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Thu 03-Sep-2009 7:48
More from this writer..
A result 50 years in the making
Emmet Moloney writes for the
'The Irish Farmers Journal'
and is a former sports columnist with 'The Kerryman'.
It’s been half a century since an All-Ireland hurling final ended with the two teams level on the scoreboard. Emmet Moloney has his money on this one needing a replay...
This match has draw written all over it. Bear with me here. First and foremost, there hasn’t been a draw in an All-Ireland hurling final since 1959. That’s far too long. On the law of averages, we are long overdue one.
Just take a look at the statistics. A goal in hurling is a puck of the ball, three points in a blink of an eye. Keeping this is in mind, since Kilkenny and Waterford drew 5-5 to 1-17 back in 1959, there has been just a puck of the ball between teams in the All-Ireland finals of 1961, ’62, ’63, ’68, ’71, ’77, ’80, ’81, ’83, ’85, ’90, ’95, ’96, ’97, ’99, 2001, 2003 and 2006. That’s a lot of games with no referee deciding we’ll have another day out. Eighteen matches that only needed a late goal or a point.
The GAA could do with the extra few quid that would bring in, too, because Sunday’s final might not be sold out. Of course a referee never goes out with the intention of delivering a drawn game but if there’s another minute that could be played, a 50-50 free to level it, a couple of controversial decisions preceding it – you know what I’m talking about. Refs are human and now and again a draw can be the right result.
We’d take it on Sunday. We’d take it because we have the makings of a classic All-Ireland final. Tipperary are the young guns on the way up and Kilkenny are top dog, but they can’t stay perched on top forever. Ultimately I fancy Tipp to take over the Cats’ mantle, but they might need a second bite of the cherry.
This game has parallels with many previous contests between GAA giants. The last great three-in-a-row hurling team, Cork of 1976-’78, were felled by a knocking-on-the-door Connolly-led Galway in 1979. That Cork team was ambushed in the rain in a semi-final. Like most great teams about to check out, they didn’t get back to the final. The marvellous Kerry footballers of 1975-’86 were eventually killed off by Cork in a Munster final in 1987. After a replay. (Back in those days when you beat Kerry and they stayed beaten!)
This Kilkenny outfit can be mentioned in the same breath as those two teams of the past. All sides are stacked with hall-of-fame legends and all three won All-Ireland medals with regularity. Right now, though, Kilkenny are much younger than either of those sides when the end came.
But of course age in these circumstances isn’t always measured in the legs. The real slippage comes between the ears. Anyone else but Tipperary and the Kilkenny public would be printing the four-in-a-row T-shirts and be listening to desperate songs proclaiming the same. But Tipperary concentrates the minds. The only thing missing in their recent hat-trick of titles is their neighbours' scalp. True immortality comes with victory on Sunday. That’s a good and a bad thing for the Cats.
There’s a bit of pressure that wasn’t there when Limerick and Waterford arrived in Dublin and didn’t perform these last two years. Tipp head for Croker with 70-odd minutes of serious hurling under their belts. That came in the league final against the Cats in Thurles and both teams laid down markers that day. Kilkenny showed they still had the necessary bottle and Tipp let the Cats know they are back on the scene. There was hitting and commitment a bit beyond hurling at that time of the year. The whole country proclaimed them as the best two in the land. We have been waiting for Sunday ever since.
The last championship match that Kilkenny lost was in 2005 when everything that could go wrong did go wrong for them in a thrilling All-Ireland semi-final. It was a freakish game that saw them score 4-18 and not win. Galway were magnificent that day but had the slice of luck you always need to win games like that. The Cats haven’t ever looked like losing a championship game since.
Maybe this is where the invincibility comes from. We’ve forgotten that they have lost before. Are our memories so short that we can’t remember Cork of 2004? Wexford of 2004? Galway of 2001? Kilkenny were the favourites going into all of those games under Brian Cody but lost. So, why the draw this time?
There is little between the sides and I can see Tipperary starting well and scoring plenty. In their last three championship matches, they have notched up 3-18, 4-14 and 6-19. Their forwards are the best the Cats have met to date and they will score. When they get their time on top, they really make it pay. Add to that the fact that Eoin Kelly is due a big game and in Noel McGrath we are witnessing the arrival of something special. Throw in the cuteness and clinical nature of Lar Corbett and this is a serious line closest to goal.
I see Tipp leading for most of the match. Then the fun will start because the Black and Amber will never fully go away. At the business end, the Premier will naturally falter a little as the line beckons. Teams that haven’t won an All-Ireland together usually stumble a bit here. Kilkenny will have their purple patch and this game goes to the wire. With things so tight, the draw will appeal to all.
Picture the scene: Tipp up by 3-16 to 1-15 with eight minutes to go. Eddie works an opening and Richie buries it. Tommy storms up the field and lands a white flag. Henry shoots a free. Willie Ryan stops the rot with a point but the Cats get another one from the puck out. And then another one. With time almost up, Cha catches and drives over the half-way line. He’s held up and the ref gives the free. One of those frees that isn’t given early in the match. Time is almost up. Henry nonchalantly arrows it over from 75 yards out.
We’re level at something like 3-17 to 2-20. Referee Diarmuid Kirwan looks at his watch and decides we don’t need the remaining minute of injury time. The crowd applauds them all off the field. No-one complains. Both managers and teams welcome the chance of “another day out”. We come back in a week or two. The coffers get a much needed boost. No-one starves this winter and Paddy Power starts paying my mortgage.
And then Tipp win the replay.
To catch Emmet's latest column, get
'The Irish Farmers' Journal'
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