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Wed 01-Sep-2010 12:00
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Hurling preview: ‘Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.’
In 1905, George Santayana, a Spanish-born philosopher and critic came up with the following words, ‘Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.’
Over the next few days all the media hype will revolve around the past, as Kilkenny strive to achieve what has never been achieved in history, while their challengers, Tipperary have a place in history of always being able to give the Cats a game. In the football a fortnight later, Cork will challenge history by attempting to become the first team ever to beat Down in an All Ireland final. That’s something for a couple of weeks’ time, but the moral of the story is that it is very difficult in any sport, in any era to beat history.
Kilkenny will not just be attempting to beat Tipperary. They will be attempting to overcome history. Kerry failed in 1982, and my ‘Kerry’s Golden Years’ DVD shows exactly why. They had one hand on the cup and a combination of panic, lack of focus and perhaps a little premature celebration set in.
‘Kings of September’
by Michael Foley, is one of many books gathering dust on my bookshelf, unopened due to lack of reading time, but I am led to believe it also gives an excellent insight into Kerry’s failure to defeat history in 1982. The similarities are so crazy, even down to the wounded warriors, for Henry Shefflin’s knee, read Pat Spillane’s knee. Some might recall
earlier this summer on the Tipperary vs. Cork game. The progressive step over a five-year period is almost identical. The same teams met in the football final in 1981 and 1982. The same teams meeting in the 2009 and 2010 hurling finals.
Henry Shefflin’s injury is a conundrum. Those of us who have suffered the injury can understand it more than anyone. In 1999, after an arthroscopy, a distraught Henry Martin received a sheet of headed paper from a specialist. The diagnosis was straightforward “Complete Mid Substance Rupture of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament”. This writer never had the reconstruction, gambling on the assessment of the specialist that those who are operated upon don’t necessarily return, though he strongly advised the operation. It is possible to play without the ligament, but it means that the main restriction is in how you land after you jump. Crucially, at least a dozen personal friends who had the operation never returned comfortably to even trivial activity such as five aside soccer let alone competitive GAA, soccer or rugby. Rugby is possible but presents the greatest a risk, with unexpected tackles on the legs from behind, but soccer and GAA are manageable. However, good or bad my performances have been since the injury, it would be overly simplistic to be blaming the knee for a lack of match winning headlines!!
We are led to believe that at the highest level, Kieran McGeeney and Enda Gormley amongst others played on after the injury and opted not to have the reconstruction. But playing on is not without its problems. A twenty minute cycle at the highest setting on the stationary bike in the gym is something that needs to be done as a preventative measure on a regular basis. The stronger the legs are, the more likely they are to withstand the unexpected. Weights can be done too, but cycling makes for faster recovery of the legs if there’s a game coming up. The knee can twist that little bit easier if you stop suddenly and the studs on your heel get caught in the ground. Landing after jumping into the air can cause it to twist. Consequently, your body has to learn to land on both feet, and you have to sacrifice height when you jump. When the knee gets a bad twist, the natural healing process took me at least three months to return to running unrestricted. Perhaps some of the components supporting the knee may have stretched, and that can take time to settle. But to be able to flex the knee though all normal motion without pain or even a pinch, would certainly take three months, and the pinch might not be gone by then. In my opinion, physio never do a lot to accelerate the recover, because while physio will improve mobility on the joint, it doesn’t kill the pain, and my knee needed its own time to be ready to absorb the shock of impact from the ground when running again. Everyone knows their own knee better than anyone.
Being part of a crowd of almost 10,000 people who watched Henry Shefflin participate in a twenty minute a side game last Wednesday night after the injury makes one think one of two things (a) The injury is not as bad as first feared or (b) A combination of medication, the intensive rehabilitation process and a high pain threshold made it impossible for him to return within seventeen days of the original injury. One suspects that he has a high pain threshold, because on both occasions when he left the field with the injury, he didn’t seem have the appearance of a man who had just been shot. Many who suffer the same injury, have drawn that comparison. His presence from the start in the All Ireland Final is a must. If he has to leave, a sub will slip in unnoticed to do the job. However, if he doesn’t start, it will be a huge psychological boost to Tipperary. Perhaps a Peter Canavan job. Start him, finish him, and hope he helps the team over the line. Kilkenny have coped with injuries in the past, though.
Meanwhile, while the nation ponders about Henry Shefflin, Tipperary train silently behind closed doors at Thurles. There isn’t a peep about Tipperary, and they are dangerous in that mode. They normally carry the favourites tag comfortably, but it’s anyone’s dream to be underdogs coming into an All Ireland final. But Kilkenny have been through the routine. They know how to do the business and they aren’t hiding from anyone. It’s not only their own fans who watch them in training, several people associated with Limerick hurling between ex-Limerick hurlers, current Limerick hurlers, current Limerick County board employees, current club coaches and current club players have attended Nowlan Park in the past couple of weeks. The Pallasgreen Under-14 team were taken down to Nowlan Park, welcomed and addressed by none other than Brian Cody. They don’t hide anything, they are too glad to assist others in the area of hurling improvement, and they aren’t afraid of the public coming to see them. It has worked for the past four years, closing the doors didn’t work in 2005.
Read page 15 of
by Martin Breheny for an explanation. Cody is actually a fly in the face of the coaches in other counties because he breaks all the rules. He doesn’t get paid. He allows 10,000 people from all over the land watch training. When every other county is decorating their pitches with cones that look like confetti to justify the knowledge of the well paid coaches with the fancy twangs, Cody has the Kilkenny lads timbering one another, and rugby tackling one another. Refusing to let their players play club games is another fault of many counties. If you are sub number 30 you might not play a match for half the year. In Kilkenny, the players are judged on their club performances. Counties have gone crazy spending money when the reality was that common sense cannot be bought. Hurling has always been a simple game and shall remain so. Cody is the proof of that.
Tipperary on, the other hand, have apparently locked the gates. If they win it will be seen as the best thing ever. If they lose, people will point to the successful Kilkenny formula. They pulled a rabbit out of the hat last year with their movement and will look to spring a surprise again in 2010. Kilkenny of 2009 appeared to moving with less zest than the 2010 version and that cannot be discounted but there isn’t a lot to go on in terms of form. The only real comparison is that Galway of 2009 who could and should have beaten Kilkenny, Galway of 2010 found the going tough.
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