25 Jan 2022

A history of Tipperary hurling in ten games

A history of Tipperary hurling in ten games

Captain Brendan Maher pictured lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup in September.

Welcome to our history of Tipperary hurling in ten games - this is not a list of the greatest games that the Premier County has played nor does a represent our opinion on the county’s greatest-ever performances. No, these games are the ones which mattered most. The following victories and defeats, we believe, mark moments of inflection when Tipperary hurling could have progressed one way, but went another.

These games lie along the fault of history - they mark the end of one era, the beginning of another and have helped to shape what Tipperary hurling was, is and could be since the GAA was inaugurated at Lizzy Hayes’ Hotel, Thurles in 1884.


In the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final Kilkenny presented the Premier men with their heaviest defeat in championship hurling since 1897 (eighteen points). Tipperary began to rebuild through the appointment of Eamon O’Shea as manager and dragged Kilkenny to a replayed final in 2014, but it was not until the 2016 decider that Tipperary, finally, appeared to have learned the lesson that Brian Cody’s side have been teaching inter-county teams since 2000. Indeed, Tipperary became the first team to win an All-Ireland title from the first round of the Munster championship since 1950 off the back of searing physical effort. Tipperary, for instance, won the All-Ireland final 2-29 to 2-20, but the game reached a crucial juncture in the 42nd minute when a Kevin Kelly goal propelled Kilkenny into a 1-14 to 0-15 advantage. The reaction of the Tipperary players to the challenge posed was outstanding. During the ensuing ten minutes Tipperary out-scored Kilkenny 1-4 to 0-1 and led 1-19 to 1-15 by the 52nd minute, but the underlying patterns to the remainder of this contest are significant, and telling - Tipperary won the turnover count 19-11, the tackles 51-14 and, as a result, the battle for possession 93-62 (60-40%) when it mattered most.

2016 Tipperary 2-29 Kilkenny 2-20: Darren Gleeson (Portroe), Cathal Barrett (Holycross-Ballycahill), James Barry (Upperchurch-Drombane), Michael Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields), Séamus Kennedy (St Mary’s Clonmel), Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Pádraic Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Brendan Maher (Borris-Ileigh, captain), Michael Breen (Ballina), Dan McCormack (Borris-Ileigh), Patrick Maher (Lorrha), Noel McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), John McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), Séamus Callanan (Drom & Inch), John O'Dwyer (Killenaule). Subs: Jason Forde (Silvermines), Niall O'Meara (Kilruane MacDonagh’s), Donagh Maher (Burgess), Kieran Bergin (Killenaule), Tomás Hamill (Moyne-Templetuohy).


The famed Johnny Leahy led a Boherlahan selection into the 1916 All-Ireland final against Kilkenny. Because of political circumstances the final was delayed until January 21st 1917 - a crowd estimated at just 5,000 turned up to watch Tipperary win 5-4 to 3-2. Sim Walton featured on the Tullaroan selection and his parting conversation with Leahy went down in hurling history. In passing Sim Walton declared “we were better hurlers than ye, Leahy” to which Johnny replied: “aye, but we were better men, Sim”. Hence the cruel jibe: “Kilkenny for the hurlers and Tipperary for the men”. And thus one of the central planks to the Tipperary hurling identity was formed (in both a positive and negative sense). Indeed, the appointment of Leahy as a Tipperary selector in 1949 marked the beginning of an extraordinary period of success which only stuttered to a halt following his death in 1966 (eight all-Ireland titles, nine Munster championships and 11 National League titles). Kilkenny’s 1967 final win over Tipperary is regarded, to this day, as a watershed moment - the Cats beat Tipperary for the first time in 44 years.

