Lar not guilty as charged

Ned Kelly, the Irish-Australian folk hero, was a man who robbed, pillaged and murdered his way through life.

Ned’s father, Ned ‘Red’ Kelly, a Tipperary man, was dispatched to Australia on a convict ship in 1841 after stealing two pigs! Had old ‘Red’ never stolen those pigs, one wonders would his descendants have gone on to represent the Premier county on the battle field that is inter-county hurling.

Watching proceedings last Sunday, you get the sense they would have been drawn to such a militant response such would be their genetic disposition.

Going by how Lar Corbett has been treated in the aftermath of last Sunday’s defeat to Kilkenny, he is lucky that we live in more lenient times than were the 1840s.

You’d swear Lar has committed an act of treason, such has been the level of rebuke from Tipperary people. His charge? Attempting to implement a tactic to minimise the impact of one of, if not the, greatest wing-backs the game of hurling has ever seen.

I met Lar last November, when en route to Cork for my stag. He was good enough to entertain us for a couple of hours in his bar in Thurles. Thinking back we were lucky to make it to Cork at all.

As a fellow inter-county player I do have a great deal of empathy with Lar and what he has had to endure over the past week.

Albeit to a much lesser extent, I have also suffered at the hands of the keyboard trolls and got hauled over the coals on national airwaves. It was not a nice experience.

I can only imagine what kind of a week the 2010 Hurler of the Year put in.

From a purely tactical point of view I’ll attempt to throw my own neutral slant on last weekend’s events.

After holding him scoreless in last year’s All-Ireland final, many going into last weekend’s match knew Jackie Tyrell had Lar Corbett’s number. Brian Cody knew it. Jackie Tyrell knew it. Declan Ryan knew it and, more importantly, Lar probably knew it.

Only the Kilkenny camp wanted that match up again. Similarly, Tommy Walsh had a massive influence on proceedings last September, repeatedly feeding Henry Shefflin with devastating effect. Tipperary certainly didn’t want that to happen again.

Freeing Corbett from Tyrell’s grip to minimise Walsh’s influence was the call made by the Tipperary management. Possibly they also believed Lar, with little hurling under his belt in 2012, could contribute more in this regard than through his traditional role that Kilkenny negate last year.

At halfway everything was going to plan from a Tipperary perspective. Walsh and Shefflin were having a marginal influence on proceedings and Tipperary were a point up. But against a team like Kilkenny, holding two of the all-time greats of hurling just isn’t enough, and before Tipperary knew it they had been filleted by some of the lesser decorated Cats.

For whatever reason, GAA players are judged by a much higher standard than any other sportspeople in this country. Unfortunately, many modern day commentators and pundits, in both football and hurling, are far too busy trying to get themselves heard by opting for the extreme and controversial, rather than simply analysing the game for what it is.

However, unlike our professional counterparts, we have to go to work on a Monday morning and hear the media’s offerings regurgitated by supporters whose opinions are largely driven by what they hear on the radio and read in the papers. And we are expected to listen don’t you know.

They did after all pay the entrance fee!

In the last few months we have sang and applauded a hapless international soccer team as they were humiliated by their international peers.

We also held an Olympic homecoming to celebrate many athletes who, other than our pugilists, achieved nothing more on an international stage than to prove that we are not at the races when it comes to certain sports.

All of the above are either professional or well funded by the state through generous grant aid.

Yet when our amateur inter-county players fail to perform to the highest level every time they take the field, they are frequently lambasted by the media and barstool experts across the country.

Far from singing verses of The Mighty Blue and Gold as their team went down to the greatest hurling team of all time, Tipp supporters couldn’t get to the airwaves and keyboards quick enough to vent their anger.

Our national broadcasters suitably indulged these trolls. I wonder did many of these same people take pride in the Fields of Athenry being sang by the Irish soccer fans earlier this summer as Ireland were being humiliated by Spain, a team of equal stature to Kilkenny in their respective code.

Hindsight is no sight, and had Tipperary lined out the same way as they did last year there is a good chance the outcome would have been similar.

After suffering a week of abuse from all directions, Lar felt compelled - through his weekly column - to apologise for his actions. What in God’s name has he to be sorry for?

Be they supporters, past players or pundits, any Tipperary people who contributed to making Lar feel the need apologise for his performance last weekend should be ashamed of themselves.

With all the things that should be apologised for in this country, going out on the national stage to represent your county as best you can surely isn’t one of them.

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Saturday, January 23, 2021

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