Kilkenny gears up to welcome hurling heroes home




First Sunday in September and Kilkenny’s hurlers win the All-Ireland. Nothing to see here, move along, as you were.

Tonight they’ll welcome their heroes home as senior champions for the 36th time, with a scarcely-credible 11 of those titles coming in the last 16 seasons under the eye of the all-conquering Brian Cody.

Yesterday the party city that is Kilkenny partied again as has become customary this time of year, the cheers ringing louder and louder from the homes and hostelries as the second half wore on and the gap between the reigning kings and the young pretenders from Galway grew wider.

Only when Joe Canning hit an injury-time goal, to reduce the deficit to “just” four points, did any sort of hush descend on the black-and-amber-clothed-fans, but by then it was too late for the Galwegians, and the hush in Kilkenny was temporary.

Kilkenny gears up to welcome hurling heroes home

Kilkenny fan Caren Bergin celebrates after Kilkenny beat Galway at Croke Park yesterday.

In places like Langton’s, where the Set Theatre was a river of swaying Kilkenny colours which ebbed quietly during a worrisome (for the champions) first half but bubbled loudly as normal service was resumed after half-time; or Matt the Miller’s where the cat costume imported by owner Ray Brophy is getting plenty of use along with the large inflatable cat on the roof; or Lanigan’s which erupted upon the final whistle and where the throngs roared as they watched the cinema-sized screen when Joey Holden received the Liam McCarthy Cup, they’ve become used to it. It’s what they do.

But familiarity will never breed contempt for success, not here, where hurling is THE game and the supporters are only too aware of how lucky they are to have heroes who return September after September to the biggest stage of all.

“Fantastic,” was the immediate reaction of Karen Maher from Tullaroan upon the close of play as she watched with her friends in Lanigan’s bar. “We just do it year after year. It’s an amazing feeling. I knew they’d do it in the end.” Damien Brennan from Paulstown admitted he was a bit worried early on, “maybe at half-time,” but quickly realised he should never have doubted those Kilkenny stickmen up in Croke Park. “The second half was just brilliant.” Mick Moran was of similar mind. “I thought they had us at half-time. Our half-forwards and full-forwards were at nothing there. The second half was completely different. Unreal.”

Kilkenny gears up to welcome hurling heroes home

Kilkenny fan Laura Moore celebrates after Kilkenny secured the senior hurling final victory.

Forced to suck up the elation of everyone around her was Dawn Concannon, originally from Ballinasloe in Co Galway but living in Kilkenny. With her maroon and white wristband still on display, she forced a few smiles while those nearby roared with delight.

“It’s disappointing,” she reflected. “I said to the lads that Kilkenny always come back in the second half. They always do, and they did. It’s a pity, I feel sorry for the Galway players, they were so looking forward to it.” As the car horns beeped and the cheers continued to echo along the medieval streets of the marble city, thoughts started to turn to the homecoming and yet another chance to welcome Liam McCarthy for another year. After all, in Kilkenny, it’s what they do.


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