1916 Tipperary 5-4 Kilkenny 3-2: Dick Walsh (Boherlahan), Denis Walsh (Boherlahan), Hugh Shelly (Thurles), Paddy Leahy (Boherlahan), Jimmy Murphy (Horse & Jockey), Joe Fitzpatrick (Two-Mile-Borris), Jack Power (Boherlahan), Tom Shanahan (Killenaule), Jer Collison (Moneygall), Willie Dwyer (Boherlahan), Arthur O’Donnell (Boherlahan), John Leahy (Boherlahan), Jack Doherty (Boherlahan), Tom Dwan (Thurles). Subs: Jim Gleeson (Boherlahan), Joe Nagle (Boherlahan), Dan O’Brien (Boherlahan), Mick Leahy (Thurles), Ned Croke (Thurles).


In 1971 Tipperary saw off Limerick, Clare, Galway and Kilkenny (5-17 to 5-14) to win a famous All-Ireland title. That result, however, marked a significant juncture for the Premier County - Tipperary did not win another All-Ireland title until 1989. And, while the 1989 title was celebrated wildly it could be argued that the 1987 breakthrough Munster final win over Cork was more significant to the progress of a team who would also claim the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 1991. Tipperary entered the 1987 Munster final against Cork having only managed to beat Clare after a replay and with memories of heart-breaking 1984 provincial final defeat (four points up with four minutes to go) suffered at the hands of the Rebels in 1984 fresh in their minds. A Pat Fox point rescued Tipperary at Thurles (1-18 apiece) and the replay was fixed for Killarney, a replay Tipperary won after extra-time. Captain Richie Stakelum marked the occasion beautifully when declaring that 'The Famine is over'. Tipperary would go on to lose the subsequent All-Ireland semi-final to Galway, but a significant bridge had been crossed since Michael Keating’s men had won a first provincial title in 16 years.

1987 Tipperary 4-22 Cork 1-22: Ken Hogan (Lorrha), John Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg), Conor O’Donovan (Nenagh Éire Óg), Séamus Gibson (Kilruane MacDonagh’s), Richie Stakelum (Borris-Ileigh, captain), John Kennedy (Cashel King Cormacs), Paul Delaney (Roscrea), Colm Bonnar (Cashel King Cormacs), Pat Fitzelle (Cashel King Cormacs), Gerry Williams (Kilruane), Donie O’Connell (Killenaule), Aidan Ryan (Borris-Ileigh), Pat Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty), Bobby Ryan (Borris-Ileigh), Nicky English (Lattin-Cullen). Subs: Martin McGrath (Knockavilla Kickhams), Michael Doyle (Holycross-Ballycahill), Gerry Stapleton (Borris-Ileigh).


In 1987 the Tipperary hurlers had been forgiven for losing an All-Ireland semi-final to Galway given the celebrations which surrounded the Munster final win over Cork. Tipperary progressed to take their place in the 1988 All-Ireland final, but lost, once more, to Galway (1-15 to 0-14). Entering the 1989 season the pressure was on Tipperary to realise the potential of a team which featured Pat Fox, Cormac Bonnar and Nicky English on the inside line. En route to the semi-final Tipperary beat Limerick and Waterford well before taking aim at a Galway side who were chasing a third consecutive All-Ireland title (a side who must go down at the Tribesmen’s greatest-ever). The build-up to the game featured the suspension of Galway centre-back Tony Keady and the match itself featured a series of bad-tempered incidents, but Tipperary prevailed on a 1-17 to 2-11 scoreline with that man Pat Fox notching the key goal. Tipperary won the ensuing final against Antrim at their ease and although the 1990 campaign was poorly managed Tipp returned to a claim another All-Ireland title in 1991 - Tipperary’s Munster final replay win over Cork remains a highlight to this day, but the win over Galway in ‘89 marked a key event in the development of that side.

