Kilkenny returned to their brilliant best at Croke Park yesterday to notch a superb victory over arch rivals Tipperary and claim their place in another All-Ireland senior hurling final.
Three second half goals helped the Cats to a 17-point win after Tipp had led by a point at the break.
Aidan Fogarty, Eoin Larkin and TJ Reid all raised green flags after the restart for Brian Cody’s rampant Cats.
Reid was also on target in the first half as Kilkenny opened up a 1-9 to 0-7 lead after 28 minutes.
However, Tipp responded immediately with a Pa Bourke goal, and the Munster champions added a further three points before the short whistle to take a 1-10 to 1-9 lead into the break.
The early stages of the game were marred by a number of off-the-ball incidents however referee Cathal McAllister only showed yellow to Kilkenny’s Tommy Walsh.
Once the game settled, Kilkenny looked the more comfortable but despite winning most of the one-on-one battles, they were still unable to shake off the Premier men.
Bourke scored the opening point of the game as the sides went tit for tat in the opening quarter hour, after which Kilkenny led by a single point, 0-6 to 0-5.
Tipp keeper Brendan Cummins saved superbly from Colin Fennelly’s point blank effort on 17 minutes.
At the other end Bourke went for goal from a 20-metre free, but Tommy Walsh was equal to the task as he stood firm on the Kilkenny goal line.
The game’s first goal arrived on 27 minutes when Henry Shefflin, who had barely touched leather until then, set up Reid with a 20-yard hand-pass and the centre forward’s angled shot gave Cummins no chance for a 1-9 to 0-7 lead.
However, Tipp were immediately back in the game when Kilkenny keeper David Herity hesitated when making a routine clearance and under pressure from Lar Corbett, the ball spilled to Bourke who had the easy task of stroking the sliotar to an empty net.
Two more Bourke frees and a point from play from Noel McGrath gave Tipp a one point half-time lead.
However, the sides were level seconds after the restart when Shefflin converted a free, with Reid edging the Cats in front.
Bourke levelled for the seventh time, but Tipp were outscored 3-13 to 0-4 in the remainder of the game.
Kilkenny will now make a record-breaking seventh final appearance in a row against Galway on September 9.