Kilkenny began the 2011 Allianz National Hurling League with a good win over Tipperary at Semple Stadium, Thurles under lights. In poor weather conditions which worsened as the game progressed, Kilkenny overcame a strong Tipperary start to turn a five point deficit into a three point lead at the interval. A Colin Fennelly goal immediately on the resumption increased the Cats’ lead to six and try as they might Tipperary were unable to close the gap for the remainder of the game. The final score Kilkenny 1-17 Tipperary 1-10.
Free-taker Richie Hogan finished with 0-10 for the victors, while Pa Bourke (0-04) and Gearoid Ryan (1-00) led the home side’s scoring.
Tipperary’s new boss Declan Ryan saw his side enjoy the better of the opening quarter and Thurles Sarsfields clubman Bourke led the way as Tipp moved into a 1-06 to 0-04 lead. The goal came with the sides tied at 0-02 apiece when Bourke set up Gearóid Ryan for a low shot past Kilkenny goalkeeper David Herity in the ninth minute.
It was an impressive opening from Tipperary but Kilkenny got on top as the first half wore on as they settled and the switch to centre-field of Michael Fennelly and John Mulhall to the half forward line saw the black and amber men slowly establish a foothold in the game.
Three pointed frees from Hogan and scores from play from Aidan Fogarty and Mulhall got Brian Cody’s men back level at 0-09 to 1-06. John O’Neill replied at the other end.
But Kilkenny were finding their rhythm in attack and Hogan chipped in with two more and Mulhall and Michael Fennelly also landed late points to give their side a three-point advantage at the break.
Kilkenny enjoyed a fantastic start to the second half with Colin Fennelly’s goal almost immediately on the resumption of play. Fielding a Tommy Walsh delivery over his marker, Fennedlly sprinted into space and gave Tipperary goalkeeper Gleeson no chance with a stinging drive to the net.
While Noel McGrath and Patrick Maher struck back with points from play,Kilkenny were always in control. Brendan Maher had to be replaced after sustaining a leg injury and Colin Fennelly might have grabbed his second goal five minutes from the end when Eddie Brennan gave him the opportunity, but this time Gleeson was equal to his shot and deflected it out for a 65’.
Noel McGrath provided some late inspiration for Tipp with a point from a sideline cut, but it was Tommy Walsh who closed out the scoring with the final point of the game for the victorious Cats.
Kilkenny: R Hogan 0-10 (0-08f), C Fennelly 1-00, J Mulhall, A Fogarty 0-02 each, M Fennelly, E Brennan, T Walsh 0-01 each
Tipperary: P Bourke 0-04 (0-03f), G Ryan 1-00, N McGrath 0-02 (0-01sl), T Hammersley, S McGrath, J O’Neill, P Maher 0-01 each
KILKENNY: David Herity; John Dalton, JJ Delaney, Paul Murphy; Tommy Walsh, Jackie Tyrrell, PJ Delaney; Michael Rice, John Mulhall; Richie Hogan, Michael Fennelly, Aidan Fogarty; Colin Fennelly, Eddie Brennan, TJ Reid.
TIPPERARY: Darren Gleeson; Paddy Stapleton, Padraic Maher, Conor O’Brien; David Young, Conor O’Mahony, Hugh Maloney; Brendan Maher, Shane McGrath; Gearoid Ryan, Pa Bourke, Noel McGrath; John O’Neill, Patrick Maher, Timmy Hammersley.Subs: S Hennessy for S McGrath (h-t), B O’Meara for Hammersley (h-t), M Cahill for O’Mahony (h-t), J Woodlock for O’Brien (49), B Dunne for B Maher (54).
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly).