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It's hot and heavy as Tipp and Cats take the big step into decider

 

Close encounter: Wexford’s Conor McDonald takes on Tipperary scoring ace Jason Forde
Close encounter: Wexford’s Conor McDonald takes on Tipperary scoring ace Jason Forde
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Where would we be without what appears to be our staple diet of controversy in the GAA?

And isn't it always the highest profile matches that throw up the most burning issues?

Yesterday Wexford had three goals disallowed in going under to Tipperary by 1-28 to 3-20 in the second All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship semi-final a matter of hours after the going had been hot and heavy in the first semi-final in which Kilkenny separated Limerick from their All-Ireland title in a cliff-hanger by 1-21 to 2-17.

It seems that eight - yes, eight - personnel aided by Hawkeye, a Croke Park only franchise, are still insufficient to keep full tabs on a sport which Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy said after his side's win is getting "even faster and more physical".

Not for nothing is Sheedy regarded as one of the most knowledgeable and insightful personalities within a sport viewed by its devotees as 'the beautiful game'.

But Sheedy, in common with most grounded observers, is all too well aware that success is only achieved by physical sacrifices that go above and beyond the call of duty.

"You saw what my players did in this game. There they were down to fourteen men with a few decisions not going their way yet the way in which they came back from five points down to win the game was nothing short of phenomenal," declared Sheedy.

"The way in which the players put their bodies on the line was superb. And the manner in which they responded when their backs were to the wall called for a monumental effort and they most assuredly certainly delivered that.

"The game is moving at such a pace now that refereeing is not an easy job - as a matter of fact, my job is easier.

"From our point of view there were a few instances where we thought we might have got the break but it did not turn out that way. That's how things go, though."

Certainly his team rose to the occasion in spectacular fashion when, after losing John McGrath to a deserved red card and finding themselves five points in arrears, they managed to stage an unlikely turnaround to defy the odds and book their place in the final against Kilkenny.

Wexford led by 1-14 to 1-12 at half-time with Lee Chin their inspiration and were beginning to look comfortable until Tipperary, ostensibly thriving in adversity, hits seven of the last nine points to nose home by a solitary point.

In the process they produced the man of the match in Noel McGrath, underlined the fact that in Jason Forde they have a marksman supreme and reinforced their famed dynamic spirit which has been nurtured by manager Sheedy.

Forde's majestic 1-12, Seamus Callanan's superbly-struck goal and a defensive resolve that bordered on the superhuman in the closing stages saw them enter the winners' enclosure.

And in setting up a showdown with Kilkenny, Tipperary have sealed a renewal of the perhaps the greatest rivalry within the sport at the highest level.

Reigning All-Ireland champions Limerick, indeed, have been left to reflect on a distinctly ragged start in their game against Kilkenny that saw them go nine points behind at one stage before they recovered but still saw their interest in retaining their trophy terminated by just one point (1-21 to 2-17).

For Kilkenny manager Brian Cody, this was a particularly sweet victory in what was his 101st championship match in charge of the team.

Inspired by an early Colin Fennelly goal, they charged into a 1-8 to 0-3 lead before Limerick even began to find their bearings.

When they did, Aaron Gillane set about picking off points and when he subsequently drilled a penalty to the net Limerick found themselves just three points adrift at the half-way stage (1-12 to 10-9).

But the champions' penchant for shooting wides undermined their play in the third quarter and when Kilkenny opened up a five-point gap at 1-20 to 1-15 it looked as if Limerick were about to raise the white flag.

But substitute Shane Dowling pounced for an out of the blue goal in the 64th minute to peg Kilkenny back at 1-20 to 2-15.

A tense finish became mired in controversy when Limerick, trailing by a point in the last minute of added time, appeared to have been denied a clear '65 when Darragh O'Donovan's sideline cut looked to be deflected wide by Kilkenny's Cillian Buckley.

Kilkenny, though, just managed to ride their luck - a not unknown bonus for consistently successful sides at the highest level in sport - in booking their place what should prove a magnetic decider.

And just to mark your card - all bets are off on the chances of an element of controversy intruding into the proceedings.

Kilkenny scorers: T.J. Reid 0-8 (8f), C. Fennelly 1-3, A. Mullen 0-4; W. Walsh 0-2, J. Donnelly, P. Walsh, R. Hogan, J. Maher 0-1 each.

Limerick scorers: A. Gillane 1-9 (1-0 pen, 6 f), S. Dowling 1-0; D. Byrnes 0-2 (1 f, 1 '65'), G. Mulcahy 0-2, D. Reidy, B. Nash, P. Casey, T. Morrissey 0-1 each.

Tipperary scorers: J Forde 0-12 (8f, 2 '65's), S Callinan 1-2, N McGrath 0-4, J O'Dwyer 0-3, R Maher 0-2, W Connors, G Browne, M Kehoe, M Breen, J Morris 0-1 each.

Wexford scorers: L Chin 1-6(5f, 1'65'), C McDonald 2-0, R O'Connor 0-3, P Morris, D O'Keefe, L Og McGovern, J O'Connor 0-2 each, P Foley, K Foley, L Ryan 0-1 each.

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