When Tipp dug deep
Liam Sheedy spoke early in the year about rebuilding a connection with the Tipperary supporters. Tipp’s freewheel to the Munster final offered encouragement, in that regard, though the mauling by Limerick derailed any bandwagon.
So when Lee Chin goaled in the semi-final to put 14-man Tipp five down, the outnumbered blue and gold contingent were set to drift from Croke Park and into a winter of wondering. Last week, Rickie Stakelum described how a county found its voice as its team found defiance.
“It was guttural, what was coming from the Tipp support, in terms of emotion.”
The connection was made as far away as the Robin Hood bar in Salou, where I watched it. A place that suddenly rumbled with the roars of home. Sadly, a proud day for Tipperary people was a tragic one.
Amid the jubilation at the final whistle Billy Ryan from Kilcommon took ill and later died in hospital. RIP.
For one day, a Blue joyburst
Dublin gave us some remarkable Championship storylines, from Greg Kennedy’s catch against Kilkenny to Seán Moran’s last gasp equalising goal that sickened Wexford.
But their mid-June win over Galway will live longest in the memory, a result that propelled the Dubs through to the All-Ireland series and ended the Tribesmen’s summer.
Parnell Park was packed out and supporters invaded the pitch after the hosts came from one down in the 66th minute to win by four, outscoring the 2017 All-Ireland winners by 1-4 to 0-2.
Joe Canning even came on after a long-term injury to add to the drama, scoring two great points, but the 2018 finalists just couldn’t match Dublin’s fire and fury.
Word filtered through afterwards that Kilkenny had drawn with Wexford elsewhere — eliminating Galway from the Championship. It only added to the evening’s intrigue though unfortunately for Dublin they fell flat on their faces in their next game, losing to Laois.
A new Brendan voyage
Laois’s victory over Dublin is memorable for sure, but from an individual perspective, Brendan Maher’s first start since he tore his anterior cruciate ligament 11 months previous was a special occasion. It came on May 12 against Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the fear was that his return was premature but it could hardly have gone much better as he marked Tipperary’s victory with a shut-down of Daniel Kearney, who had come close to claiming an All-Star the previous year.
Since then, he has been tremendous. Up to yesterday, Maher had negated Tony Kelly, Austin Gleeson, and Aaron Gillane in a season where he has looked anything but a man coming back from such an intrusive operation. Remember, this was a man whose anguish in June of last year was compounded by Tipperary exiting the championship just minutes after he pulled up with the knee problem.
The rise of Lee Chin
Into injury time at Croke Park on June 30 and Wexford lead by Mark Fanning’s penalty. They have everyone back behind the ball as Kilkenny roll forward, wave upon wave, in search of an equalising goal. Colin Fennelly has come close with a kicked effort that dribbles inches wide.
Who will lift the siege? There can only be one man. Lee Chin has already done his bit in a scoring sense with eight points from nine placed balls (and not one wide). Now he’s there in his own goalmouth to grab a sliotar that could have gone anywhere and carry it out to safety.
It is Kilkenny’s last serious attack. Moments later Wexford are provincial champions for the first time in 15 years and Croke Park erupts in a blaze of purple and gold.
Last season Chin was criticised for letting his talking do the talking. This season he let his hurling do the talking, a joint captain leading by example.
The Kilkenny-Limerick All-Ireland semi-final was just over nine minutes old when Tom Morrissey, back inside his own 65-metre line and facing his own goal, came onto a breaking ball and attempted to turn his body in the direction of the Hill 16 End.
First TJ Reid swarmed in, then a John Donnelly challenge stood Morrissey upright and stopped him dead in his tracks. Adrian Mullen and Richie Leahy arrived on scene to complete the gang-tackle, the Limerick half-forward hemmed in by four black and amber shirts.
It was Mullen who performed the pick-pocketing act before sending the sliotar between the posts at the Davin End to move the Cats five clear. If ever a single passage of play perfectly captured — and defined — Cody-ness, then this was it.
Dowling to the rescue (almost)
My moment of the year had to be Shane Dowling’s goal in the All-Ireland semi-final. Limerick were under huge pressure that evening against Kilkenny and desperately needed a goal to rescue things.
Shane was called off the bench (maybe, with hindsight, he could have been introduced earlier) and there was only one thing on his mind when he came on. That goal was pure class and a fantastic mixture of a couple of skills.
Shane was running at full speed, he threw the ball up over his head and then swung the hurley to connect. Lads talk about players having great wrists, well that was the perfect example.
To have the power and accuracy to beat a goalkeeper like Eoin Murphy at that stage in the game is another mark of just how good the strike was. That score almost gave Limerick a lifeline and had there been VAR we might have had a very different outcome that evening.
One special Hoggie day in July
In the cold light of day, Cork endured a patchy season on the hurling field. A curate’s egg without the consolation of a sliver of toast.
Apart from one dazzling display. Patrick Horgan ended the season with a superhuman performance in Croke Park against Kilkenny, one which ended with 3-10 after his name. The last goal was probably the masterpiece: fielding the ball from behind his man, swerving through and beating the best goalkeeper in the game, Eoin Murphy, with a wicked strike.
Horgan’s performance led to a fair amount of discussion which centred on the least-wanted title in Gaelic games: best player never to win an All-Ireland. The man from Glen Rovers has another season or two to disqualify himself from that category. Whether great hurlers even need that clinking sound from the back pocket as validation is another argument altogether.
Either way, we’ll always have that one day in July.