Those truly ‘up for it’ will have final edge

It is one of the great inconveniences hindering daily newspapers; the inability to postpone our All-Ireland final verdicts until Up For The Match is over.

Those truly ‘up for it’ will have final edge

The previews might be already written, but it is not until the credits roll Saturday night that we start scribbling dockets.

There might be no great tactical analysis; we mightn’t hear much from the respective camps; but we learn enough.

Does Eddie Keher look rattled? Is that the same joke Joe Hayes told the year before, or has he something up his sleeve? Who has made the most convincing case to The Man Above?

In 2010, The Rattler Byrne stole the show and settled Tipp. The year before, Christy Heffernan pipped Joe Hayes for the Brain of GAA title, after some botched late quizmastering by Des Cahill as controversial as anything Diarmuid Kirwan came up with on the Sunday.

The savage hunger was evident in Christy’s reaction too. Cody knew they’d be grand.

Ordinarily, we have none of that to rely on when making our calls. But we are indebted, this year, to new channel Irish TV.

It’s for the diaspora, they tell us, but it’s there on Sky 191 or Freesat 400 or for any addicts at home who could watch the likes of Nationwide 24/7. And they were in the Horse and Jockey last night for an All-Ireland final preview Dream For Liam. Or Not Hit Off For The Match Yet.

Host Pierce O’Reilly — in the Cahill mould — was bullish about comparisons, carrying the fight as he introduced sidekick Fiona O’Sullivan. “Her first ever night doing live TV. Doesn’t she look better than Grainne Seoige?”

To reassure us that we were in very familiar territory, it was straight into a number called “Hats, Flags and Headbands” from Tipp band Rebel Hearts.

There were nervous flashbacks for Tipp followers when Declan Ryan told us he was sure Eamon O’Shea would have something up his sleeve for Sunday. No word, thankfully, on how Lar’s man-marking was coming on in training.

Deep in enemy territory, Michael Walsh was already fed up with this one being branded a clash of silk and steel. “We’d like to think Kilkenny have a bit of skill as well as the steel and ruthlessness. But if they see the jugular, they go for it. That’s been a hallmark of Brian Cody’s teams.”

He was in the right place to sell dummies, but Walsh was certain David Herity would start in his old role between the sticks.

The mind games have kicked off across the border this week but Tipp great Donie Nealon wasn’t engaging. Or maybe he was. “Barry Kelly will do a very good job. He’s fast, decisive, I wouldn’t worry one bit about Barry Kelly.”

Around the schools, where Tipp shaded it on enthusiasm levels, judging by a middling rendition of The Rose of Mooncoin from a gang of Kilkenny young lads — no doubt miffed to be detained from hurling.

Foster and Allen had another crack at it. Mick Foster traced his Tipp hurling heritage but explained why it skipped a generation. “If I got the belt of a camán on the accordion fingers, I’d have died with the hunger.”

Michael Kavanagh assured us JJ would mark Séamus Callanan, so we can take it that Jackie will be edge of square. More flashbacks for the locals. “If Lar is doing well, we might spring Tommy Walsh from the bench.”

An All-Ireland final would only be half-dressed it seems, without Michael Lowry and he got his say. And of course there were mammies. We heard that Paudie Maher’s mother blesses his gear bag before every training session. But Joe Hayes — without whom no event like this can take place — comfortably upped that ante, revealing a diet of tea laced with holy water during his All-Ireland build-ups.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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