1989 Tipperary 1-17 Galway 2-11: Ken Hogan (Lorrha), John Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg), Conor O’Donovan (Nenagh Éire Óg), Noel Sheehy (Silvermines), Conal Bonnar (Cashel King Cormacs), Bobby Ryan (Borris-Ileigh, captain), Paul Delaney (Roscrea), Declan Carr (Holycross-Ballycahill), Declan Ryan (Clonoulty-Rossmore), Michael Cleary (Nenagh Éire Óg), Joe Hayes (Clonoulty-Rossmore), John Leahy (Mullinahone), Pat Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty), Cormac Bonnar (Cashel King Cormacs), Nicky English (Lattin-Cullen). Subs: Colm Bonnar (Cashel King Cormacs), John Kennedy (Clonoulty-Rossmore), John Cormack (Cashel King Cormacs).


Between 1958 and 1968 Tipperary reached eight All-Ireland finals and won five of them with what is regarded as the county’s greatest-ever team. Could it be argued that the 1964 final display represented that side’s greatest-ever performance? En route to the clash with Kilkenny Tipperary beat Clare (6-13 to 2-5) and Cork by 14 points, but entered the final as underdogs against the defending champions. Tipperary, however, were far too strong for Kilkenny on the day and won with 16 points to spare before collecting the county’s 20th title. Even now the players on that team represent a touch stone for supporters of the blue and gold. The side was led by Tony Wall from centre-back, featured John Doyle at corner-back, John O’Donoghue in goal, Mick Maher and Kieran Carey in the full-back line, Mick Burns and Michael Murphy at half-back and Mick Roche and Theo English in midfield while Jimmy Doyle, John McKenna, Michael Keating, Seán McLoughlin, Larry Kiely and Donie Nealon sparkled like gems up front. The fact that Borris-Ileigh’s Liam Devaney was only a sub in 1964 really illustrates the strength of the side.

1964 Tipperary 5-13 Kilkenny 2-8: John O’Donoghue (Arravale Rovers), John Doyle (Holycross), Mick Maher (Holycross), Kieran Carey (Roscrea), Mick Burns (Nenagh Éire Óg), Tony Wall (Thurles Sarsfields), Michael Murphy (Thurles Sarsfields), Mick Roche (Carrick Davins), Theo English (Marlfield), Jimmy Doyle (Thurles Sarsfields), Larry Kiely (Gortnahoe-Glengoole), Michael Keating (Ballybacon-Grange), Donie Nealon (Burgess), John ‘Mackey’ McKenna (Borrisokane), Seán McLoughlin (Thurles Sarsfields). Subs: Liam Devaney (Borris-Ileigh), Mick Lonergan (Moycarkey-Borris).


Once more Tipperary found themselves enduring a fallow period. Following a double defeat suffered at the hands of Clare in 1997 Tipperary turned to Nicky English for guidance in time for the 1999 campaign. Ger Loughnane’s Clare had set a new bar in terms of physical conditioning and English was determined to meet the challenge head on. Tipperary lost a Munster semi-final replay to Clare in ’99 by ten points, but came back to beat the Banner 2-19 to 1-14 in 2000 only to subsequently lose to both Cork and Galway. It all came together, however, for Tipperary in 2001 when English’s side progressed through the entire season (league and championship) unbeaten. The All-Ireland final win over Galway, Tipp’s first title in ten years, was celebrated handsomely, but the key win during that series of games was the 0-15 to 0-14 victory over Clare at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork. The match was tight and tense throughout and featured a signature moment for Eoin Kelly when the teenager’s appetite for the contest was tested by ferocious physical challenges posed to the Mullinahone man by Ollie Baker and Seánie McMahon. Kelly passed the test and Tipperary had found a new hero to celebrate.

2001 Tipperary 0-15 Clare 0-14: Brendan Cummins (Ballybacon-Grange), Thomas Costello (Cappawhite), Philip Maher (Borris-Ileigh), Paul Ormonde (Loughmore-Castleiney), John Carroll (Roscrea), Eamon Corcoran (JK Bracken’s), Paul Kelly (Mullinahone), Tommy Dunne (Toomevara, captain), Conor Gleeson (Boherlahan-Dualla), Mark O’Leary (Kilruane MacDonagh’s), Eddie Enright (Thurles Sarsfields), Brian O’Meara (Mullinahone), Eoin Kelly (Mullinahone), Declan Ryan (Clonoulty-Rossmore), Lar Corbett (Thurles Sarsfields). Subs: John Leahy (Mullinahone), Eugene O’Neill (Cappawhite), David Kennedy (Loughmore-Castleiney), Liam Cahill (Ballingarry).


