It's three and easy for awesome Kilkenny
Kilkenny 3-30 Waterford 1-13
Kilkenny strode majestically into their own special niche in the annals of hurling history when they captured their third All Ireland title on the trot in glorious style in front of 82,186 fans at sun-splashed Croke Park yesterday.
And as Kilkenny’s elegant style flowed from start to finish, records were shattered with almost embarrassing ease.
Not only did the Cats make the cherished three-in-a-row breakthrough but they now have one more title than joint all-time holders Cork and have acquired six crowns under current manager Brian Cody.
Waterford, in contrast, is a county in mourning today. 45 years had elapsed since their last appearance in a decider but the utter humiliation which the team suffered yesterday has created an even bleaker outlook for the future.
Had this been a boxing contest, it would have been ended prematurely to avoid the losers absorbing further punishment.
In truth, Kilkenny were on a different planet yesterday. Cohesive, fast, passionate and uniquely skilled, they had virtually consigned Waterford to anonymity at the end of the first quarter, by which stage they led by 0-10 to 0-4 and when tearaway corner forward Eddie Brennan drilled in two goals in the 20th and 21st minutes Waterford’s dream of ending a title famine spanning well over four decades was already in tatters.
Such was the fluency, artistry and confidence of Brian Cody’s side, that by the halfway stage they were well out of sight at 2-16 to 0-5. Waterford, leaden-footed in defence, anonymous at midfield and toothless up front – they did not get their first score from play until the 46th minute — simply had no answer to their opponents flair, technique and boundless workrate.
On a day when Waterford’s world caved in, it was left to Eoin Kelly to once again underline his marksmanship from frees by looping over eight points while John Mullane grabbed three second half points from play with substitute Dave Bennett also pocketing one.
But long before Kilkenny’s tow
ering morale had been pinpricked in this way, they had already bagged their third goal from Eoin Larkin in the 47th minute.
One of the biggest cheers of the day was reserved for Kilkenny substitute goalkeeper James McGarry whose wife was tragically killed in a road accident last year. He replaced PJ Ryan to thunderous applause in the 60th minute and if he subsequently conceded a goal to a Kelly snapshot, his memories of the occasion, like those of his playing colleagues, will be all about joy and celebration.
Kilkenny’s outstanding defence and intricate link-up play highlighted their second half performance to such an extent that they were able to score virtually at will with even substitute PJ Read helping himself to four fine points, underlining the depth of talent manager Cody has att his disposal on his richly endowed bench.
In contrast, Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald was unable to stem the black and yellow tide which ultimately engulfed his side. Few teams in the history of hurling share the assets and character of this well-oiled Kilkenny machine. And Fitzgerald, an All Ireland winner himself with Clare in 1995 and 1997, was the first to admit this afterwards.
Kilkenny, imbued with almost super-human fitness and the dexterity of magicians in terms of their touch, looked as if they could continue to maintain their momentum long after referee Barry Kelly had sounded the final whistle.
It was a welcome relief for beleaguered Waterford and the signal for the start of what promises to be one of the most prolonged and joyous parties in the history of GAA.
Kilkenny: P J Ryan; M Kavanagh, N Hickey, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, J J Delaney; J Fitzpatrick (0-2), D Lyng (0-3); M Comerford, R Power (0-2), E Larking (0-4); E Brennan (2-5), H Shefflin (0-7, 0-4 frees, 0-1 65), A Fogarty (0-3). Substitutes: P J Reid for Comerford 43mins, J McGarry for Ryan 60mins. Yellow Cards: Walsh 44mins.
Waterford: C Hennessy; E Murphy, D Prendergast, A Kearney; T Browne, K McGrath, K Moran; M Walsh, J Nagle; D Shanahan, S Prendergast, S Molumphy; E McGrath, E Kelly (1-9, 0-9 frees), J Mullane (0-3). Substitutes: J Kennedy for S Prendergast, S O’Sullivan for Nagle (both h-t), P Flynn for E McGrath 51mins, B Phelan for D Prendergast 53mins, D Bennett (0-1) for Shanahan 63mins. Yellow Cards: E McGrath 30mins, O’Sullivan 40mins, Mullane 71mins.
Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath).