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Ranking The Kilkenny Tipperary All-Ireland Finals This Century

Ranking The Kilkenny Tipperary All-Ireland Finals This Century
By Michael McCarthy
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For the 6th time in 11 years, Kilkenny and Tipperary will meet in the All-Ireland hurling final on Sunday.

It's a rivalry that many thought was consigned to history. In 2016, Tipp seemed to put paid to the Brian Cody era of hurling dominance and Tipp themselves, as they do, followed up with a couple of quiet years.

But like death and taxes, back Cody and his Cats came, and once they made it back to the big dance, you kind of knew their usual date would find a way of being at their side.

After droughts and famines came to teeming ends in the last two years, there is, it's fair to say, a lack of general enthusiasm for a return to the status quo this season. But it's easy to forget that Kilkenny and Tipp have given us some unbelievable occasions over the last number of years.

Not even counting an epic All-Ireland semi-final in 2002, the occasion of the Nowlan Park qualifier in 2013 and countless classic league finals, the All-Ireland finals between the two have rarely let down either.

We've had a look at the five finals (and six matches) the teams have played between 2009 and 2016 and tried to rank them on their sense of occasion, quality and excitement.

Please get in touch with your inevitable disagreements. It's all just opinions!



6. 2011 Kilkenny 2-17 - 1-16 Tipperary

The day Kilkenny got some measure of revenge for Tipperary stopping the five-in-a-row the year before.

This time, remarkably, Tipp were the favourites. They had sauntered through their title defence under new manager Declan Ryan, hitting seven goals past Waterford in the Munster final before being mildly frustrated by Anthony Daly's Dublin the semi-final.


Kilkenny, on the other hand, were in one of their many famous "declines", much like 2019.

The game had lots of high points and certainly was far from a dud of an All-Ireland final, but it never reached the heights of the other games, with Tipp always that few points behind after falling to an early 0-5 to 0-0 deficit when a fired up Kilkenny didn't allow them a score for the first 16 minutes. Kilkenny seemed to enjoy a three to six point lead for the rest of the game, with Tipp just about staying in touch enough to keep the interest alive but never truly rattling Kilkenny.

Even when Kilkenny seemingly sealed it with their second goal after 48 minutes, Tipp hung around. Pa Bourke got one for them and we were back to the "almost a game" category of final again very soon.


Memorable Moments:

Tommy Walsh splits referee Brian Gavin

A schmozzle during the first half stemmed a good run for Tipp when Tommy Walsh's hurley accidentally collided with the bridge of the referee's nose. The game was stopped for several minutes as he was repaired, while Ger Canning wondered aloud if he'd have to take off his shirt and if referees would have to wear helmets in the future.



Richie Hogan scores a goal worthy of an All-Ireland final:

The run from Eddie Brennan, dropped all year and restored to the team for the final, the magic touch from Hogan, the rocket of a finish, it's one of the most memorable goals in All-Ireland history.



5. 2016 Tipperary 2-29 - 2-20 Kilkenny

It was the day we didn't see coming, though in retrospect the signs were there.

Kilkenny, casually going for another three-in-a-row, found themselves up against their old enemies yet again. While Tipp had their revenge against Galway in the semi-final, and Kilkenny needed a replay to just about scrape past Waterford, we'd become accustomed to Kilkenny getting the job done. Only Tipp's 2010 ambush had caught them in a final since 2004. Once they made it, they'd find a way of winning, we thought.

It was a somewhat unfamiliar Kilkenny team though with Shane Prendergast picked at cornerback and two bolters, Kevin Kelly and Liam Blanchfield, named at cornerforward.


In the first half, Kilkenny lived with Tipp point for point, in an open exciting game. The Premier men were playing the better hurling but couldn't quite stretch away.

Even when Tipp stretched their lead in the second half, we were waiting for the Cat pounce, but it never came, and Kilkenny went down rather meekly in the end.

For Tipp's part, the scoreline of 2-29 illustrates the day it all came together for Michael Ryan. The full-forward line of Bubbles O'Dwyer, Seamus Callanan and John McGrath totalled 2-21, a number that will surely never be beaten.


Memorable Moments:

Kilkenny Take The Lead: 

Many forget that Kilkenny came out at the start of the second half with all guns blazing. After a five minute period of intense pressure, they took the lead after a goal by Kevin Kelly, the youngster thrown in at the deep end for the final by Brian Cody.



Tipp were getting on top, but the catalyst for their dominant second half was one of the goals of the season from John O'Dwyer. What a strike!



The Tipp Surge: 

More than a moment, but like Dublin against Mayo, this game was put to bed by a run of unstoppable play from the Tipp forwards which directly followed the Kilkenny first goal. What would follow was a run of 1-7 to 0-1 over the next 14 minutes. It left Kilkenny too much to do and they were never going to get back into the game after that burst.


Michael Ryan's Smile:

It's not over yet, lads, keep the serious face. Nah, feck it, we're about to win the All-Ireland!


4. 2014 Replay Kilkenny 2-17 - 2-14 Tipperary

Remarkably, this was the third All-Ireland hurling final replay in a row. We were getting used to seeing the celebrations the late September dusk of Croke Park.

Three weeks earlier, these two teams reached heights of skill and execution never before seen on a hurling field. It was always going to near impossible to live up to it, but this game told its own story. Both sets of forwards stepped up defensively from the first day, with hooking, blocking and pressure to the fore early on, with the game full of intense, heart-stopping, long phases of play.

For 60 minutes, they were neck and neck. Then the Power brothers scored two goals in two minutes, and it looked over. Like in 2011, Tipp came back, and it was game on again for the closing minutes, with Croke Park and the country almost anticipating another Tipperary comeback just like three weeks before. It wasn't to be this time though and Kilkenny wrapped up their seventh All-Ireland title in nine years.

Memorable Moments:

Henry Shefflin Arrives: 

The great man was a bit part player for Kilkenny in his final season. While we didn't know for sure if he'd be back again in 2015 at this stage, there was a palpable sense in Croke Park were seeing Henry in a Kilkenny jersey for the final time. He arrived on 57 minutes with the game in the melting pot to a rapturous welcome. Three minutes later, Kilkenny has all but wrapped it up.


The Powers: 

There was nothing between the teams for 58 minutes. Then Richie Power, the hero of the All-Ireland semi-final against Limerick, and a man who many thougtht would never play again due to injury, caught a ball over Kieran Bergin's head. With Bergin dragging him by the hurley from the ground, Power broke away and buried the ball past Darren Gleeson.

A minute later, Richie was again involved as Kilkenny bore down on the Tipperary goal. After a goalline scramble and a fantastic double save from Gleeson, Richie's brother John was on hand to get Kilkenny's second goal and put them in a lead that would never be caught. What a couple of minutes for the family!


The Seamus Callanan Goal Made Us Think That History Was Repeating:

Tipp had come back from the dead the first day. They couldn't do it again, could they? Seamus Callanan's goal in the 69th minute put just two between them. It got the blood pumping again for a frantic injury time. It also wrapped a fine day for Callanan, no stranger to legendary displays on a losing team. He picked up 2-5 on the day.



3. 2010 Tipperary 4-17 - 1-18 Kilkenny

This is the game that in many ways defines this rivalry, even though Kilkenny have been the far more successful team. This was their shot at history. And Tipp met them head on and denied the five-in-a-row.

Amazingly, one of the most memorable All-Ireland finals of all time took place in the pissing rain, and the game wasn't even close. But this one definitely gets  points for what happened off the field more than any other on the list, because it was frankly insane.

If there was one team you assumed the pressure of the "Drive For Five" wouldn't get to, it was Brian Cody's Kilkenny. But as the final got closer in 2010, cracks began to appear.


The build up centred on Henry Shefflin's fitness. He tore his cruciate in the semi-final win over Cork and Kilkenny had lost their best player for the final... or had they?

After a visit with Ger Hartmann, Shefflin made a shock recovery as rumours swirled around the country of an insane comeback. When he turned up at training in Nowlan Park, nearly 10,000 fans turned up. The build up had reached farcical levels.

In another crazy twist, centre-back John Tennyson had also suffered a cruciate injury and was also aiming to start the game.

Tipp, meanwhile, were undergoing their own transformation in 2009 and 2010. Six members of their outstanding Under 21 team, Noel McGrath, Bonner Maher, Brendan Maher, Padraig Maher, Seamus Callanan, and Mickey Cahill had all joined the team and added impetus to the leftover of the 2001 All-Ireland winning stars Brendan Cummins, Lar Corbett and Eoin Kelly.

Liam Sheedy and Eamon O'Shea had developed an innovative style of wandering forwards and diagonal passing that left teams at sixes and sevens in defence. They had given Kilkenny a serious scare the year before and approached the 2010 final more as equals than 12 months before.

Tipperary started the game like a house on fire, and were never caught after Lar Corbett's first goal ten minutes in. Kilkenny's build up and performance was far from perfect, but it's hard to think any team could have stopped Tipp on this day, when Sheedy's men executed to perfection.

Memorable Moments:

Henry Only Lasts 12 Minutes: 

After all the build up, Shefflin lasted only 12 minutes before hobbling off, with Tipperary six points down. He received a warm response from the entire stadium. It's hard to know how much of a fillip the sight of the greatest player in the game gave to Tipperary or if it affected Kilkenny's belief and morale.


Lar Corbett Hat-Trick: 

One of the most famous All-Ireland final performances of all time.

The Thurles Sarsfields man became overnight celebrity after nearly a decade playing Tipperary by scoring a brilliant hat trick in the biggest All-Ireland final of all time. The three goals all displayed fantastic forward skills; strength and concentration for goal one, and beautiful touch and vicious striking for the second and third goals.

