Savage was a word used liberally in post match interviews conducted by a dejected Tipperary hurling manager Declan Ryan following the shredding of his team’s aspirations of securing back to back All-Ireland hurling titles for Tipperary.
It adequately described Kilkenny’s sharper hunger, desire and motivation on a day when Tipperary failed to match the raw intensity of a Kilkenny team powered on by an unwavering intent to revenge last year’s heartbreak at the hands of Tipperary who denied them an historic five in a row.
“Hats off to Kilkenny, they were the hungrier team on the day. That’s the way it looked from the sideline,” said the Tipp manager.
He acknowledged that Tipperary were unfortunately second best to Kilkenny which was testament to the fact that they have set the standard in the late 1990s in the country and it was up to the rest to try and reach that standard.
“It’s disappointing, absolutely, when you prepare as well as these guys and put in a big effort, it’s disappointing when you don’t turn up with your A game on the day.” said the manager.
Five points down before Tipperary managed to raise a white flag with every Kilkenny defender winning their own personal battle from the opening whistle, Tipperary could not settle into the game.
“We were lucky to be only five points down at half time”, said the manager.
“We were blown out of it in a couple of tackles and that’s down to attitude and hunger. Kilkenny have shown over the last five years that they have savage hunger in this group and they showed it again today. We failed to cope with it early in the game. We re-jigged it a small bit at half time and we got to grips with it somewhat in the second half. I think the guys did themselves justice in the second half.” said the manger.
Four of the Tipperary forwards that started this game failed to score on the day, The free flowing, flamboyant hurling seen in Munster found no space to flourish. Kilkenny’s masterful defensive display closed everything down denying last year’s three goal hero Lar Corbett and Eoin Kelly anything from play in this encounter.
The Tipperary manager said that Kilkenny had succeeded in cancelling out the attacking threat Tipperary had been expected to bring to the game .
“We didn’t get too many open goal opportunities today. We seemed to be bunched up in our forward line. We didn’t win enough breaking ball. We didn’t win enough primary possession. It’s down to the physicality Kilkenny bring to the game and you either decide to match that or you don’t. We were second best in that regard. Kilkenny got their scores a bit handier, especially when we came back to three or four points,” he said.
He was very disappointed especially for the players because they were the ones who had worked so hard for it. He was proud of them, proud of how they had worn the Blue and Gold jersey this year .
The manager explained John O’Brien’s withdrawal from the game at a stage when he was one of the few players to win some of the aerial battles against the awesome Kilkenny defence.
“John cramped up a small bit near the end of the game,” said the manger. “He won a lot of possession there, full credit to him, he had a fine game, but had to come off.”
After the match Declan Ryan had no complaints or excuses to offer, the better team had prevailed on the day.
“These guys have trained savagely hard. They’ve been like professionals almost. You have to see how hard these guys have trained to believe it. I have no qualms with that end of things. We haven’t done anything different today than we have done all year. For guys who have played so well and trained so hard over the last six to eight weeks it’s difficult to put a finger on it and you just have to sit down and analyse it at a future date” he said.
“The best team won on the day and they deserve full credit for that,” said the Tipp manager.