In 2002 Tipperary lost the Munster final to Waterford and an All-Ireland semi-final to Kilkenny and re-emerged for the 2003 season without manager Nicky English - in his stead stood John Doyle. Tipp won seven of their eight league games before losing the final to Kilkenny (5-13 to 5-14). In the championship, however, Tipperary were walloped by Clare in the quarter-finals (0-14 to 2-17). Although the warning signals were flashing Tipperary re-grouped well to beat Laois, Galway and Offaly before facing the defending champions in an All-Ireland semi-final - that day a poorly-prepared Tipperary side were dealt out a severe beating (3-18 to 0-15) despite leading by two points at the break. That Tipperary collapse illustrated that a gap had opened up between the Premier and how a leading county like Kilkenny was preparing to win All-Irelands. Former County Board chairman John Costigan realised that the county stood at a crossroads: “Tipperary people looked into their souls in the middle of the last decade (2000s) and said something had to be done”. The 2003 game against Kilkenny would represent Tipperary’s final appearance in the last four for five years.

2003 Kilkenny 3-18 Tipperary 0-15: Brendan Cummins (Ballybacon-Grange), Thomas Costello (Cappawhite), Paul Curran (Mullinahone), Martin Maher (Borris-Ileigh), Eamon Corcoran (JK Bracken’s), Tommy Dunne (Toomevara), Paul Kelly (Mullinahone), Benny Dunne (Toomevara), Eddie Enright (Thurles Sarsfields), Mark O’Leary (Kilruane MacDonagh’s), Conor Gleeson (Boherlahan-Dualla), Brian O’Meara (Mullinahone), Eoin Kelly (Mullinahone), John Carroll (Roscrea), Lar Corbett (Thurles Sarsfields). Subs: Noel Morris (Loughmore-Castleiney), Paddy O’Brien (Toomevara), Brian Horgan (Knockavilla Kickhams), David Kennedy (Loughmore-Castleiney), Eoin Brislane (Toomevara).


Following the departure of Nicky English the appointment of subsequent managers John Doyle, Ken Hogan and Michael Keating had yielded reasonably little. The county was hurting and turned to Liam Sheedy who pieced together a top class management team which featured Cian O’Neill as physical trainer and Eamon O’Shea as visionary coach. The players wanted for nothing, the excuses were removed and Tipperary were put in a position to realise their collective potential. Tipperary gleamed a Waterford Crystal Cup, National League and Munster titles from the 2008 campaign before losing an All-Ireland semi-final to Waterford. In 2009 Tipperary made further progress when losing the All-Ireland final to Kilkenny in dramatic circumstances (0-23 to 2-22). In 2010, however, Tipperary were on a mission - Tipp shook off a shock opening round defeat suffered at the hands of Cork before beating Wexford, Offaly, Galway and Waterford en route to an All-Ireland final against a Kilkenny team who were chasing a fifth successive title. On an unforgettable day at Croke Park, Dublin Tipperary saw off the Kilkenny challenge - the sides were level early in the second half, but Tipperary finished like a train and were crowned All-Ireland champions for the first time in nine years.

2010 Tipperary 4-17 Kilkenny 1-18: Brendan Cummins (Ballybacon-Grange), Paddy Stapleton (Borris-Ileigh), Paul Curran (Mullinahone), Michael Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields), Declan Fanning (Killenaule), Conor O'Mahony (Newport), Pádraic Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Brendan Maher (Borris-Ileigh), Shane McGrath (Ballinahinch), Gearóid Ryan (Templederry), Patrick Maher (Lorrha), John O'Brien (Toomevara), Noel McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), Eoin Kelly (Mullinahone, captain), Lar Corbett (Thurles Sarsfields). Subs: Conor O'Brien (Éire Óg Annacarty), Séamus Callanan (Drom & Inch), Benny Dunne (Toomevara), David Young (Toomevara), Séamus Hennessy (Kilruane MacDonagh’s).


