Tipperary v Kilkenny – 1916 to 2016: Part 5.
A Golden Era for Tipperary, and 1971.
Part Four of this series brought us to 1958 when Tipperary defeated Kilkenny in the semi-final before securing their 17th All-Ireland Senior Hurling title against Galway. From 1958 to 1968 Tipperary would be the dominant power of the hurling sphere. During that period they appeared in eight All-Ireland finals and won five of them.
The parish of Boherlahan-Dualla can proudly recall that two of their own played pivotal roles throughout that time: Paddy Leahy served as chairman of the selectors from 1949 until 1966, and Philly O'Dwyer was a selector from 1958 to 1968. It was said of Paddy Leahy, "He never took a coaching session, but he was a great judge of a hurler. He had a lovely grandfatherly way about him. I don't think I ever heard him admonishing anyone. It was always a quiet word. ..... Shrewd and keen eyed, he could spot the weakness on his own side or the opponents and, as the battle raged, manoeuvre his troops with the brilliance of a strategist. From the sideline many a game has been won or lost, Paddy lost but few."
However, 1959 saw Tipperary suffer a terrible defeat. As reigning champions they met Waterford in the Munster semi-final. At half-time, Waterford led by 8-2 to 0-0! Micheál O'Hehir, who was commentating on another game, was given the score but refused to believe it. Waterford eventually won by 9-3 to 3-4. They went on to win the All-Ireland, after a replay, against Kilkenny.
Then Tipperary were well beaten in their next final in 1960, 2-15 to 0-11, by Wexford, then enjoying their period of glory. Wexford were captained by Kilkenny born Nick O'Donnell, widely regarded as the greatest hurling full-back of all time. Tony Wall led Tipperary.
The following year, 1961, saw a huge upset when Wexford lost the Leinster Final to Dublin. Tipperary were very confident that they would account for Dublin in the final. But Dublin took the lead in the second half and were looking like winners until the dismissal of their great dual player Lar Foley. Tipperary eventually scraped home by a single point, 0-16 to 1-12.
They doubled this winning margin in the 1962 final, 3-10 to 2-11, against Wexford again, who fought back well after conceding two goals in the first minute and a half. This was the first live televised Hurling Final. Jimmy Doyle captained Tipperary, but did not collect the trophy because he was stretchered off with a broken collar bone. Billy Rackard was the Wexford captain.
1963 came and Tipperary were going for three-in-a-row. But again Waterford were their nemesis as they lost the Munster Final, 0-11 to 0-8. Kilkenny beat Waterford in the All-Ireland, led by their captain Seamus Cleere.
Eventually, Tipperary (team pictured above) and Kilkenny had their first championship meeting since 1958 in the All-Ireland Final of 1964. Mick Murphy, a nephew of Flor and John Coffey, was the Tipperary captain. Kilkenny were the defending champions and were fancied over a supposedly ageing Tipperary. Kilkenny's Seamus Cleere, the 1963 Hurler of the Year, was at right-half forward for his ability to score long-range points. He duly picked off the opening score. At his next opportunity, he confidently decided to solo in closer. His run was "terminated with extreme prejudice" by full-back Mick Maher. Said Cleere, "I was seeing stars. Maher wasn't a dirty player but it was like running into a fireplace." Leading at half-time, Tipperary really opened up in the second half. Donie Nealon scored three goals and Jimmy Doyle got ten points. Tipperary pulled off one of their greatest victories by 5-13 to 2-8.
In 1965, Wexford toppled Kilkenny in the Leinster Final by a single point, while Tipperary had no trouble getting out of Munster. Tipperary justified their favourites tag by taking the All-Ireland title again on a score of 2-16 to 0-10. It was their fourth win in five years, and Jimmy Doyle's second time as winning captain.
1966 arrived, and once again Tipperary were going for three-in-a-row. But they lost in the first round to Limerick, by 4-12 to 2-9. Cork, under the captaincy of Gerald McCarthy who was still an under-21 player, won the All-Ireland over Kilkenny by 3-9 to 1-10. This was the first meeting of these rivals in the final since 1947, when Kilkenny had won by a single point. The 1966 final featured special celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. 500 survivors from 1916 were given places of honour in the Hogan Stand.
A chastened Tipperary hurled their way past Waterford and Clare to reach the 1967 final against Kilkenny. Tipperary hadn't lost a championship match to Kilkenny since the 1922 All-Ireland Final, played in September of 1923. John Doyle was going for a record-breaking ninth All-Ireland medal. Tipperary, led by Mick Roche, were six points up at half-time, and it would have been more had it not been for the heroics of Kilkenny goalkeeper Ollie Walsh who was named Texaco Hurler of the Year for his performance. He had suffered an accident on his way to the game and received seven stitches in his wrist. Kilkenny, led by Jim Treacy, were inspired to finally break the hoodoo as Tipperary scored only one point in the second half. During that half, Kilkenny's Tom Walsh received an injury which led to the removal of his eye. The final score was 3-8 to 2-7.
Undaunted, Tipperary fought their way back to the 1968 final against Wexford, who had once again pipped Kilkenny in the Leinster Final by a single point. Tipperary looked comfortable at half-time, leading by 1-11 to 1-3. Then, six minutes into the second half, Tony Doran scored a goal. Three more goals followed for Wexford in one of the great All-Ireland comebacks. Wexford emerged triumphant by 5-8 to 3-12. The captains were Dan Quigley and Mick Roche.
Thus ended Tipperary's remarkable run from 1958 to 1968.
Tipperary's next final appearance was in 1971, and once again it was against Kilkenny. The captains were Tadhg O'Connor and Pat Henderson. In 1970 Cork had notched up their 21st title to draw level with Tipperary at the top of hurling's roll of honour. If Kilkenny now won, they would reach their 18th title. Tipperary had to win to remain the Premier County. This was the first All-Ireland final to be broadcast in colour by RTE, and was also memorable for 'Babs' Keating removing his boots and socks to play the remainder of the game in his bare feet. Kilkenny's Eddie Keher scored a personal tally of 2-11. At the end of a ten goal thriller, Tipperary won by 5-17 to 5-14. Tipperary were back on top of the all-time list again. Little did anyone think then that it would be a full seventeen years before they would again even appear in an All-Ireland final. The "famine" had begun.
Coming in Part 6: Tipperary v Kilkenny in 1991, after twenty years apart.
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