on TG4 earlier today.

1. Historic four-in-a-row

IN THE GAA’s 125th year, Kilkenny sealed their place in history by becoming the first county to win seven All-Ireland titles in a decade. They were also the first side in 65 years to win the four-in-a-row, a feat that was diminished somewhat by their defeat in the final the following year.

It was an incredible contest that exceeded all expectations on a rainy, dark afternoon in Croke Park. Kilkenny came into the decider on the back of easy final victories over Waterford and Limerick in the previous two years.

Cody’s Cats cemented their legacy as the greatest side of all-time after a stunning late scoring burst to beat a Tipperary outfit who matched them all game. In the end Benny Dunne’s red card for a rash pull on Tommy Walsh in the 54th minute give Kilkenny the edge on the home straight, but Tipp achieved redemption the following September.

2. Strength of Kilkenny squad

To give an indication of the strength in depth Cody possessed, consider the three substitutes he used during the game: TJ Reid, Michael Fennelly and Martin Comerford.

Reid and Fennelly would go on to win Hurler of the Year honours, but it was Comerford who had a decisive impact. He gave the pass to Richie Power for the controversial 63rd-minute penalty that was awarded for Kilkenny and a minute later rattled in their second goal to set them on their way.

Henry Shefflin was still in his pomp and he held his nerve for that crucial penalty that put Kilkenny a point in front.

The foul on Power appeared to start outside the penalty box, while Comerford admitted a couple of years later: “It could have easily have been a free out for over-carrying on Richie Power’s behalf. In my opinion, it wasn’t a penalty but the referee gave it.”

Cha Fitzpatrick, All-Ireland winning captain a year earlier, didn’t even make it off the bench as Cody had settled on a new physical midfield pairing of Derek Lyng and Michael Rice.

the-teams-lineup-for-the-national-anthem The teams lineup for the national anthem. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

3. Rebirth of a great rivalry

This was the first meeting between these great rivals in an All-Ireland final since 1991. They would become very familiar September opponents over the coming decade.

The Premier stopped Kilkenny’s ‘Drive for Five’ in 2010, before the Cats achieved revenge 12 months later. Kilkenny beat Tipp after a replay in 2014, going on to suffer defeats to their neighbours in 2016 and 2019.

It’s remarkable to think that 11 years on, Cody and Liam Sheedy remain on the sidelines for their respective counties. And the rivalry between both counties remains as intense as ever.

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4. First All-Ireland final for future Tipperary greats

There were pre-game question marks lingering over the ability of young duo Padraic Maher and Brendan Maher to perform on the big stage against such a hardened forward line.

It seems comical now given what both men have achieved in the game since then. The pair were only 20 and relatively inexperienced at that stage, but they’ve grown into two of the best to ever don the blue and gold.

Noel McGrath was still only 18 when he started his first final and had he been born a month later he would have been still minor that year.

Seamus Callanan had a good year in 2009 but it would take another couple of seasons before he established himself as one of the leading scorers in the country.

The Mahers, Callanan and McGrath were central figures in Tipperary’s All-Ireland victories of ’16 and ’19, and remain key players under Sheedy.

brendan-cummins-declan-fanning-paul-curran-and-paddy-stapelton-complain-to-the-referee-diarmuid-kirwan-for-awarding-a-penalty Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

5. The invisible captains

Both the Kilkenny and Tipperary captains started the final on the bench in an unusual situation brought about by a longstanding tradition of the captain being nominated by the county champions of the previous year. 

It’s a tradition that still Kilkenny still persist with to this day. Lester Ryan lifted the All-Ireland title in 2014 despite starting the replay on the bench. 

Ballyhale Shamrocks star Michael Fennelly found himself in that position back in 2009. Earlier that summer he accepted the Leinster crown despite failing to feature off the bench. He was unlucky in that he was battling high class opposition for a midfield role – Fitzpatrick, Lyng and Rice. 

Toomevara nominated Willie Ryan as their skipper for that season and he too had to be satisfied with an appearance off the bench in the final. It was the last year that rule applied in Tipperary and the system was changed from the following season, when Eoin Kelly had the honour of lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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