BY NIALL SHERRY
PHOTOS BY INPHO
The season culminates with Sunday’s trip to the Capital, but a fair few miles have been clocked up in reaching another All-Ireland Final. Not only are Kilkenny the record winners of the Liam McCarthy to date, but the Noresiders have also been the runners up a record number of times too.
Thirteen weeks and 33 games later, the 2022 GAA hurling All-Ireland championship has reached the final where Kilkenny take on Limerick in Croke Park on Sunday (3.30), with Colm Lyons (Cork) as referee in what will be his first-time taking charge of the biggest game of the year.
Kilkenny are bidding for their 37th All-Ireland title while Limerick are seeking their 11th and their first three-in-a-row.
It all starts with Leinster
Westmeath 1-19 Kilkenny 5-23
TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar
The Cats went goal crazy in their Round 1 clash with the Lake County. It was an early warning sign that Brian Cody’s charges were shaping up nicely, with a multitude of players registering scores in Mullingar. The final score line was perhaps a little harsh on a gallant Westmeath, as they eventually succumbed to a Kilkenny team that came alive in the second half in Mullingar, following the introduction of a certain Mr. TJ Reid.
TJ along with Walter Walsh, Billy Ryan, James Maher and Mikey Carey all raised green flags as Glenmore’s Alan Murphy top scored with 0-7. The Village’s Cian Kenny also pointed on his championship debut for the Cats.
Kilkenny: E Murphy; M Butler, H Lawlor, T Walsh; M Carey (1-00), P Deegan, D Blanchfield; C Kenny (0-01), A Mullen (0-02); W Walsh (1-02), P Walsh (0-04), E Cody (0-01); B Ryan (1-01), M Keoghan, A Murphy (0-07, 0-06 frees).
Subs: J Donnelly for Keoghan (34), TJ Reid (1-04, 0-02 frees, 0-01 ‘65) for Kenny (h-t), J Maher (1-01) for Murphy (46), C Browne for Blanchfield (59), S Walsh for Ryan (66).
Kilkenny 2-34 Laois 1-14
UPMC Nowlan Park
The Noresiders made it two from two with a comprehensive demolition of the O’Moore County on home turf. Unlike proceedings in TEG Cusack Park a week earlier, Kilkenny hit the ground running and found their groove as they set about dismantling Cheddar’s men. Just the two majors in the Round 2 clash for the Cats, Eoin Cody and Conahy Shamrocks Tom Phelan raising the green flags. On another day Eoin Cody could well have had a hat-trick.
Tullaroan’s Padraig Walsh struck over four lovely scores, and was match by another Walsh, Walter. It would be The Ballyhale boys that would top the scoring charts, with TJ, Eoin Cody and Adrian Mullen, all to the fore as the home side romped to a 20+ point victory.
SCORERS – Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-10 (7f) E Cody 1-5 A Mullen 0-6 W. Walsh 0-4 T Phelan 1-1 P Walsh 0-4 J Donnelly 0-2 J Maher 0-2
KILKENNY: E Murphy; M Butler, H Lawlor, T Walsh; M Carey, P Deegan, C Browne; J Maher, A Mullen; W Walsh, P Walsh, J Donnelly; B Ryan, TJ Reid, E Cody. Subs: S Walsh for Ryan ht, R. Reid for Deegan & T Phelan for J Donnelly 49mins, C Delaney for Lawlor 56mins D Corcoran for T Walsh 63mins
Galway 1-24 Kilkenny 3-17
Pearse Stadium, Salthill
When the draw was made, this was the fixture that all eyes were on. The Master vs The Apprentice. Brian Cody vs Henry Shefflin. This Bank Holiday weekend fixture promised much, and it certainly delivered. In a game that ebbed and flowed, the typical Salthill wind played its part as Galway raced into a 6-point lead at the interval, despite the visitors raising 2 green flags, through Eoin Cody and Billy Ryan.
The Cats responded in the second period and clawed back the home sides lead. The sides were level for the fourth time on 55 minutes when Eoin Cody pointed. Kilkenny had tagged on seven points, to just the one from the home side. Walter Walsh and Mikey Carey struck a couple of lovely points, but the Tribesmen had a 3-point lead as the game entered additional time.
Surely Kilkenny’s race was run. As the saying goes, Kilkenny are never beaten, till their on the bus home. A long ball into the Galway defence resulted in a little bit of pinball, before Eoin Cody emerged with the ball. The Cats most dangerous attacker on display somehow managed to pop a pass to John Donnelly and the Thomastown star struck a fierce shot towards the home sides goal. In his attempt to block Donnelly’s effort, keeper Éanna Murphy diverted the shot to his own net. Goal. The sides were now level again.
