Sunday saw the final of the Allianz National Hurling League, and what a final it was. Kilkenny prevailed by the smallest margin after going to extra time against Tipperary. While Tipp had some very good individual performances, it was Kilkenny’s superior teamwork that got them over the line. John Ivory ranks the top five players from the game.
5. Michael Fennelly – Kilkenny
After a quiet enough first half when Tipp edged it around the middle third, Fennelly showed his class from the second period onwards. He won a huge amount of possession and used it sensibly to get ‘The Cats’ on the front foot. He constantly grew into the game and got his name on the score sheet at the most critical times towards the end of the 70 minutes with 2 very well taken points.
4. Noel McGrath – Tipperary
The Loughmore-Castleiney club man was one of the Premier County’s best performers against Kilkenny in Thurles. He covered every blade of grass in his endeavours to score, and provide scoring opportunities for his teammates, which he did to great effect. He took the side-line that directly led to John O’Dwyer’s goal and also contributed 0-5 himself, four from play. A very assured performance from McGrath that unfortunately for him, wasn’t enough to get Tipp the victory.
3. T.J. Reid – Kilkenny
On a day when many Kilkenny forwards weren’t particularly up to the mark, T.J. Reid certainly led the line very well from wing forward. He was a prolific converter of frees in Thurles, notching up an extremely impressive 2-11, with 2-9 of that from placed balls. Scoring exploits aside, Reid worked extremely hard for the team, collecting high balls and being first to numerous breaks all afternoon. Without him and Richie Hogan, it’s hard to see where Kilkenny would have gotten their scores.
2. Patrick Maher – Tipperary
Along with Noel McGrath, Maher was Tipperary’s best, and probably most effective forward against Kilkenny. He constantly put himself about in the way which only he can. He broke up the play, won dirty ball and set up scoring chance after scoring chance. He driving runs at Kilkenny’s defence wreaked havoc all day long and he added one point to Tipperary’s total. At times he was unmarkable due to his ferocious strength and worked tirelessly all day for the Tipperary cause.
1. Richie Hogan – Kilkenny
Industrious is the best word to describe Richie Hogan’s performance. He was everywhere for Kilkenny and was their outstanding player. What Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher is for Tipperary, Hogan appears to be for Kilkenny. He is deceptively pacey and was a thorn in Tipperary’s side with his battling qualities, strong running, not to mention the six points he got from play. Kilkenny didn’t look like winning for long periods of the contest, but Hogan was the man who sparked them into life and got them there.