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Dublin: 1°C Friday 23 April 2021

5 talking points as breathtaking Tipperary take down Cody's empire

We discuss that complete attacking display from Tipp, the key third quarter period and Kilkenny’s future prospects.

1. A complete attacking play from the Premier

DAYS LIKE THESE don’t come around too often. Tipperary produced an absolute masterclass up front to seal their first All-Ireland title in six years. They did so with one of the most scintillating displays of forward play we’ve seen in Croke Park in a long, long time.

Brendan Maher celebrates with the Liam McCarthy Cup Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

They scored 2-29, but in truth it could have been 5-35 as the Premier left a number of golden opportunities behind them. Not that it matters.

Not since the 3-30 Kilkenny put past the hapless Deise in 2008 have we seen a team put up such a high score in an All-Ireland final. The Tipp attack simply oozed class with the full-forward triumvirate of Seamus Callanan, John McGrath and John O’Dwyer posting a devastating 2-21 between them.

History tells us that the only way you can beat Kilkenny is by crushing them and Michael Ryan’s forward unit did just that. The movement and pace of Tipp’s front six was a joy to watch. They left Callanan isolated on the hapless Joey Holden time after time and rained ball into the space front of him.

O’Dwyer and John McGrath owned Paul Murphy and Shane Prendergast respectively, while Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher and Noel McGrath worked like trojans on the half-forward line.

Michael Ryan’s tactic of using Bubbles to drag Murphy outfield and leave Holden and Prendergast the only defenders minding the house worked a treat.

Padraic Maher, Michael Cahill, Ronan Maher and John O’Keefe celebrate at the final whistle Source: James Crombie/INPHO

O’Dwyer sent the Tipp fans into raptures with their first three-pointer after 47 minutes, and from that point it was only a matter of time before the dam burst open. The elder McGrath showed his hurling genius with a deft pass into the path of his brother John for the second goal that sent Tipp on their way.

Tipp’s front six worked admirably as a collective and were able to find their inside trio with the perfect ball. The second half followed a similar script for Tipp. One look, bang. Score. The Cats couldn’t live with them.

Indeed, this is probably the display that wraps up Seamus Callanan his first Hurler of the Year award, having been beaten to the post by Richie Hogan and TJ Reid in the last two years. He was a sub when Tipp last lifted the All-Ireland in 2010. This one will mean the world to him.


2. Tipperary trump Kilkenny in the engine room

It would be easy to put the result down to Tipp’s better forward play alone. A quick look at the tackle count gives us another insight. Tipp’s insatiable appetite for work around the middle third provided the platform.

It was the first time since 2010 when you could confidently say that Tipp bested Kilkenny in terms of aggression, tackling, work-rate and turnovers.

As the war went on Tipp were winning all the battles in the trenches. All the Mahers – Bonner, Brendan, Ronan and Paudie – filled their boots with big hits and tackles and turnovers and clearances around the middle third. Noel McGrath and Seamus Kennedy worked their socks off too.

The importance of coming out on top in that sector was highlighted before the game and so it transpired. Tipp came out on top in at least 12 of the 15 battles around the field today. When you do that in an All-Ireland final, your name is on the cup.

On a number of occasions the ball spilled out from rooks and breaks to a blue and gold jersey. Those are the type kind of breaks fall your way when you work as hard as Tipp did.


John McGrath celebrates scoring his sides second goal Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

3. Tipp blow Kilkenny away in third quarter

The third quarter has long been Kilkenny’s moving quarter. Not today. After a first half where the sides were level ten times, we waited for the Kilkenny onslaught after the break.

The Cats rookies combined for the goal, when Kevin Kelly tapped in after Liam Blanchfield’s shot across the area. Kilkenny moved two up. That was the beginning of Kilkenny’s revival – or so we thought.

Tipp were ready. Michael Ryan whipped off Michael Breen in favour of Jason Forde and parachuted Bonner Maher deeper into action at midfield. Tipp started moving again. After Kelly’s goal, they hit 1-5 without reply.

Bubbles was in a world of his own for a spell. A Kilkenny defence has never looked so much at sea.

Every man responded and the class of the Munster champions took over. Gone are the questions about their character. Every Tipp man wanted the ball. They knew those 15 minutes after half-time were crucial and they obliterated Brian Cody’s men.

The first-half of big games like this is usually all about letting the match-ups and tactical ploys play out before it really opens up. After half-time it’s all about letting out all the stuff that’s inside.

Kilkenny have been the best team in the country at doing for for quite some time. Today it was Tipp who got into their groove after half-time. From that point they never let up.


Walter Walsh and Seamus Kennedy Source: James Crombie/INPHO

4. Where did it all go wrong for Kilkenny?

Cody and his management had a running meeting on the sideline for a long spell in the second-half. But it took them until 61 minutes to make a change, and by that point the game was almost beyond Kilkenny.

Might Lester Ryan have made an impact on that defence if they he was introduced earlier? Or should they have put Jackie Tyrell’s experience to use? Would it not have made sense to put a sweeper in front of Callanan?

It’s hard to be critical of Cody. He clearly doesn’t have a bench like he used to and the Leinster champions were hemorrhaging all over the field.

Paul Murphy was being dragged out into no-man’s land while Holden and Prendergast were being crucified inside. TJ Reid had kept the Cats in the game from placed balls but he had little influence from open play. Eoin Larkin was kept very quiet too.

Cody tried his best to get Reid and Richie Hogan into the game, but with Ronan Maher on that kind of form he was wasting his time. Hogan came out after the restart with real purpose and was the catalyst for the 1-2 Kilkenny put up but, like his teammates, he fizzled out.

Wing-back Padraig Walsh provided Kilkenny’s only points from play in the second-half. It was that kind of day.


Padraic Maher  and Noel McGrath Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

5. Can Tipperary build on their senior-minor double?

Tread very carefully when you start talking about the changing of the guard. We’ve been here before. Six years ago, it was the senior-U21 double that had people prophesying a new era of Premier dominance.

The difference between now and 2010 is that Kilkenny are no longer the monster of old. They are in decline and this winter could see Eoin Larkin, Michael Fennelly and Jackie Tyrell hang up their boots.

Tipperary have a sprinkling of All-Ireland minor winners to add to their squad. This is a Tipperary team in its prime and with all the potential to become the leading power in the game.

That performance was a culmination of all the crticism they’ve shipped over the last few years. They avenged the pain of All-Ireland defeats to the Cats in 2011 and 2014 today.

Michael Ryan can be extremely proud of what he’s achieved in his first year in charge. And what about the special achievement of the three McGrath brothers? Imagine the immense pride their father Pat, an All-Ireland winner himself in 1989, must be feeling tonight.

Noel, John and Brian will bring three All-Ireland medals (between senior and minor) back to the Loughmore-Castleiney club. For two time All-Star Noel in particular, it’s a remarkable feat.

Little over a year ago he was fighting cancer. Now he’s reached the pinnacle of the hurling world once again. It’s a victory for all those who helped him on his long road to recovery.

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Stunning Tipperary display clinches All-Ireland title and ends Kilkenny three-in-a-row dream

In pictures: Tipp and Kilkenny fans show their colours as crowds head for Croker

About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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