I wasn’t that sure about these Saturday evening games.
The reason is simple. There’s something very wrong about rolling up the motorway towards Thurles at half-three, or later: at the molecular level you’re uneasy because, well, that’s usually the time you need to be at the ground.
The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy describes the physical discomfort when you realise you’re millions of light years from your planet of origin: the sensation will be familiar to many as a nagging tension in the body when you cruise past the Cashel exit offering you McDonald’s and it’s twenty-five to four.
Somewhere in your mind the thought that it was throw-in five minutes ago materialises; somewhere a bit further down the prospect of a cheeseburger becomes more attractive, sure you won’t see anything of the first half... then bang. The game isn’t on until five. Relax.*
Not that we’re looking for a return to the old days. There was one particular Munster final some time ago, before the dual carriageway carried you past the various bottlenecks which dotted the route, when yours truly took no chances and was parked outside the church near Semple Stadium before they came out of 10 o’clock Mass.
That doesn’t even begin to account for the hours and hours spent outside, inside and trying to get out of Fermoy.
Sometimes in the middle of the night I wake and sit straight up in bed and think of that petrol station on the far side of Fermoy, and inching along past it down the hill... .
Does the man who makes up the set list in Semple Stadium know something? We started Saturday night’s proceedings with Horslips. There was a game on offer, Clare versus Wexford, but early arrivals heard one of the greats offering a message of impending doom.
Trouble With A Capital T. (In this context there may be a good deal of significance attached to the identity of the first Wexford substitute: Gary Moore. No Parisienne Walkways involved, though)
Away from the world of music, Wexford attracted a good deal of criticism for their performance against Dublin, with the consensus being that their display was a good deal past the mythical edge that every inter-county player is supposed to dance on, like Mycro-ed angels jostling on the head of a pin. Saturday evening was more notable for Jack Guiney’s injury-time equaliser, thankfully.
The music man in the Stadium kicked off the Waterford-Kilkenny warm-up with Eye of the Tiger.
A sign of the immediate future for Waterford? They certainly won’t retain fond memories of James Owens’ performance as referee, but you might as well complain about the Illiad being written with wrongly-coloured ink. There were 17,000 and change in Semple Stadium last Saturday evening, but in years to come they’ll outnumber the throngs in the GPO.
Okay, Saturday night throw-ins. We’re convinced.
* Last-ever mention of the Cashel McDonald’s. And no, I do not have any funds invested in same.
Silence was golden in great Whicker’s world
Sad to see Alan Whicker pass away last week, for all that he was 87.
For many years we had his autobiography at home: every page a winner.
Since his demise I read that any journalist who visited him never left sober thanks to the great man’s generosity with champagne, but that’s not the reason I venerate him. Long before I got into journalism I absorbed one of his interviewing lessons — about silence.
In his autobiography Whicker described interviewing a Teddy Boy in the 50s. The T.B. was explaining that his parents were unhappy with him.
“They was angry.”
Whicker resisted the impulse to ask another question, and after a few seconds the teen added detail.
“We ‘ad a party.”
“It lasted three days.”
Whicker chanced one more pause.
“Then we burned the house down.”
Time to raise the bar again
I don’t like to act the prophet, but last week I pointed out the 25 objects that defined the history of the Munster hurling championship.
Yes, I could have included Pat Fox’s knee support. And the helicopters landing near Semple Stadium in the good days. But it’s my ball, so there.
I did mention, however, the goal Cork claimed to have got in 1949 against Tipperary, suggesting that the sliotar hit the second crossbar, a net support at the back of the goal, and rebounded outfield past Tipp keeper Tony Reddin.
The referee disagreed, siding with the Tipp defenders who said the ball shot down from the actual crossbar, and gave a free out in their favour.
Fast forward to a similar situation on Saturday night, and Kilkenny’s penalty rebounding back out of the Semple Stadium net. The more things change...
A devilish plot thickens
How do you like your subplots? We’ll start with Saturday night if you like. Wexford may have gone out on their shields after taking Clare to extra- time, but they showed a flash of the future in young Conor McDonald, regarded as the brightest prospect in the county for a long time. He didn’t look out of place in Semple Stadium, and the good news is you’ll see him again in the U21 championship.
Clare may have questions to answer after that late fade-out — worrying echoes of their third quarter against Cork, maybe — but they did enough to worry Galway later this month.
Not every team will deal with Tony Kelly’s movement as well as Cork did a few weeks ago.
In Kilkenny one of the matters concentrating minds in Cleere’s and Langton’s and such establishments must be Henry Shefflin’s health. The great man didn’t look at the pace of the game on Saturday evening, though Waterford can take it as a backhanded compliment that he had to be thrown into the fray so early.
Can he be right for the next day? If he can’t, can Michael Fennelly? If so, where to play him?
For Waterford, Saturday was a bad blow.
Not because they were gallant in defeat, though they were, and not because they were close to Kilkenny, though they were, but simply because they lost a game within their grasp.
In Field of Dreams Burt Lancaster says of his sporting dreams that you always think there’ll be other days, but sometimes it turns out there was only that day.
A final twist in the knife for the Déise was their minors being caught at the tape in the minor game yesterday. There are at least three of those players with senior careers beckoning soon; a provincial medal from the minor grade would be handy currency as they step up.
Cork face Kilkenny in a couple of weeks after suffering through a long, long second half yesterday with 14 men. They have a couple of weeks to recover: will the manner of yesterday’s loss create a siege mentality within the camp?
And Limerick: impressive as they were yesterday, producing six points from play from those late substitutes, did they create a goal chance of note?
John Allen will know better than most that All-Ireland champions generally raise a green flag or two along their journey.
Something for the practice field in the next few weeks.
Questions aplenty. And only the middle of July yet.
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