Tenacious Tipperary rise to the occasion against Kilkenny
Tipperary 2-29 Kilkenny 2-20
Tipperary picked up their 27th All-Ireland title in one of those special, dizzying days in Croke Park, in the process laying waste to one of the finest units ever witnessed in team sport.
All champions eventually have a moment when it becomes apparent they are in bother. Kilkenny found they had just too much water to bail in the third quarter as Tipperary nailed 1-4 without reply, exploring new levels of intensity and harrassing the reigning champions into loose mistakes and spills.
Having clawed back a Tipp lead, and actually nosed in front when a Walter Walsh handpass was sent on with a groundstroke by Liam Blanchfield to allow Kevin Kelly a tap-in to an empty net, Kilkenny found the fuel tank beginning to blink.
The most successful team in hurling history, Brian Cody, the most celebrated manager in the game, suddenly looked like they had used their nine lives.
The day belonged to Seamus Callanan as a result of the high press.
Five points from play in the first half was followed up by eight in the second.
As a spectacle, it took a while to warm up. The first half was a matter of a tit-for-tat shoot-out, with the teams drawing level with each other no fewer than nine times.
The only goal chance in that period fell to Kilkenny's Colin Fennelly when his marker James Barry found himself caught between two stools, leaving Fennelly to try and cut out a pass, but the Ballyhale forward caught a little too much turf with his bouncing shot and Tipperary goalie Darren Gleeson was sharp enough to parry.
Tipp went in at the break, 0-14 to 0-12 in front.
Their first goal wrestled them into a four-point lead in the 49th minute. John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer chased a ball into space from a Gleeson delivery. His marker, Paul Murphy, lost his hurl on the turn. For some reason, he stopped to go back to retrieve it rather than just opting to make a nuisance of himself and that hesitation afforded Bubbles (above) plenty of time. He found a home for the sliotar in the bottom corner with a sweet strike.
The game could have been settled much earlier if, just a minute later, O'Dwyer had laid the ball to the unmarked Callanan instead of shooting from a tight angle, with Eoin Murphy diving to stop.
Incredibly, a third goal chance came in the third consecutive minute, substitute Jason Forde and John McGrath foiled by Murphy and Pádraig Walsh with the goal gaping.
Puzzlingly, Kilkenny had no answer for the hosing their full-back line was getting.
Jackie Tyrell watched the whole ship go up on flames while constantly warming up on the sideline. We can only presume that their great stopper might see the writing on the wall and there could be others, such as Eoin Larkin and Kieran Joyce, the only two men taken off by Cody, who could sail off into retirement.
Up front, they never got anything going. Blanchfield and Fennelly were held scoreless. Eoin Larkin was substituted.
Walter Walsh was overshadowed by Pádraic Maher, Richie Hogan's contributions were fleeting and Michael Cahill had a game for the ages up against Kelly.
They might protest that they have a strong panel, but the suspicion was that it has been looking treadbare this summer. So it proved.
While Tipp reeled off three points in two minutes to stretch their lead to seven, Kelly managed to butcher a goal chance laid on his plate by Richie Hogan, who picked up more possession as the second half wore on, but had to do an awful lot on his own.
A thunderous roar came down the stands when John McGrath found the roof of the net from another loose Kilkenny pass, but almost instantly Hogan swooped on a loose ball to drill beyond Gleeson.
From this point, a combination of Kilkenny seeking to get inside to manufacture goal opportunities, along with Tipp's ability to keep tagging on points, made it something of a procession.
The defeat may have looked more ugly only for some spectacular acrobatics from Murphy when McGrath once again glided past his man and launched a rocket goalwards.
There was no underdog coming in, nothing to pick between them on paper. Kilkenny's replay win in the semi-final against Waterford showcased all their durable qualities down through the years.
But here, luck deserted them, age caught up with them, a ravenous Tipperary side refused to go the way of others.
Callanan added another point from a '65' and showcased all his ball-winning and nimble footwork to clip over his final score of the day.
TIPPERARY: D Gleeson; C Barrett, J Barry, M Cahill; S Kennedy 0-1, R Maher, Pádraic Maher 0-1; B Maher, M Breen; D McCormack 0-1, Patrick Maher 0-2, N McGrath 0-1; J O'Dwyer 1-5, 1f, 1x sideline, S Callanan 0-13, 3f, 1x '65', J McGrath 1-3
Replacements: J Forde 0-2 for Breen (44), N O'Meara for McCormack (62), D Maher for Cahill (65), K Bergin for N McGrath (70), T Hamill for Kennedy (72)
Yellow cards: 0 Red cards: 0
KILKENNY: E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden, S Prendergast; P Walsh 0-2, K Joyce, C Buckley 0-1; TJ Reid 0-11, 10f, 1x '65', C Fogarty; W Walsh 0-1, R Hogan 1-1, E Larkin 0-2; K Kelly 1-2, 1x sideline, C Fennelly, L Blanchfield
Replacements: R Lennon for Joyce, L Ryan for Larkin (60)
Yellow cards: 0 Red cards: 0
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly)