Predictably the coolest of men on the hottest of days. Planned for a 20-man game and executed it superbly. In the process Limerick demonstrated that Division 1B hurling need be no more than a state of mind, with their tally of four wides speaking volumes about the lucidity of their decision-making. Now that they’ve broken the glass in the ceiling, new vistas open up before them: Munster titles not only in this anniversary year but in the coming years (and in their wilder dreams, if Kilkenny had the decency to just shag off, All-Irelands too). Some underdog victories hinge on abstruse tactical masterstrokes. Some, like last Sunday’s, are founded on virtues no more exotic than old-fashioned determination and hunger. With Limerick involved, the Munster final will be more than a fixture. It’ll be an event. We have a championship and it has a pulse.
After last August’s hideousness the minimum requirement for the Tipperary players on Sunday was to die for the county, for the jersey, for the supporters. In the event they just died. Two points in the last 20 minutes against Kilkenny in Croke Park, one point in the last 20 minutes here. More and more the Tipp forward line resembles a boating crew where everyone can row but only one of them ever does the rowing for an extra man. They’ll still make the All-Ireland quarter-final in their sleep. Yet the manager is faced with a plethora of questions. Can he stick with his utopia of a passing game or does the intrusion of reality now demand the imposition of more ball-winners up front? How many of his forwards, Bonner Maher apart, can he truly trust? If Eoin Kelly is to be employed, why not from the start? And should O’Shea go the whole hog and set about reconstructing the team with a view to winning the 2014 All-Ireland? After the senior and U21 triumphs of September 2010 Tipp stood poised as the new power in the land. The disappointing thing is not that they didn’t go on to emulate Kilkenny; it's that they’ve never come remotely close.
Prepared Offaly to do a job and they did it manfully. The spirit was right, the gameplan was right and at half-time the contest was still a going concern, which was as much as could have been asked of them. That they ran out of petrol in the second half was no cause for shame. But now comes the hard part: Repeating the trick.
He’s back and he wasn’t given any reason for a relapse in Tullamore. He’ll have been pleased with the 0-26 scored and, Kilkenny’s continuing vulnerability under the high ball notwithstanding, he won’t have been dissatisfied with the four goals conceded; they furnished him with a handy stick to deploy in training this week. Incidentally, what’s with the snowballing notion that this will be Cody’s last year? Has it occurred to anyone to wonder how the man proposes to occupy himself when he steps down as a school principal, how he intends to avoid dying of boredom? There’s one very obvious way, and it’s the same thing he’s been doing for the past 14 years. Here’s a prediction you can write down and use in evidence against me: health naturally permitting, the man will still be managing Kilkenny in five years’ time. It is in him. It is him.
How potent, Noël Coward once mused, is cheap music. By a similar token, how compulsive is bad but enthusiastic hurling. Last Saturday’s action from Wexford Park was appalling stuff — and eminently watchable despite that, or perhaps because of it. The good news for licence payers of a nervous disposition is that tonight’s replay won’t be televised. The good news for Liam Dunne and Anthony Daly is the very fact of the replay. Last Saturday’s winners, had the game been won, would have been eaten without salt, pepper and any other condiment you care to name by Kilkenny next weekend. Tonight’s winners will have two outings behind them and a certain amount of momentum built up. They’ll need it.
Busy man and a brave and articulate one. He may be more of an athlete than a hurler but he went straight for the jugular when introduced seven days ago and could easily have ended up with 1-1 beside his name. Whatever mind games tickle Liam Dunne’s fancy tonight, he has to start Chin.
Floated the idea of an all-Ulster team on the Sunday Game and the ripples were felt for days afterwards (true, the suggestion had appeared in print before but, dismayingly for those of us with laptops, the pen is far less mighty than the word on Sunday night TV). Obviously logistics, county pride and a hundred other reasons may combine to prevent an Ulster XV ever participating in the championship, but at least Cusack started a reasoned debate — all too rare in hurling — and let a breeze in through the windows. That wasn’t his only fine moment last Sunday. The best pundits take you behind the curtain, clarifying and demystifying as they go.
So it was with Cusack’s analysis of the defensive mix-up that led to Offaly’s fourth goal. When a high ball dropped into the square, he revealed, he always called to his defender to take care of the forward in order to leave me a clear line of sight. Obvious when it’s explained as clearly as that. Except it rarely is. Whatever RTÉ are paying this man they should double it.