The 2012 All-Ireland Hurling Championship proved yet again why the sport commands such presence in Irish hearts and minds.
In a year that saw Tipperary win their 40th Munster title, Galway win their first ever Leinster title and a record 34th All-Ireland title for Kilkenny we were left in no doubt that this is one of the greatest team sports in the world.
From the off there were thrills and spills, fantastic points, goals and plenty of talking points.
Leinster Senior Hurling Championship
In the Senior Hurling Championship first up was Leinster, where Galway met Kilkenny in the first of three Championship clashes this season.
Galway had negotiated their way to the final via a comprehensive win over Offaly whilst Kilkenny disposed of Dublin surprisingly easily.
The final on July 8th produced a historic moment as Fergal Moore captained a Galway side to their first ever Leinster Championship.
Galway’s historic win was most definitely helped by a possessed display from forward Joe Canning as the Tribesmen ran out 10-point winners over a team they would see again twice in the Championship.
Munster Senior Hurling Championship
In Munster Tipperary had to play three games to retain their crown as a quarter-final win over Limerick was followed by a win over Cork in a game of the year contender.
Waterford made their fourth Munster final in four years with a semi-final win over Clare and whilst they produced a better display than the year before they were still found wanting as Tipp secured a 40th Munster title.
A polished scoring display from John O’Brien was helped by an energetic Padraic Maher as Tipperary rolled along nicely, securing an All-Ireland semi-final spot in the process.
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship
Following the senior provincial championships it was time for the All-Ireland to get under way and despite coming through three qualifiers Limerick drew the short straw as Kilkenny ended their Liam McCarthy hopes courtesy of an emphatic win in July.
The other quarter-final saw Cork beat a Waterford team still reeling from defeat in Munster as a close game in Thurles was decided by a Jamie Coughlan goal.
The semi-finals were strange affairs as first Galway saw off a strong Cork challenge courtesy of another vibrant display from their talisman Canning although Cork were well in the game for large periods.
The second semi-final saw something of a sideshow as Tipperary forward Lar Corbett became entangled in a game of cat and mouse with his opposite number Tommy Walsh.
It seemed Corbett’s plan was to try and reel the already booked Walsh into reacting and thus getting sent off, however Walsh held his discipline as his Kilkenny team-mates won by a huge 18 points.
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Final
The final between Galway and Kilkenny on the 9th September was billed as a huge match-up, a clash between young pretender Joe Canning and established star Henry Shefflin.
Both players produced heroics for their county as Shefflin’s twelve points were equalled by Canning’s haul of nine points and a goal as the match ended a draw for the first time in 53 years.
In the replay there was little to separate either star player as both recorded nine points each, however it was Kilkenny’s clinical forward-line that did the damage as Richie Power, Colin Fennelly and Walter Walsh all scored points, including three goals.
Galway also scored three goals but the burden on Canning was too much as only four other Galway players scored, compared to Kilkenny’s nine other scorers along with Shefflin.
Kilkenny won their 34th All-Ireland in style this season, coming back from a humiliating defeat in Leinster to win the Liam McCarthy Cup by an 11-point margin.
Kilkenny’s Henry Shefflin won a record ninth All-Ireland as a player and also ended the season as the top scorer in the Championship with a lofty haul of 3-56.
2012 Hurling Championships – Winners