Then came the most contentious decision of the game, as Cork referee Lyons (who will referee Sunday’s final!) signaled for a free to the home side for what he deemed to be a foul on Tom Monaghan by Paddy Deegan. Conor Cooney stepped up and after a slight delay, slotted over the pressure free to give his side a 1-point victory. Shake hands and move on, well sort of.
Scorers for Kilkenny: E Cody (1-2); A Murphy (0-5, 0-4 frees); T Reid (0-3, 0-2 frees), W Walsh (0-3 each); B Ryan, J Donnelly (1-0 each) P Walsh (0-2); M Carey, A Mullen (0-1 each).
Kilkenny: E Murphy; M Butler, H Lawlor, T Walsh; M Carey, P Deegan, C Browne; J Maher, A Mullen; W Walsh, P Walsh, C Buckley; E Cody, B Ryan, TJ Reid.
Subs: A Murphy for Maher (30); T Phelan for Reid (HT); D Blanchfield for Browne (43); J Donnelly for Buckley (55); M Keoghan for B Ryan (66).
Dublin 0-17 Kilkenny 3-25
Parnell Park, Dublin
The Cats got back to winning ways with a 17-point victory over Mattie Kenny’s Metropolitans at a sun-kissed Parnell Park. It was more or less a full house at the Donnycarney venue, and those Gaels in attendance witnessed an emphatic second half performance from the Cats, as they laid down a marker for all those with designs on de-throning Limerick.
The first half was very much evenly contested, with both sides squaring up to each other and not giving an inch as they wrestled for supremacy. Mossy had been restored to the starting line-up goaled on 27 minutes when he showed great skill in getting the ball to hand, before drilling a real ‘daisy-cutter’ of a shot on the angle than beat the sky blues keeper Sean Brennan all ends up! At the short whistle, the visitors led by 3.
Kilkenny sent over some cracking scores, courtesy of Adrian Mullen who would finish with five from play and Cian Kenny, who would notch four, but it would be further majors from Mossy and TJ that would well and truly put an end to the fading Dublin challenge. TJ’s batted finish, a thing of beauty.
Scorers – Kilkenny: TJ Reid 1-7 (5f); M Keoghan 2-1; A Mullen 0-5; C Kenny 0-4; A Murphy 0-3; E Cody 0-2; B Ryan, J Donnelly, C Buckley 0-1 each.
Kilkenny: E Murphy; M Butler, C Delaney, T Walsh; M Carey, R Reid, P Deegan; A Mullen, A Murphy; W Walsh, TJ Reid, P Walsh; C Kenny, M Keoghan, E Cody. Substitutes: J Donnelly for W Walsh (h/t); B Ryan for P Walsh (48); C Fogarty for A Murphy (59); C Buckley for Mullen (65); D Blanchfield for Butler (67).
Kilkenny 1-18 Wexford 1-22
UPMC Nowlan Park
Wexford arrived at UPMC Nowlan Park knowing that only an unexpected victory would ensure their season would continue. And in true sporting fashion, the neighbours produced their best performance to date to topple Kilkenny. Darragh Eagan’s men, clearly still smarting from their draw against Westmeath, started quickly, and had the first score on the board when Jack O’Connor struck over a might long-range score, just seconds after the throw-in. Naomh Eanna’s Conor McDonald then doubled the visitors lead when he struck over a fine point. The Cats then fired over three-in-a-row, the first from Mikey Carey and the next two from TJ Reid. A goal from, yes, Mossy and a nice point from Adrian Mullen left the Cats up by 4 after 16 minutes. The home side wouldn’t score from play again before the interval.
A goal from Oisin Foley and points from main man, Lee Chin left the Yellowbellies three up at the short whistle.
Some strong words must have spoken in the home changing room, as the Noresiders came out with a little more fire in their bellies. An early second half clash involving Paddy Deegan and Jack O’Connor saw Wexford boss Daragh Eagan step in to separate the pair. From the resulting sideline ball, Walter Walsh took possession and powered forward before sending over a nice point. Cian Kenny then won a free which TJ converted to leave just the minimum between the sides.
Between the 43rd and 53rd minute, the sides shared seven points, with Kilkenny outscoring the visitors four to three. A brace of frees from Lee Chin nudged Wexford two ahead, but Billy Ryan then reduced the deficit when we fired over a lovely point from the sideline. TJ then popped over another free to level matters with 61 minutes on the clock.
The Model County appeared to have a little more left in the tank than their hosts, and in the final period of the game they registered six points to just two from the Cats in response including a crazy effort from sub Mikie Dwyer as the Slaneysiders ran out four-point winners in UPMC Nowlan Park.
