GAA Football

Tipperary take command after Hogan feels full force of the law

Tipperary's Séamus Callanan celebrates his goal during Sunday's All-Ireland SHC final. Picture by Philip Walsh
From Cahair O'Kane at Croke Park

All-Ireland SHC final: Tipperary 3-25 Kilkenny 0-20

THE law might be an ass, but it’s still the law.

The rain swooped in on the throw-in to dampen a bit of a scrappy first half’s fluency, but the first 33 minutes became a mere footnote from the moment James Owens brandished a straight red card in the direction of Richie Hogan.

The Danesfort man reacted to Cathal Barrett’s evasion technique by throwing the arm out. Something between his elbow and tricep met the corner-back’s chin.

It was a big call for the ref, who seemed largely guided by the view of linesman Johnny Murphy, whose proximity to the incident gave him a big say in the decision.

Brian Cody, perhaps with some justification, felt the length of discussion indicated an uncertainty on the officials’ part. James Owens could be equally justified in directing him to the replay, which seemed to add weight to what was a brave call.

Over the remainder the crowd saw umpteen cutaways to the crestfallen Hogan, sitting with the cut from an early swing by Barrett across the bridge of his nose, and each time he looked more and more drained.

It spoiled the dinner. Not that it tasted any different to Tipperary, but just the air in the room was soured.

The winners were “gasping for air”, as Liam Sheedy put it, up until Niall O’Meara’s 25th minute goal brought them within a point. Pádraic Maher ripped the ball from above Walter Walsh’s head and drove it back where it came from, off which O’Meara pounced, turned Conor Fogarty and skimmed one past Eoin Murphy.

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That trademark aerial brilliance in the half-back division was a theme of the afternoon that had already begun to plant roots before Tipp were left with a spare set of hands at the back. Kilkenny won only 13 of their 39 puckouts.

Keeping them away from TJ Reid, so as not to give Brendan Maher oxygen, undermined Kilkenny more than it did Tipperary. Walter Walsh couldn’t win a ball off either Padraic Maher or Seamus Kennedy, and once those two switched and the latter went on John Donnelly, one of the key swing states turned unmistakably blue.

The first 22 minutes were Kilkenny’s. They brought all the crazy that had disposed of Limerick with them and even forewarned didn’t mean forearmed for Tipp.

They couldn’t get to the pitch of it. Their forwards were living off scraps. Paul Murphy turned away five balls in-a-row that came between he and Jason Forde, epitomising their defensive domination.

The ball going the other way wasn’t always the cleanest but Colin Fennelly especially went at it like a bloodhound. He will, though, look back with regret on a goal chance in the opening that was taken away by a magnificent John McGrath hook.

Still, Kilkenny led by 0-5 to 0-2 after 12 minutes, by which stage Liam Sheedy has dispensed of the ruse to play Seamus Callanan in the corner and John O’Dwyer at 14. Kilkenny weren’t in the mood for shape-shifting and held their ground on the switches, with Joey Holden using the early exchanges to notch some consolation from the 2016 battle with Callanan.

Callanan should have had an early penalty when he was fouled inside but referee Owens pulled it inexplicably back instead for an earlier foul on him that was outside.

Brian Hogan’s relationship with Hawkeye deteriorated further as, for the second game in a row, the technology pulled the play back to give a score when he’d grasped the sliotar above the crossbar.

TJ Reid was ghosting into the play wherever he went, clearly feeling he’d have joy pulling Brendan Maher around rather than playing a more static game. He fired over a long-range free to make it 0-8 to 0-3 after 21 minutes and Tipp seemed to have no answers.

Cillian Buckley, Richie Hogan and Walter Walsh all hit bad wides in that period and allied to Fennelly’s goal chance, Kilkenny could have had enough damage done to negate the red card’s impact.

Read more: All-Ireland SHC final - how victorious Tipperary rated

By the end, Tipp had inflicted on their old rivals the biggest championship defeat of Brian Cody’s entire reign, from a game that they couldn’t get into for 25 minutes.

They had turned it with the first goal and did take the lead for the first time just before the red card, but they’d still been second best overall. But the one-point interval lead quickly stretched and the last half hour was spent just killing time.

When Conor Fogarty either didn’t get or didn’t hear the shout from Joey Holden just after the break, it left them exposed and John McGrath didn’t hang back. His shot was blocked but the ball squirmed out to Callanan to slide home an incredible eighth goal in eight consecutive championship games.

Callanan and O’Dwyer clipped points and Tipp had a 2-10 to 0-12 lead. Cathal Barrett was sitting perfectly in front of Ronan Maher and Barry Heffernan, who hardly needed any help, and the game just never looked like changing from then on.

Callanan’s contribution to the third goal was arguably the standout moment of the day. Huw Lawlor made a rare misjudgement and allowed the ball into the corner. Just as it looked like the Drom-Inch man was about to clip his point, he saw John O’Dwyer sneak in at the far post and drilled the ball on to his bás. O’Dwyer didn’t need to take it in the hand, letting it sit up to volley home.

It left 28 of the longest minutes. 3-12 to 0-13, Tipperary were too long at it to ever let that go. Kilkenny, just as in 2016, never stopped but they were one-dimensional, going long and early for a full half-hour.

Barring an arms-first Pádraic Maher block from Walter Walsh that would have you questioning his sanity, moments of panic were extremely rare.

The lead was so comfortable that it permitted Tipperary to be loose, and frankly poor, in that closing spell. But they had those moments of brilliance in them and beyond that, they were always going to get enough to do,

With their subs providing 0-5 between them, they still had their head dipped for the line.

Getting there looked no less sweet just because of the way it played out. It’s still the culmination of nine months’ work, or ten years’ work, whichever way you want to look at it.

With Sia replacing Enya to provide an unfamiliar 21st century air to the post-match celebrations, Liam Sheedy took off at a mad 30-yard dash to lift his wife and two daughters over the mesh around the Hogan Stand sideline and on to the Croke Park pitch.

It was the plainest show of emotion, a timely reminder that All-Irelands are All-Irelands, no matter how they’re won.

Would they have won it 15-on-15 anyway? Possibly.

But the law’s the law.

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MATCH STATS
Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, H Lawlor, J Holden; C Fogarty, P Walsh (0-1), P Deegan; C Browne, C Buckley; J Donnelly (0-3), TJ Reid (0-11, 0-10 frees), W Walsh (0-1); A Mullen, C Fennelly (0-1), R Hogan (0-1)
Subs: B Ryan (0-2) for Mullen (39), R Leahy for Buckley (47), J Maher for Browne (54), C Delaney for Holden (58)
Blood replacement: B Ryan (16-17)
Yellow card: E Murphy (70)
Red card: R Hogan (33)

Tipperary: B Hogan; C Barrett, R Maher, B Heffernan; P Maher, B Maher, S Kennedy (0-2); N McGrath (0-2, 0-1 free), M Breen (0-1); D McCormack, J O’Dwyer (1-2), N O’Meara (1-0); J Forde (0-8, 0-4 frees, 0-2 65s), S Callanan (1-2, 0-1 free), J McGrath (0-3)
Subs: M Kehoe (0-1) for O’Meara (51), W Connors (0-2) for McCormack (56), J Morris (0-1) for Forde (60), S O’Brien for Barrett (60), G Browne (0-1) for Breen (63)
Blood replacement: J Barry for P Maher (66-67)
Yellow card: J Forde (53)

Referee: J Owens (Westmeath)

Attendance: 82,300

Read more: All-Ireland SHC final - how victorious Tipperary rated

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