Long way to Tipperary win but worth the wait

WITHIN minutes of the referee’s final whistle sounding from the Croke Park pitch, the cars were motoring around Liberty Square in Thurles with horns blaring, passengers shouting “up Tipp” out the windows and thoughts already turning to the team’s homecoming.

Arguably the most hyped final of them all had ended in a surprisingly comfortable win for Tipperary and the self-styled “home of hurling” was in carnival mood.

Fitting that the crucial goals should come from a native of Thurles, Lar Corbett, as his kith and kin looked on with pride.

“Not only did we beat them, we annihilated them,” one supporter in Hayes’s Hotel said with a tone of bewilderment.

Across the square in the County Bar, barman John Coman predicted a “manic” night tonight when the team and its entourage arrive home. Liberty Square was relatively quiet before the match, “because half of Thurles is up in Dublin,” he said.

That included proprietor Liam Kennedy, although he’s expected back in time for tonight’s celebrations in the town where the GAA was founded.

If you want to start an argument between a crowd of Tipperary supporters and a group from Kilkenny, ask them where exactly is the “home of hurling”.

Long claimed by Tipp, the title causes no little banter and niggle at times like this, particularly in border areas like Urlingford, Gortnahoe, Graigue-Ballycallan, Mullinahone, Ballingarry and more. Last night the debate had taken a decided swing back towards the premier county.

Tucked just inside the Kilkenny side is Urlingford, where a fair sprinkling of blue-and-gold bedecked fans watched the big game side by side with their cat-supporting neighbours.

Owner of the Urlingford Arms, Nicholas Healy, sporting a Kilkenny top, said he was glad to see Tipperary people coming along with their custom – despite the afternoon’s events. “We don’t mind that at all,” he laughed. “We let them come in now and again.”

One of his staff, Breda Hickey, from the Tipperary village of Gortnahoe, revealed that the bar was “a good Tipperary house as well” and that the banter between the two groups is always at its highest around match time between the teams. “The more the merrier. It’s a border area and there’s plenty of slagging.”

Kilkenny supporter Annette Grant was there with her son Liam, also a cat fan, although husband Willie is from the Tipperary side. “There’s always plenty of chat about it in the house around now.”

Margaret Hayes said that there was no argument about hurling’s origins. “Tipperary is the original home of hurling.”

Outside, Tipp-supporting Stephen Barnaville and John Kelly said “a gang from Gortnahoe” were responsible for painting blue-and-gold colours and “Up Tipp” on the Urlingford signs leading into the town. Another sign, on the Littleton road, predicted that “the drive for five ends here”.

And so it proved.


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