TJ Reid scored 15 times as Kilkenny won their first league title in four years with a convincing 2-23 to 2-17 victory over Tipperary at sunny Nowlan Park.
With 17,608 in attendance, Walter Walsh and Conor Fogarty netted for the winners in the second half as mercurial manager Brian Cody claimed his ninth league title as Black & Amber boss. Considering the negative talk that followed Kilkenny's shaky start to the league, this might be the most satisfying of the lot!
The Cats have now won 18 league crowns, moving within one of Tipp - for whom Jason Forde amassed 2-12 today - on the all-time Roll of Honour. They prevailed today without Colin Fennelly, Richie Hogan and Paul Murphy, while their opponents were without Seamus Callanan, Noel McGrath and Patrick Bonner Maher.
But, alongside the superb Reid, Walter Walsh and corner back Paddy Deegan were also outstanding for the winners, who will have a real pep in their collective step heading into the summer. They also have a trip to Australia to look forward to in November as the reward for today's impressive victory.
A return of 1-6 from Forde had Tipp ahead by two points, 1-10 to 0-11, at the end of an intriguing first half that improved as it went on. But the hosts took complete control when the action resumed, with the visitors managing just one second-half point from play as they lost in Kilkenny for the eighth time in a row.
The telling score of the opening period arrived in the 24th minute when Forde took a pass from John McGrath and drilled a bullet low to the net to propel Tipp into a 1-5 to 0-6 lead after the Cats had taken the lead for the first time through Reid's fifth point (free).
Forde opened the scoring in the third minute and followed up from a central free on the 65-metre line. Reid opened the Cats' account from a majestic sideline cut in the tenth minute and then tapped over a simple free after Willie Connors had replied - 0-3 to 0-2 in favour of Tipp after twelve minutes.
Forde swept over a soft free to make it double scores but Cats custodian Eoin Murphy nailed a long-range free following a foul on swashbuckling corner back Deegan before Reid tied the scores up at the midway stage in the first half, 0-4 apiece. Forde's tricky free edged the Premier back in front but Reid replied with a tremendous individual point from play and then slotted his fourth free.
There was a goal between them when Sean Curran pointed in the aftermath of Forde's major but Reid and Richie Leahy replied before McGrath and Reid - with a stunning score from play - traded scores; Forde's brace of frees ensured that his three-pointer still separated the sides with a minute left before the break, 1-9 to 0-9.
Kilkenny captain Cillian Buckley lifts the trophy at Croke Park
With the scores flowing freely as the first half reached its conclusion, Martin Keoghan and Seamus Kennedy traded scores before Reid banged over his third inspirational point from play (bringing his first-half tally to 0-8) to leave the deficit at a manageable two points as the short whistle sounded.
The Noresiders made a dream start to the second half when Walter Walsh sprinted through to smash the sliothar to the net inside 20 seconds of the restart, but Tipp were quickly back level through McGrath and Forde (free) after a Reid free had doubled the Cats' lead.
John Donnelly and Reid (free) pointed for the hosts and Eoin Murphy executed a magnificent diving save in between, getting down low to his left to deny half-time substitute John O'Dwyer, before Reid and Donnelly both struck again to make it 1-15 to 1-12. Reid (free) stroked over the Cats' fourth successive point and then traded frees with Forde as the home side led by four with 48 minutes played, 1-17 to 1-13.
A soft Reid free extended the gap to five and substitute Liam Blanchfield quickly cancelled out a Forde free before Reid hammered over his next point from another free to leave six between the teams at the three-quarters stage, 1-20 to 1-14.
Reid (free) brought his tally to 0-15 before Forde ('65', free) took his up to 1-11. At the other end, Walsh won the ball and whipped it over the bar off his left hand side and quickly followed up with a nonchalant point from the right wing to make it 1-23 to 1-16 with an hour played.
Seven minutes from the end, after Forde chipped over a beautiful sideline cut, substitute Fogarty ran in from the right and blasted a rasper past Daragh Mooney to the middle of the net - 2-23 to 1-17 and nine between them.
At the other end, a Forde free on 65 minutes trickled over the line after being half-blocked by the Kilkenny defence but the Noesiders remained six to the good and were not going to be denied. Not bad for a team in transition!
Kilkenny - E Murphy (0-1f); J Holden, P Walsh, P Deegan; C Delaney, C Buckley, E Morrissey; R Leahy (0-1), J Maher; M Keoghan (0-1), TJ Reid (0-15, 11f, 1sl), J Donnelly (0-2); A Murphy, W Walsh (1-2), B Sheehan. Subs: L Blanchfield (0-1) for A Murphy, L Scanlon for B Sheehan, C Fogarty (1-0) for R Leahy, C Martin for J Donnelly.
Tipperary - D Mooney; A Flynn, J Barry, M Cahill; B Heffernan, R Maher, P Maher; B Maher, S Kennedy (0-1); S Curran (0-1), B McCarthy, J McGrath (0-2); W Connors (0-1), J Forde (2-12, 1-9f, 0-1'65, 0-1sl), M Breen. Subs: J O'Dwyer for M Breen, C Barrett for S Kennedy, M Russell for S Curran, D Maher for J Barry.
Referee - A Kelly.