When Eoin Kelly emerged from the losers dressing room in Croke Park on Sunday he spoke about the hurt that everybody who occupied that lonely space was experiencing.
Last year the Mullinahone man lifted the Liam McCarthy on an historic day for Tipperary hurling when they toppled five in a row chasing Kilkenny.
On Sunday Tipperary had to deal with going into the All-Ireland showdown as the favourites with Kilkenny, a team determined to exact revenge for last year’s devastating blow. determined to reverse that result.
It was heartbreaking for the Tipperary marksman to have to hand back the Liam McCarthy to Kilkenny after having it for just one year in the Premier County. No back to back titles for Tipperary on a day when they failed to defend their crown.
“You want to win as many All-Ireland titles in your career but it was Kilkenny’s day today,” said a devastated Tipperary captain.
The Mullinahone man, who scored four points in each half, seven frees and a ‘65, worked tigerishly to combat the dominance Kilkenny exerted in every position in front of their goal.
Tipperary failed to ignite, failed to pick up any momentum and failed to create any of the space that enabled them to march through Munster in extravagant style.
Kilkenny put down a marker early on and their tactic of going man to man with the Tipperary forwards no matter where they went paid handsome dividends.
“Kilkenny just had an awesome start, they went four or five points up and we did not settle at all,” said a disappointed Kelly.
He said Tipperary were focused and not too disheartened at half time as they were still in the game despite how well Kilkenny had played.
“We went in at half time and we knew we were still in with a chance and we felt if we could get a goal we could get back into it. We came back at them with a goal but Kilkenny were able to tack on a point and pull away again. We needed scores after that but they did not come,” he said.
The Tipperary captain said that the Kilkenny defence was incredible on the day. It was a huge disappointment not to retain the McCarthy Cup but they had to pick themselves up now.
“We were just saying in the dressing room how quickly the year went after the final last year so hopefully next year will come around quickly again. There is a very young age profile in the squad. It’s not all doom and gloom. There is a lot of hurt there in the dressing room,” he said.