Kilkenny: E Murphy; M Butler, C Delaney, T Walsh; M Carey (0-02), R Reid, P Deegan; A Murphy, A Mullen (0-02); W Walsh (0-01), TJ Reid (0-10; 0-08f; 1 65), T Phelan; C Kenny, M Keoghan (1-1), E Cody.
Subs: B Ryan (0-01) for Phelan (44), J Maher for A Murphy (53), P Walsh (0-01) for Kenny (67), J Donnelly for Keoghan (69).
Leinster Senior Hurling Final
Galway 0-17 Kilkenny 0-22
Croke Park, Dublin
The second instalment of Cody vs Shefflin had a little more riding on it, the Bob O’Keefe Cup. The game took place at headquarters and the Cats appeared to enjoy the wide-open spaces of the Jones’s Road venue. Both sides traded points early on as they wrestled for supremacy. Eoin Murphy was in fine form between the sticks and kept the westerner’s shots from breaching the net.
Paddy Deegan rifled over a couple of mighty scores, using the wind to absolute perfection, while TJ just kept the score board ticking over with his usual accuracy.
The Cats would take a 2-point advantage into the interval, leading 0-11 to 0-9, most pleasing for Brian Cody would have been the fact that seven of his sides eleven 1st half points came from turnovers. There was definitely a harder edge to this Noreside XV.
TJ as in great form, punishing most Galway indiscretions, while his club mate Adrian Mullen was sending over some delicious points from distance. Kilkenny would push their lead to five points as the game approached its conclusion, but Henry’s men reduced the deficit to just three points, before late scores from sub; Padraig Walsh and the hugely impressive Adrian Mullen saw the Cats claim their 3rd provincial title in a row and their 74th Bob O’Keefe Cup. More talk about handshakes, but the important business of silverware, secured, and with it, the direct route to an All-Ireland Semi-Final.
Scorers for Kilkenny: T.J. Reid (0-12, 11 frees, 1 65); A. Mullen (0-4); P. Deegan (0-2); R. Leahy, B. Ryan, M. Keoghan, P. Walsh (0-1 each).
KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; T. Walsh, H. Lawlor; M. Butler; M. Carey, R. Reid, P. Deegan; C. Fogarty, C. Kenny; A. Mullen, B. Ryan, R. Leahy; T.J. Reid, M. Keoghan, E. Cody.
Subs for Kilkenny: W. Walsh for B. Ryan (temp 28-30); C. Delaney for M. Butler (temp 29-35+1); C. Browne for C. Kenny (h-t); W. Walsh for R. Leahy (45); P. Walsh for B. Ryan (54); J. Donnelly for M. Keoghan (60).
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Semi-Final
Kilkenny 2-26 Clare 0-20
In the buildup to the first of the last four contests, all the talk in the media and amongst Clare fans, was how the brilliant Tony Kelly was going to light up Croker and set the Banner up for another rattle at Limerick.
Kelly is undoubtedly a huge talent, but he hadn’t been marked by Mikey Butler before. Butler held the Ballyea man scoreless from play. That takes a bit of doing.
Yes, Clare’s shooting wasn’t great, but by God did Kilkenny pull them apart. From the off the Cats dominated. TJ was sublime. In shooting, in catching, in tackling, in passing, TJ was sensational.
In this clash we witnessed one of Kilkenny’s best performances in years, certainly since 2015. The hunger, desire, passion, and clinical approach to their game was outstanding. Yes, Clare hit 23 wides, but let’s not take anything away from the Cats masterclass in Croke Park. To highlight their attributes, we scored 1-14 from turnovers.
Led by the inspirational TJ Reid and captained brilliantly by his brother Richie, the men in black and amber went for the jugular. All over the pitch, the Noresiders reveled. They won their individual battles and played like a team that had 100% belief in their manager’s plan. The four weeks of hard training, team bonding and analysis of their opponent, fully paid off.
A wonderful display of shooting saw the Cats lead by 12 at the short whistle, the major was scored by Mossy. The ever-improving Cian Kenny then rifled to the net having been expertly set up by Walter’s catch and pass. Poetry in motion. Adrian Mullen again struck some sumptuous scores, while Eoin Cody struck fear in the Banner every time he got on the ball.
The 12-point victory didn’t flatter Kilkenny, in fact they were well worth the winning margin.
Just one more step one more obstacle.
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy; Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; Michael Carey, Richie Reid, Paddy Deegan; Adrian Mullen (0-05), Conor Browne (0-01); Eoin Cody (0-03), Padraig Walsh (0-02), TJ Reid (0-10, 7fs); Billy Ryan (0-02), Martin Keoghan (1-0), Cian Kenny (1-02).
Subs: Walter Walsh (0-1) for Keoghan (half-time), John Donnelly for P Walsh (49), Richie Leahy for Browne (61), Alan Murphy for Ryan (66), Conor Delaney for Carey (72).