Kilkenny rise to occasion to win All-Ireland Hurling Final replay against Tipperary
Cats' hunger is key to another triumph as legend Shefflin claims tenth medal
The bass notes of 'Lovecats' by The Cure bulged out of the Croke Park speakers as a succession of Kilkenny players took their place in line to hoist the Liam MacCarthy Cup in the air.
By the time it phased out, the entire Tipperary team had left the pitch. How could you blame them? They must be sick of this sight – Kilkenny players on the Hogan, having found yet another way to win.
These sides played a trilogy of games between 2009 and 2011 that represented the high point of physicality in hurling.
Kilkenny carved out two titles to Tipp's one. After the outlier year of 2013, this was to be the ultimate decider if you like your sporting narratives boxed off and neatly finished.
Romance might have said a Tipp win was a better story, but then how do you argue against Henry Shefflin winning an amazing 10th All-Ireland, along with Brian Cody reaching the same tally as a manager?
Liam and Sam respectively will winter in Kilkenny and Kerry and it's fair to say that the begrudgery levels will not be as high as expected, given the resourcefulness of their performances.
Tipperary looked to have enough craft by half-time to make a strong surge at Kilkenny, Seamus Callanan's craftily cushioned goal finish after a clever Lar Corbett lay-off was enough to split them by a brace of points. However, Cody moved Colin Fennelly to full-forward in the second half and it threw Tipp.
Kilkenny reeled off the first five points of the second half, Fennelly accounting for two of them himself.
A Noel McGrath point inspired some half-hearted Tipperary chants, but the increased physical presence and Kilkenny's insistence on making every hook and block feel like hammer blows to the likes of Callanan when they looked likely to score.
Gaps were appearing everywhere as Tipp bailed water.
Kilkenny were relentless as Richie Power rounded Kieran Bergin and made for goal, unleashing a meteor that stopped at James Barry's helmet.
Eoin Larkin also swung one over his shoulder under the Cusack Stand as Kilkenny threatened to disappear from view until Tipp were thrown a lifeline. A long ball into Corbett broke to Patrick Maher and he was sufficiently bundled over for referee Brian Gavin to award a penalty.
It was the third penalty Kilkenny had conceded in this final series and mindful of his and John O'Dwyer's fluffed penalties in the drawn game, along with the virtual impossibility of hitting a three-pointer from a penalty after the mid-season rule change, he flung it over the bar.
Immediately, Henry Shefflin appeared. And soon after that, a TJ Reid sideline was fetched by Richie Power over Bergin's head and he buried it.
Four minutes later, another Kilkenny goal. Some neat interplay between Colin Fennelly, Larkin and John Power had the ball zipping about in the air. They looked to have it overcooked when Tipp goalkeeper Darren Gleeson got a watery contact on it. It hung invitingly in the air for John Power who tapped home.
Bubbles O'Dwyer pinched a point from a '65' before Padraig Walsh shot over from distance.
Suddenly, a Brendan Maher point. Then with a minute left, Corbett followed in a half-blocked shot and lashed to the net. Two in it. Plenty of hurling time left with the board showing us there were three minutes of injury-time.
But when presented his opportunity, substitute Jason Forde was rash and his shot tailed wide. There was enough time for Gleeson to make another smart save from Fennelly, who had the last word with the final point, created for him by who else, Henry Shefflin.
Why did Kilkenny win? You can name-check the qualities so beloved of Cody. Hunger. Work-rate. Intensity.
It was summed up by an incident on 17 minutes. Bubbles O'Dwyer had sent Callanan homing in on Eoin Murphy's goal with JJ Delaney despairingly giving chase. Callanan let fly, but Delaney managed to get within 36 inches to apply the slightest of hooks and butcher the chance.
"You got to know what you are writing about when you are writing those things. You want to realise that it doesn't work like that," Brian Cody chided the press afterwards.
What we find, with astonishing regularity when it comes to dealing with the finest team ever in Irish sport, is that it 'works' on Kilkenny's terms.
KILKENNY: E Murphy; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; P Walsh 0-1, K Joyce, C Buckley; R Hogan 0-2, C Fogarty; M Fennelly 0-2, C Fennelly 0-3, E Larkin 0-2; R Power 1-1, 1f, TJ Reid 0-5, 5f, J Power 1-1
Subs: H Shefflin for R Hogan (57m), L Ryan for M Fennelly (66m)
TIPPERARY: D Gleeson; C Barrett, Padraic Maher, P Stapleton; B Maher 0-1, J Barry, K Bergin; S McGrath 0-3, J Woodlock; G Ryan, Patrick Maher, J O'Dwyer 0-3, 1x'65'; N McGrath 0-2, S Callanan 1-5, 4f, 1pt pen, L Corbett 1-0
Subs: M Cahill for S McGrath (55m), S Bourke for Corbett, J O'Brien for O'Dwyer (63m), C O'Mahony for Ryan (64m), J Forde for N McGrath (66m)
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly)