Galway and Kilkenny fans fire opening shots ahead of All Ireland final

Kilkenny Elvis Myles Kavanagh and his grandson Preslie Kavanagh, aged 8 months, pictured in Kilkenny ahead of this weekend's All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final between Kilkenny and Galway

We all know of folk who keep their Christmas decorations up all year round, to save on the hassle of taking them down. In Kilkenny, they may as well leave their black-and-amber colours on the streets, windows and telegraph poles on a continuous basis because come September (Sept-amber?) it’s likely they’ll be needed.

This year is no different, with the Cats on countdown to their 15th All-Ireland final in 17 seasons — not counting two replays — and those hats, flags and headbands called into duty yet again.

Not since the BC era (Before Cody) have Kilkenny missed out on the treasured September Sunday two years in a row and it’s not happening in 2015 either.

They may well be used to success, thanks to an unprecedented period at the top, but the fans’ appetite for the big day shows no sign of being sated.

In Thomastown, for example, Séamus Quigley has been gathering mannequins and dressing them in the Kilkenny colours for several years now, siting them at various points around the streets to ensure plenty of colour.

Galway and Kilkenny fans fire opening shots ahead of All Ireland final

TJ Reid

“It started from the time when John Power [from Callan] was hurling with Kilkenny,” he recalls. “I know John well and in the local pub I would have had a figure of John. From there it grew and grew and Kilkenny grew so successful in the last decade and even before that… It creates a great buzz and people stand in and take selfies. It goes all over the world. Thomastown is on the map.”

On St Thomas’s Square, veteran Elvis impersonator Myles Kavanagh has a new addition to his Kilkenny-mad family this year — grandson Preslie Kavanagh, son of Myles Jr and Amanda.

Myles’s front garden is covered in posters, slogans, and flags, including a cut-out of Canadian pop star Justin Bieber wearing a Kilkenny jersey, and a message wishing “best of luck to Cody from Elvis and Priscilla” whose provenance must be in question.

The dogs, Elvis and Chico, even have their own black and amber coats.

“It’s all a bit of fun,” Myles says, standing in front of signs for Graceland, Lonely Street, and the Heartbreak Hotel.

Galway and Kilkenny fans fire opening shots ahead of All Ireland final

Galway’s Joe Canning

On the other side of the tie, in Galway, there’s a holy dilemma for lifelong hurling fan Martin Drennan. Originally from Kilkenny , he has just completed 10 years as Bishop of Galway.

No matter what the result, he’ll have a smile on his face at the final whistle.

While his heart is still deeply embedded in his native county, he admits that nobody would begrudge Galway the victory craved in the West — and in much of the rest of the country.

Galway and Kilkenny fans fire opening shots ahead of All Ireland final

Kathleen Keighrey, aged 87, ready for the trip to Dublin for the match

“I think that, after beating Tipperary, especially the way that they did, Galway deserve an All Ireland,” says Bishop Drennan.

“Kilkenny will be favourites, I would expect, but Galway played great in the semi-final to come back as they did, three times.

“Of course I was watching it and the better team won. They should have won by more.”

A native of Piltown, he played club and colleges hurling in Kilkenny and has been a regular supporter at their big matches down through the years.

He served as curate in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, and in Ballycallan throughout the 1980s. He was appointed Bishop of Galway in July 2005.

He is hoping to get a ticket for the big match and admits that even Kilkenny people will admit that most neutral fans will want Galway to win this one.

“You have to stand back and look at what is best for the game,” says Bishop Drennan. “Kilkenny wouldn’t begrudge Galway an All-Ireland — there isn’t the same rivalry there as there is between Kilkenny and Tipperary.

“I have followed Kilkenny all my life and of course want to see them win but I will be just as delighted if Galway win.”

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