Cats win ding-dong battle to claim first League hat trick

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In the end it took an extraordinary score beyond the 90th minute to win an extraordinary match, and at the finish defending champions, Kilkenny were left celebrating their first hat trick of wins in the National Hurling League final.

Kilkenny and Tipperary had Semple Stadium, Thurles, rocking today with the brilliance of their hurling in a decider that went to extra-time and finished with the Cats winning by 2-25 (31) to 1-27 (30).

From the moment referee, James Owens threw in the ball to when T.J. Reid played a lovely 1-2 with the majestic Richie Hogan before shooting the winning points with 90 minutes and 34 seconds showing on the clock the hectic action kept the big crowd spellbound.

“It was a great match, a great occasion and it took a magnificent score to decide it,” delighted Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody, said after the county claimed its 17th title, eight during his peerless reign.

Tipp, as keen, as keen could be, looked to be getting a grip on things when a 29th minute tap home goal from the edge of the square by John O’Dwyer shot them into a healthy 1-11 to 0-8 lead.

Before the rest T.J. Reid, who finished with 2-11 to his credit, pulled back a point and then a goal from a penalty after Mark Kelly had been grounded to leave the losers leaders by 1-11 to 1-9 at the break.

The beauty of the hurling during that half promised so much. What followed was beyond what anyone might have expected. Noel Maher had an early point for Tipp to get them going, but with Richie Hogan in blinding form; T.J. Reid brilliant on frees and in every other regard too; J.J. Delaney terrific and Michael Fennelly and Cillian Buckley flying as well the Cats clawed their way back, slowly, surely.

Five times during the half the scores were level. The first time was in the 48th minute when a second goal from a penalty by T.J. Reid levelled it at 1-14 to 2-11. The last time was in the 72nd minute when Kieran Bergin converted a chance made by the powerful Patrick Maher.

That left the score at the end of normal time at 2-17 to 1-20. The teams took a rest to the sound of a standing ovation ringing around the grounds.

On the game roared, the tired warriors blasting into each other. At the end of the opening 10 minutes Kilkenny led by 2-21 to 1-23.

At the end of the next 10 minutes it was level again, 2-24 to 1-27 and a replay looked likely.

Then 34 seconds further on T.J. Reid took a short line ball on the left at the town end. He prodded a short ball to Hogan before racing along the sideline to take a return pass. On he galloped, before shooting the winning point from about 25 metres.

Super hurling. Winners and loses take a bow.

Scorers: Kilkenny - T.J. Reid (2-11); Richie Hogan (0-6); Richie Power (0-3); Michael Fennelly, Padraig Walsh (0-2 each); Colin Fennelly (0-1). Tipperary - Seamus Callanan (0-10); John O’Dwyer (1-3); Noel McGrath (0-5); Kieran Bergin, Denis Maher, Niall O’Meara (0-2 each); James Woodlock, Shane Bourke, Patrick Maher (0-1 each).

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