To gauge respect, in an instant, you are as well to rely on your ears.
Think of a trademark Federer backhand at Wimbledon. Dug out down the line. Or flicked crosscourt, planting an opponent helpless, on his way to the net.
As a gasp swells to a roar and into prolonged hooting and ostentatious bellows of laughter, there is recognition both of the moment’s improbability and the precedent of a thousand other backhands.
In the BBC gantry, they’ll have seen enough of them to delay the knowing chuckle a beat, to let applause thin.
“Ho ho ho ho…. oh, come on!”
With Brian Cody’s Kilkenny, we need fresh measures of standards set. Who’s counting any more? At this stage, totting up is to pull out a calculator during a dinner date.
Alright, you old romantics. Eleven All-Irelands. 15 Leinsters. 85% win rate. Seven championship victories out of nine against Tipperary, with one draw.
An audit can’t scope the length and breadth of impact.
Cody will tell you, over and over, what has gone before holds no relevance come throw-in.
Not according to your ears.
Maybe the crowd was down a small bit at Saturday evening Mass in Templederry, August 13. On the car radios outside, Waterford were refusing to go away.
Some may have sneaked closure from their phones during proceedings, but mostly a news vacuum needed filling. When word came from the altar, maybe from above, nearing close of business, it was matter of fact.
Kilkenny have beaten Waterford.
Maybe Cody would swap you a medal or two if you managed to record the low rumble that followed and burned it onto a CD for him.
Certainly, there are those in Kilkenny, those who suffered, who would savour it, make a ringtone out of it.
It started out as a groan, softened by self-consciousness at the surroundings — in the chord, a note of genuine sorrow for Waterford, maybe spiced by one or two teaspoons of condescension.
As the groan settled to a sigh, the odd grunt of humour registered how various parties weren’t one bit surprised at this turn of events.
Run the whole thing through some class of advanced audiometer, it was the sound of respect.
They mark their anniversaries by the month in Templederry, on the second Saturday. The father, uncle, and aunt were remembered. A candle each.
A night about memories loaded context.
Many of those taken in August had known Septembers when the dynamic of Tipperary’s relationship with Kilkenny was altogether different.
When the groans at news of a semi-final might have come from Thomastown or Tullaroan.
In 1991, when the uncle met me with a ticket off the train in Dublin, and we belted over via the all-you-can-eat at Wynn’s Hotel, there was no reason to be afraid.
Fr Teehan, an Offaly man with less skin in the game these days, knows his audience and moved things on.
“Hopefully, we’ll have better news tomorrow.”
So they did, and here we are again.
In one of the best of the many midweek formalities, Cha Fitzpatrick, in a frank video interview with sportstalk.ie, wrestled at times with the eternal mysteries, whether there really is a benevolent higher power.
Or at least he sat on a barstool and talked of Cody.
“I’d say if you asked a lot of the players, they’re actually afraid of him. There’s a fear there.
“Is that right? I don’t know, I don’t think so, but… he just seems to have control over every player’s life.”
Henry Shefflin loved the Tuesdays after an All-Ireland win. Even on those days, there would be distance. But at some point he’d send a text and find out where they were and slip off for a few quiet pints with Cody and Mick Dempsey.
In his book, he describes that brief window of true freedom. “I love those few drinks because inhibitions have disappeared and we can slag one another without fear of any offence.”
In 2011, after beating Tipp, Shefflin found them in Langton’s. He had a little more than slagging on his mind. He was “a local politician putting his case to the minister”.
For his clubmate, Cha, who hadn’t got a look-in.
As much as Cody swears indifference to games gone by, Shefflin suspected different.
“You see, Cha got kind of swallowed up by Tipperary in the 2010 final and I’m not sure Cody could ever get that image out of his head again.
“If I had a question for Brian, it was how leaving Cha on the bench squared with his mantra of always picking the team on the basis of training.”
Shefflin doesn’t detail exactly how the conversation proceeded, but when Cha announced his retirement, just 26, a few months later, Shefflin didn’t push hard for a U-turn.
“How could I when — deep down — I suspected Brian was not for turning?”
Cha talked this week about not enjoying his hurling career, about being happy enough to close the chapter.
But for a man who wasn’t enjoying himself, that sure looked like exuberance in his play, those three years he was a certain All Star.
And in a camp supposedly ruled by fear, what marked him out, only true fearlessness?
Wherever things went wrong, you sense Cha feels something was taken from him. Maybe Cody just got the maximum out.
It’s always about the next day, the next ball. But some images he can’t get out of his head.
Now think of all Tipp have seen. And heard.
A 10/10 apology for grating ratings
You know how it works. The offending article sticks out a mile, fills a full page, the apology is tucked deep and inconspicuous on page 40.
So, mealy mouth: apologies if anybody was offended.
That done, straight onto excuses. Look, it was late. The Dublin ratings only landed into Examiner Towers at twenty to 10. The Kerry marks had been put to bed long ago. Different writers. And still we look for consistency off the referees.
Matt Cooper wasn’t the first to point it out, on the Monday, but he doubled on it into a crowd.
Colm O’Callaghan of RTÉ, a lively opportunist, also pulled first-time: “To be fair, Kerry won it where it mattered: the player ratings in Examiner Sport.”
The gaffer has taken the heat on Twitter all week, but yeah, fair cop, I took that page and never added em’ up.
In many ways, it’s a lifelong dream come true, a peripheral role in the latest in the legion of Kerry-related conspiracy theories.
Though, a lesser man would name the Meath man who did the Dublin ratings.
Heroes & villains
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
The Kerry lads: Absolute masters at listing all their grievances at the very same time as playing down the idea they have any complaints at all.
The TMO truck: “The feedback I got in just 10 seconds convinced me to give a yellow instead of sending off the player,” ref Björn Kuipers said yesterday, after a “video technology” trial for the Italy-France friendly. If it remains low-key as this, delivered without palaver, by two assistants from a truck outside the ground — no appeals, challenges or chewing the fat at great length like the eggers do — maybe, just maybe, it can work.
HELL IN A HANDCART
The clamour for a Gaelic football TMO: Wouldn’t you really need to decide what a foul is, first?
That Eir Sport director: Who elected to cut, bizarrely, to a man slathered in green bodypaint, as Robbie was performing his final somersault.
Don't miss the Irish Examiner GAA Podcast. Daithi Regan, Tadhg O'Connor, Eddie Keher, Eamonn Murphy and PM O'Sullivan join Peter McNamara to discuss the Kilkenny v Tipperary All-Ireland hurling final.
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