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My Favourite Game: Classic meeting of two hurling giants in 2014 was simply a great day to be alive

2014 All-Ireland SHC drawn final, September 7, Croke Park.

Tipperary 1-28 Kilkenny 3-22

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With 70:55 showing and a scoreline of Kilkenny 3-22 to Tipperary 1-28 in the 2014 All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park, John O'Dwyer (12) takes a late free for Tipperary. Hawkeye later indicated it had gone wide.

With 70:55 showing and a scoreline of Kilkenny 3-22 to Tipperary 1-28 in the 2014 All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park, John O'Dwyer (12) takes a late free for Tipperary. Hawkeye later indicated it had gone wide.

SPORTSFILE

With 70:55 showing and a scoreline of Kilkenny 3-22 to Tipperary 1-28 in the 2014 All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park, John O'Dwyer (12) takes a late free for Tipperary. Hawkeye later indicated it had gone wide.

It felt more sorcery than sport at times, a game racing away on ungovernable paths and unlearnable lines.

So many elegantly-strung scores (54 in all) and passages of play spreading magic across the grass.

Hurling was the only legitimate game of my Nenagh childhood, a childhood unduly choreographed by Christian Brothers inclined to warn against the folly of contamination from foreign games.

Maybe we should have hated hurling then for the prescriptive way it was sold to us, yet the polar opposite applied.

On a personal level, only great, humanitarian gestures tended to get me game-time when it mattered, yet the music of the game still seeped into me through those dim and distant days.

And, across 40 years of sports-writing since, nothing I've witnessed would surpass the symphony of Sunday, September 7, 2014.

Perhaps the finest compliment you could pay is to say that it flew beyond the remarkable two-part thriller of Clare-Cork the year before.

After 53 years without a drawn All-Ireland hurling final, this was the third September stalemate in a row, highlighting the intensity of an era in which so many seemed separated by so little.

Kilkenny-Tipperary was almost always a game of inches through this epic stretch, yet one shaped for history by the Cats' ability to prevail.

They would do so again in the replay, of course, a more attrition-laced, traffic-jammed encounter, played out largely on the kind of terms Brian Cody has always believed separates the ravenous from the hungry.

In cold terms then, that moment 'Hawk-Eye' declared John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer's 93-metre injury-time free to have tailed a millimetre wide of the Canal-end post, the arithmetic of this rivalry hardened like concrete around Tipp's shoes.

Three weeks later, Cody could pride himself on having won every big-day contest against the Premier as Kilkenny manager bar that 2010 final.

Both he and Henry Shefflin were about to collect their 10th senior All-Irelands in unison then, a haul that Tipp would have to go back to 1958 to match. This rivalry had become the story of damage.

So the drawn game signalled no epochal ground-shift, no flaring revolution. On the contrary, Kilkenny would win again in 2015, their eighth title in nine years. They were insatiable.

But I doubt sport (never mind just hurling) was ever pitched to a higher realm than that which entranced those of us lucky enough to be in Croke Park that first day.

It was the highest-scoring 70-minute final in history; Kilkenny not spilling a single wide during a second half played out with almost wild abandon. And Tipp? They leaked just three all day.

A stand-out memory?

For me, a period deep in the third quarter when the murderous elegance of Tipp's movement looked certain to swamp Cody's men. In one three-minute pocket, Lar Corbett ran down their throats, snapping a shot against the angle of post and crossbar; Seamus Callanan had an effort burgled off the goal-line by Eoin Murphy and Joey Holden; then Gearóid Ryan settled for a point with the Kilkenny net looming vast as Russia in front of him.

Three goal chances, a single point.

I have never seen a Tipp team look more unplayable than Eamon O'Shea's boys looked in that spell. Yet, they could not get Kilkenny to bend.

Murphy made a great save from Patrick 'Bonner' Maher; Richie Hogan went to the '40' and began re-directing the flow of traffic; TJ was still TJ.

And, with three minutes of normal time remaining, Kilkenny were three points clear of a Tipp team for whom five of their six starting forwards had been playing as if to music.

It was uncanny.

Accordingly, across the stands confirmation of an old cliché was already being ventilated, the one about 'flaky' Tipp, about threadbare character and cut-glass nerves and, inevitably, the choke-hold Kilkenny now had them in.

And that's when they found something. That's when they came charging again with the last three points of the day to set up that historic watershed of the result of an All-Ireland final being decided electronically.

Three weeks later, Tipp would endure a 10th defeat of their last 11 collisions with Cody.

But there's a beautiful picture of that moment - everyone waiting for 'Hawkeye' - that, for me, will always fly beyond what became the hard arithmetic of 2014.

It is of O'Shea standing on the line next to linesman Brian Gavin - the two of them looking up - and a smile creasing the Tipp manager's face that spoke for every one of us.

A smile that sang 'What a great day to be alive!'

And it was.

We've been asking our writers to detail the one sporting occasion that stands out in their memories and why is still means so much