At around 4.15am yesterday morning, some boy-racer thought the Ennis-Kilrush road was Siverstone or Mondello Park. The car started doing donuts, the screeching tyres laying assault to my eardrums. I had to be up at 6.30 anyway to meet the Limerick minor bus at 8 but that was my night’s sleep done and dusted.
I started walking around the house. I let out the dog, who was never outside that early in her life. She was nearly looking at me as if to say, ‘What are you calling me for this at this ungodly hour?
It was a long day, a hard day put down with defeat for the minors but I was desperately proud of the boys.
They gave it everything. They really showed what they were made off. Nerves might have got the better of a few lads but we were in a great position at half-time.
I thought we would win the match but the goal Tipp got shortly afterwards was the murdering score.
There is great hope there with this group. Thirteen of them are underage next year. We tried to stay as positive as we could afterwards. I said my few words, put on my suit and headed up to the corporate area where I was doing some work for Eir.
Of course I had no ticket. I had my Limerick gear-bag thrown over my shoulder but some steward wasn’t letting me pass.
I said to him, ‘Did we not fill this place a few times? I wasn’t being arrogant but you feel in some ways let down by that attitude where the people who provide the entertainment are often the least respected.
‘I hardly have a three-piece suit and a Limerick gearbag for the craic,’ I said to your man.
I eventually got through after some intervention from someone else but your man’s stubbornness and refusal to budge was almost a metaphor for Tipp’s attitude yesterday; no way through; no yielding; no surrender.
The senior final was an epic game. Nine points in the end may seem like a hiding but it was an appropriate scoreline that reflected Tipp’s dominance in the match.
Ever since I saw Tipp in Cusack Park in the league quarter-final in early April, I felt that it would be their year. They didn’t win that day against Clare but there was something different about them which has been reflected in their play and body language all year.
I felt that the Galway game would be the tricky one. I know it’s easy to say now but I was more confident of them winning yesterday than I was before the semi-final.
Tipperary should have been way further ahead at half-time. It says it all when you lose by nine points and your goalkeeper, Eoin Murphy, is your best player.
It wasn’t Brian Cody’s finest hour on the sideline.
Maybe Kilkenny don’t have players to come on but they brought on a midfielder and a centre-back. Kieran Joyce’s withdrawal was a strange one. He had hardly given ‘Bonner’ Maher a puck of the ball all afternoon. To me, all their problems were in the full-back line.
And Kilkenny had no answers.
Nobody can argue with Brian Cody. He is the greatest manager in the history of the GAA. He has no equals but it’s a bit of comfort for the likes of me, who had so many bad days on the sideline, when Cody has a day as bad as he had.
Not to bring on a substitute until the 59th minute didn’t make any sense when Kilkenny were under as much pressure as they were throughout the match. It was amazing.
Kilkenny are so used to having that four-week run-in to the final but the Waterford replay seemed to have taken so much out of them, especially the injury to Michael Fennelly.
Tipp went into the match in the ideal way after so many of their players struggled against Galway. It may have been Galway’s day yesterday if they were there but would they have coped with Kilkenny? You don’t know but there was never the same reason to doubt Tipp.
I’m glad too that they put this myth to bed that the Munster champions couldn’t win the All-Ireland through the front door.
They have come up against the greatest team of all time in the last ten years. There weren’t too many other sides able to stop that juggernaut. I was delighted for Mick Ryan because I thought he managed the team superbly this year.
He picked good guys with him in his backroom team, John Madden and Conor Stakelum. He kept Declan Fanning on board. The easy thing to do would have been to make a complete clear-out but he went with his instincts and it paid off.
I always felt that Tipp were winning games this year that they wouldn’t have done under Eamon O’Shea.
But I thought we saw some of the best of Eamon yesterday too in how Tipp played. We saw traits of Liam Sheedy too yesterday. It all came together. Tipp’s response to the goal was devastating. It is what champions are made off.
The four successive points they got after the Kilkenny uppercut was the perfect response.
Everyone around us felt the same after Kevin Kelly’s goal. ‘Ah, here we go again.’ Tipp didn’t. Their attitude was: ‘No it isn’t. Not this time.’
Seamus Callanan, John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer and John McGrath just went to town on the Kilkenny full-back line, which they had been riddling all day.
I don’t know if it’s the end of an era, or a changing of the guard. Kilkenny are such a hurling county with such a rich tradition that they will always produce players.
They will come up with something but there must be real hope for the likes of Galway and Dublin, even Wexford, facing into Leinster next year.
They must believe that their stranglehold can be broken. Not everyone has Seamie Callanan and ‘Bubbles’ but Kilkenny don’t look as impregnable now as they used to.
The aura has definitely dimmed a little after yesterday.
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