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Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

5 talking points after Tipperary and Kilkenny finish level in pulsating clash in Thurles

Steven O’Brien’s late point grabbed a draw for the Premier against the Cats.
Mar 12th 2017, 6:15 AM 13,072 10

1. Saturday night sparkle in Semple

Tipperary manager Michael Ryan makes no apologies for not being a fan of hurling under floodlights but there were few complaining in the 14,763 attendance after this richly entertaining game. Certainly there were mistakes on both sides – inaccurate shooting from the deadliest marksmen in the game was unusual to witness – but there was a huge amount to admire in what Tipperary and Kilkenny served up.

The finale throbbed with excitement. Some of the chaotic passages of play in the finale were a throwback to the 2009-2010 classics the counties conjured up. Tipperary may have run out convincing winners last September yet this game showed the rivalry between this pair burns as brightly as ever.

2. Recovery missions on both sides

Both managers could depart Thurles with a sense of satisfaction that there is a resilient streak coursing through their team. By the 22nd minute there were alarm bells ringing for Kilkenny when Niall O’Meara plundered a goal that catapulted Tipperary clear by eight points.

Yet by the break they had shaved the deficit to four and never trailed by a margin greater than that in the second-half. Kilkenny’s dogged pursuit of opponents surfaced again and when Cillian Buckley put them ahead for the first time with four minutes left on the clock, a rousing comeback was almost complete.

They were pegged back at the finish though. It was an important psychological boost for Tipperary to avoid defeat in a game played on their home soil, where they had enjoyed such a big lead at one stage and in what was the first meeting since last year’s All-Ireland final. Steven O’Brien’s excellent solo effort was the crucial score yet this was a game where both sides staged recovery missions.

3. TJ Reid’s goalscoring blitz

The topic of goals has come under the spotlight of late, 13 registered in the opening three rounds of Division 1A of the Allianz Hurling League in comparison to 33 in the same time frame five years ago. Kilkenny, a traditional goal machine, had drawn three blanks in their springtime encounters to date in 2017.

Yet TJ Reid redressed that statistic by embarking on a goalscoring blitz tonight. Tipperary showed their clinical nature in hitting the net twice in the first half but Reid was the main man. He plucked his first goal from the top drawer, a stinging drive from open play when the predictable option was to tap over a point.

And then he scuppered all those theories about the difficulties facing modern hurling penalty takers with a pair of expertly placed rockets in either half. As Michael Ryan pointed out afterwards, the fact that Darragh Mooney hardly moved for either was a testament to Reid’s striking.

4. Kilkenny’s key figures stand up

With two defeats in their opening three games and a large deficit staring at them early on here, it was a night where Kilkenny’s key figures stood up to relieve the pressure. Given the turnover their squad has endured in recent years, it’s games like this where the experienced heads are needed.

We’ve already alluded to Reid’s influence as he registered a hat-trick but Walter Walsh did a huge amount to bring them back into the game, Cillian Buckley was outstanding throughout at midfield while Richie Hogan’s influence grew strikingly as the game developed. Little surprise that it was that quartet who combined for Kilkenny’s entire scoring tally of 3-14 on the night.

5. A mixed night for Tipperary’s lethal forwards

When the counties clashed last September, Tipperary’s inside forward line had a devastating impact on the game. John McGrath, Seamus Callanan and John O’Dwyer shot 2-21 between them, a return greater than the entire Kilkenny team. Pitching them all into action from the start was a statement of intent here by Michael Ryan.

It was a mixed night for the trio. They finished with 1-9 between them but there was a sense it could have been more, exemplified by Callanan’s free-taking difficulties, O’Dwyer being foiled for a goal after half-time and then the passage of play in the finale where McGrath was thwarted by Eoin Murphy from close range, while Callanan whipped the rebound wide.

Kilkenny admittedly seemed more alive to countering the potent threat they possess on this occasion. While there was a sense they could have delivered more on the scoreboard, there was still some exceptional moments like McGrath’s contribution in the opening ten minutes, O’Dwyer’s marvellous vision to set up Niall O’Meara for a goal and Callanan stepping forward to land two majestic points from play in the closing quarter.

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Fintan O'Toole

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