The inaugural All-Ireland hurling final was played on Easter Sunday 1888 against Galway. A supermarket is now located on the Railway Road, Birr smack bang on the site of the first All-Ireland hurling final at Hoare’s Field. It is terribly sad that the venue was not preserved. Just imagine the scene: on that Easter Sunday in 1888 42 hurlers stood in military formation on the roadway outside William Cunningham’s hotel and marched to Hoare’s Field while about 3,000 spectators turned up to watch the 1887 final (political wrangling had delayed the decider which was refereed by Patrick White). Early in the contest a Thurles player shipped an injury to the face and was forced to retire, but in a sporting gesture of real note Galway representatives Meelick elected to withdraw one of their players to even it up. Tipperary scored a point in the 11th minute and led by that narrow margin at the break. In second half Jim Stapleton found Tom Healy who buried the game-clinching goal. Jim Stapleton was afforded the captaincy on the day because Denis Maher and six others from the Killinan end of Thurles refused to play in a dispute over expenses.

1887 Tipperary 1-2 Galway 0-0: Martin ‘Mack’ McNamara, Mike Maher, Tom Maher, Tom Burke, Ger Dwyer, Ned Murphy, Edward Bowe, Jer Ryan, Tommy Healy, Pat Leahy, Tim Dwyer, Ned Lambe, John Leamy, John Mockler, Jim Stapleton (captain), Anthony Maher, Tom Stapleton, Dan Ryan, John Dunne, Mike Carroll & Tom Carroll (all Thurles).


Prior to the 1949 Munster championship the Rebels had exacted a firm grip on the provincial series winning five of the previous seven titles, but that all changed when Tipperary emerged with a new team, broke that stranglehold and progressed to win three successive All-Ireland titles. Tipp were drawn against Cork in the opening round and led 3-10 to 2-9 when Jack Lynch saved the Rebels and forced a replay which went down as a classic. Cork led the replay 1-5 to 0-5 with time running out, but Tipperary came with a later charge to win 2-8 to 1-9 after extra-time. Jimmy Kennedy sparked the revival while the contest is also famous for the creamery churn full of ice-cold water which was placed in the Tipperary dressing room and used to cool down and revitalise the Premier players. This Tipperary team helped to re-establish the county as a hurling giant. Indeed, Tipp went on beat Clare in the Munster semi-finals (1-15 to 1-7) and Limerick in the Munster final (1-16 to 2-10). A crowd of 67,000 attended the All-Ireland final in Croke Park, Dublin when Tipperary saw off Laois (3-11 to 0-3).

1949 Tipperary 2-8 Cork 1-9: Tony Reddan (Lorrha), Mickey Byrne (Thurles Sarsfields), Tony Brennan (Clonoulty), John Doyle (Holycross), Pat Stakelum (Holycross), Flor Coffey (Boherlahan-Dualla), Tommy Doyle (Thurles Sarsfields), Seán Kenny (Borris-Ileigh), Phil Shanahan (Toomevara), Tommy Ryan (Thurles Sarsfields), Mick Ryan (Dicksboro, Kilkenny), Jimmy Kennedy (Kiladangan), Jack Ryan (Roscrea), Martin ‘Sonny’ Maher (Boherlahan-Dualla), Séamus Bannon (St Mary’s Clonmel). Subs: Paddy Kenny (Borris-Ileigh).

To continue reading this article for FREE,
please kindly register and/or log in.

Registration is absolutely 100% FREE and will help us personalise your experience on our sites. You can also sign up to our carefully curated newsletter(s) to keep up to date with your latest local news!

Register / Login

Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.