Kilkenny, breathing fire in the second half, simply burned off the Tipperary challenge to score a sensational win in the Allianz National Hurling League final at Nowlan Park today.
Tipp were slightly the better team in the first half but when they were hit for a goal by Walter Walsh within 30 seconds of the restart, the balance of power shifted dramatically. The home side simply roared away to score their fifth win in the final over their great rivals since 2003.
The victory was Kilkenny's 18th in the League, which leaves them one behind Tipp in the roll of honour.
The Cats, who looked to be facing into a bleak campaign when they lost their opening two matches, have put an unbeaten run together since. And this performance was their best by some distance.
"Now the work begins for the Leinster championship," was the reaction from smiling manager Brian Cody afterwards.
After Walsh scored that early second-half goal, leaving full-back James Barry for dead after fielding a high ball from Conor Delaney, the game turned. True, the score was level at 1-12 each in the 38th minute, but Walsh's goal laid down a marker and the Cats were snarling all the way home from there.
A fine score from Kilkenny's Walter Walsh! pic.twitter.com/Dp782zx8ZB— The GAA (@officialgaa) April 8, 2018
John Donnelly snapped up the lead point in the 39th minute as Tipp were hit for six points against one reply before Jason Forde shot their second of the half in the 58th minute (1-18 to 1-14).
Back came Kilkenny, with Liam Blanchfield and Reid at the double helping to tighten their grip on things as they opened out a 1-21 to 1-14 lead.
The winners were in full flow, with Paddy Deegan the star man at corner-back. Reid was also flying as were James Maher, Cillian Buckley and Walsh while subs Luke Scanlon, Conor Fogarty and Liam Blanchfield also made huge impressions.
When Conor Fogarty raced on to a breaking ball in the 63rd minute to race through for Kilkenny's second goal (2-23 to 1-17) the home fans in the crowd of 17,608 crowd went wild. There was going to be no way back for Tipperary after that.
Conor Fogarty with a cracking goal for Kilkenny! pic.twitter.com/ChhEohCjg7— The GAA (@officialgaa) April 8, 2018
Tipperary were backed by the fresh wind and they led for all but two minutes of the first half as they produced slightly better hurling. A take of 1-6 by full-forward and free taker, Jason Forde played a huge part in an interval lead of 1-10 to 0-11.
The visitors opened with consecutive points from Forde, one a free when a Kilkenny player over-carried the ball around midfield. The home side eventually caught up in the 17th minute, T.J. Reid posting the equaliser following a foul on Richie Leahy (0-4 each).
The next two points were exchanged before Kilkenny hit the front for the one and only time when Reid, who shot two magical points during the half after claiming the ball from the sky, sent them 0-6 to 0-5 clear in the 22nd minute.
Within two minutes, Tipp had turned the tables big time. First, Forde blasted to the net from 14 metres on the left when placed in an ocean of space by a lovely pass from John McGrath. Within seconds, Michael Breen placed Sean Curran for a score to up the divide to 1-6 to 0-6.
T.J. Reid (free) stopped the rot as Kilkenny found it had to close down Tipp's free flowing play. On the half hour Reid scored his first super point after fielding the ball over the head of an opponent to cut the gap to the minimum, 0-9 to 1-7.
Tipp, with Forde always a threat, kept their steady play running and they were worthy leaders at the break. No one was given any hint of the second half Kilkenny storm that was to follow.
SCORERS: Kilkenny - T.J. Reid (0-15, 11 frees); W. Walsh (1-2); C. Fogarty (1-0); J. Donnelly (0-2); E. Murphy (0-1, free); R. Leahy, M. Keoghan, L. Blanchfield (0-1 each). Tipperary - J. Forde (2-12, 1-10 frees); J. McGrath (0-2); S. Kennedy, S. Curran, W. Connors (0-1 each).
Kilkenny: E. Murphy; J. Holden, P. Walsh, P. Deegan; C. Delaney, C. Buckley, E. Morrissey; R. Leahy, J. Maher; M. Keoghan, T.J. Reid, J. Donnelly; B. Sheehan, W. Walsh, A. Murphy.
Subs: L. Blanchfield for A. Murphy 40th min; L. Scanlon for b. Sheehan 43rd min; C. Fogarty for Leahy 47th min; C. Martin for Donnelly 62nd min.
Tipperary: D. Mooney; A. Flynn, J. Barry, M. Cahill; B. Heffernan, P. Maher, R. Maher; B. Maher, S. Kennedy; S. Curran, B. McCarthy, J. McGrath; M. Breen, J. Forde, W. Connors.
Subs: J. O'Dwyer for M. Breen ht; C. Barrett for S. Kennedy 44th min; M. Russell for S. Curran 59th min; D. Maher for J. Barry 60th min; C. Darcy for B. McCarthy 65th min;
Referee: A. Kelly (Galway)