Kilkenny were already beaten before the third goal, but it was the fitting icing on the cake for Tipp's perfect day.


Brendan Cummins' point: 

You knew it was Tipp's day when Brendan Cummins knocked over his first ever Championship point with a huge free from inside his own 45, long before we were used to that sort of thing from goalkeepers.


2. 2009 Kilkenny 2-22 - 0-23 Tipperary

The game that launched a decade of the best rivalry in hurling was lauded at the time as the greatest game of hurling ever played. There are many who would still claim it was.

Kilkenny were beginning to make the game a little too easy by 2009. They'd won three All-Irelands in a row, and had hammered Waterford in the 2008 final. The country was ready for a real challenger to emerge.

Tipp's record over the previous two seasons suggested they were the team for the job. Two Munster titles in a row and a six goal, 24 point dismantling of Limerick in the All-Ireland semi-final was one thing, but their victory over Kilkenny in an epic League final earlier in the year was what really made us take notice.

And while many assumed Kilkenny were unstoppable, for 60 minutes, Tipp lived with them, and if not for an outstanding goalkeeping performance from PJ Ryan, might have been out of sight.

Then we had a sending off, a dodgy penalty, a rapid fire second goal, and Tipp's world was turned upside down. Kilkenny had survived, but we'd finally been thrilled by a final, and Tipperary knew they had what it took.

Memorable Moments:

Benny Dunne's sending off: 

The Toomevara man was brought on for John O'Brien with Tipp in a great position after 46 minutes. Eight minutes later, things started to go wrong when Dunne hit Tommy Walsh a belt with his hurley and was given the line. It wasn't exactly the greatest cameo in All-Ireland final history.


Kilkenny's Two Goals in a Minute: 


Was it a penalty? Almost certainly not. If Richie Power was fouled at all, it was outside the box. With Tipp two points up, the referee gave the controversial penalty and Henry Shefflin buried it.

Seconds later, the game was over. Martin Comerford, one of Kilkenny's stars of the decade had been left out of the starting lineup, but was there to bury Kilkenny's second goal after being set up by the brilliant Eoin Larkin, who would go on to seal the win with two more points.


PJ Ryan's Miracle Save: 

The Kilkenny goalkeeper made three outstanding  saves in the second half. The latter two from Eoin Kelly shots were highlight worthy, but the first save, from Seamus Callanan, was one of the best saves ever seen in Croke Park. With the ball sailing into the top corner, he somehow got his stick up and knocked it out for a 65. Such was the speed of the shot and the save, poor Ger Canning hadn't a clue what happened.



1. 2014 Draw Kilkenny 3-22 - 1-28 Tipperary (Draw)

For the third year in a row, the All-Ireland Hurling Final ended in a draw. But this match was different gravy to anything we'd seen before.

Kilkenny and Tipperary treated us to 54 scores in 70 minutes, and just nine wides in the entire game.

There were swings and roundabouts throughout the game, with both teams on top, but it seemed late in the second half as though it was Kilkenny's day yet again. Tipp stuck at it though, with their forwards putting in an incredible display. They finished by scoring 1-22 from play.

In the end, after some of the most skillful and thrilling hurling ever seen, it all came down to a baffling free given against Kilkenny's Brian Hogan, a weirdly small amount of injury time, and a Bubbles O'Dwyer 100 yard free that brought us the first ever All-Ireland final decided by Hawkeye.

Memorable Moments: 

That Bubbles Free: 

We've no idea why Brian Hogan was penalised by Barry Kelly, but Tipp had a free to win the game. The only problem was it was 97 metres from goal. Given the day that was in it, you fully expected it to go over. In the end, how close it was was illustrated by Ger Canning's commentary:

With a minute of injury time gone, he strikes it high... he's put it ov.... Wide.... No! No no no! They're not sure! They're not sure! It's going for Hawkeye!



Bonner Maher scores the most Bonner Maher goal of all time: 

A high contested catch, a barging run through the middle of a defence unable top cope, and a shot past the goalkeeper. It was the goal Bonner was born to score. Seconds later, he did the same again and won a penalty. A goal would have put Tipperary eight points up, but Callanan's effort was saved by Eoin Murphy.



Richie Power Touch: 

Richie Power played three championship games in 2014, scoring 4-2! The first of his two in this game was as nice a touch as you'll see. After brilliant work from TJ Reid, Power tapped the ball over Darren Gleeson before tapping it again into the net. It was a huge goal to get Kilkenny back in it before half time.



TJ Reid Scores from the Throw-In:


What a finish!


We'd argue the first game in 2014 may just have been hurling at its apex. Either way, it's hard to argue that Kilkenny Tipperary All-Ireland finals have ever let us down over the last 10 years. Let's hope that Sunday lives up to the history, even if the hype is sadly lacking.


SEE ALSO: The Buildup: Early Premier League Learnings, All-Ireland Final Picks, Getting Hyped For Golf


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