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Was This The Greatest All-Ireland Hurling Final Of All-Time?

Was This The Greatest All-Ireland Hurling Final Of All-Time?
By Conor Neville
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The Tipperary-Kilkenny All-Ireland finals in the modern era have provided a few candidates for the greatest hurling final of all-time.

Many argue for the 2009 All-Ireland final when Kilkenny successfully teed up the drive for five. Tipp led for most of the game but a penalty contentiously awarded by Diarmuid Kirwan turned the tide late in the game. Brian Cody wouldn't hear of that analysis afterwards when the win was secured - 2-22 to 0-23.

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In 2010, Tipperary came through the back-door to halt Kilkenny's gallop. In truth, they probably ensured that Kilkenny would maintain their hunger levels until well into the next decade. Lar hit a hat-trick in a thrilling, high scoring encounter, albeit one which finished with eight points between the teams.

The 2011 final was a tad less memorable, and significantly more low-scoring, than the previous two. But Kilkenny players invariably recall this as the sweetest of them all alongside the 2006 decider.

The 2011 final also represented the high-water mark of the "crap, I left my whistle at home" school of refereeing. Brian Gavin awarded a total of eight frees in the second half. An amazingly low number, but there are those who probably think that even eight was too high.

These were all famous games, but the view here is that the rollercoaster drawn 2014 final was the greatest of them all, and possibly the greatest All-Ireland final in history.


The post-match analysis from Loughnane, Farrell and Mulcahy was less analysis than three lads marvelling at how great it was that we'd get to see it all over again.

Ger did furnish us with the statistic which best illustrated why the match was so special.

It was breathtaking. Absolutely exhilarating. Heroic performances on both sides. Mistakes by referees, by players. Brilliant scores. 54 scores and only nine wides in the whole game. That'll tell you the quality you had today. You had an All-Ireland final which took the game to a new level altogether. Two terrific teams and played in the very best of sporting manners that you could ask for. It is everything that we love in the game of hurling was out there today.

54 scores and only nine wides. Even more strikingly, there wasn't a single wide between the 44th minute and Bubbles Dwyer's last gasp free in the 72nd minute. Not one wide in 28 minutes of hurling. Full disclosure, there was at least one ball that ended in the goalie's hands and one shot hit the post.

It was the highest scoring All-Ireland final since 1970, at a time when finals were 80 minute affairs. It was higher scoring than the riotously entertaining 1990 final between Cork and Galway.


Of Tipp's 1-28, 1-24 came from play. Notwithstanding the late free drifting wide, it was Bubbles Dwyer's finest hour. He swatted over six points from play, including two close to the death to bring Tipp back level. The economy and style with which he whipped over the last point from a tight angle demonstrated sublime skill.

The drama at the death was astonishing. The Kilkenny supporters had been ratty about Barry Kelly's display for most of the 70 minutes. His card was marked since he flashed a red in Henry Shefflin's face the year before, not to mention the very soft free he awarded to Davy Glennon at the end of the drawn 2012 final.


But many Kilkenny supporters blew a gasket altogether when he awarded the free against Brian Hogan in the final seconds. It was highly debatable although possibly justifiable under the letter of the law. The problem is such frees are so rarely given. We know now that Cody was furious about the call but bit his lip at the time.

After the free was blasted goalwards and Kelly signalled for hawkeye to make its call, there were people in Hill 16 who were nearly laughing. Laughing breathlessly at the absurd drama of it all. Everyone knew it was the last puck. And now, every head in the stadium was turning towards the screen in the corner of the stadium between the Hill and the Hogan. The screen was going to tell us whether Tipp were the All-Ireland champions or whether we'd have a replay. To clarify, it was just the Tipp fans and neutrals who were half-laughing. The Kilkenny supporters wore pained expressions.

Hawkeye told us it was wide and the Kilkenny supporters let out a defiant roar. After a few seconds they went back to being mad at Barry Kelly.



It paved the way for a festival of hurling snobbery. Ireland were playing Cyprus away the same day in the first match of Euro 2016 qualifying. The stock of the Irish team with was close to an all-time low. The match struggled to grab the attention of a public still processing what happened in the hurling final.

Diarmuid Connolly was especially unimpressed. Several variations of this tweet were sent on Sunday evening on the 7th September 2014.


2014 was the year of the British Twitter Reaction, a dubious honour to bestow on any year and a phenomenon for which we in Balls.ie must bear some responsibility. It was this website which published the first BTR to hurling after the first match shown on Sky Sports, the Kilkenny-Offaly Leinster first round match.

It was a post idea we thought might interest people. This proved to be correct. It proved to be correct on a massive scale. Two years on, it remains the biggest post in the history of the site. Every other online publication quickly followed suit in an effort to capitalise on the Irish public's insatiable desire for finding out what British folk thought of hurling.

Sure enough, the comments section on the youtube video of the 2014 drawn game (put up by Georgie Casey) is replete with foreigners (mostly Americans, we're guessing) expressing wonderment at this ridiculously exciting sport and demanding to know why they hadn't heard it before.

Donal Óg Cusack, on co-commentary on Radio 1 with Marty Morrissey, sounded like a man who had died and gone to hurling heaven. It was like he was sitting there with Christy Ring and Mick Mackey savouring it all. No doubt even Jimi Hendrix was moved to put down the celestial guitar and tweet about what a great game it was.

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Read more: 'Kilkenny Fans Will Have To Adjust Expectations' - Remembering Brian Cody's Early Years 

Read more: A Brief Rundown Of Pointless GAA Competitions That No Longer Exist

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