Richie Hogan was late and well he knew it. Michael D Higgins had just shaken hands with Walter Walsh and was already shuffling along the line of Kilkenny men to Adrian Mullen by the time Hogan re-emerged from the Hogan Stand tunnel like a scalded cat.
John McGrath would make a similar detour towards the dressing-rooms prior to the playing of the national anthem but Hogan had cut it much finer. He had no sooner found his station in the line when the Uachtarán was smiling his way.
Protocol may have been observed but Hogan paid a heavy price for another spot of tardiness just over half an hour later when his belated arrival under the Hogan Stand ended with him making contact with the chin of Cathal Barrett and a brandishing of the red card by referee James Owens.
Tipp had already found their feet by then after what was a deeply unsettling opening. They had registered 1-5 to two Kilkenny points in the preceding 10 minutes but Hogan’s recklessness and Owens’ decision tilted the balance of a taut, tense tussle definitively in the Munster side’s favour.
“It was a decisive factor,” said Brian Cody. “There’s no doubt about that.”
The million dollar question was — and still is — whether it was the right decision. The GAA had warned pre-season that this type of challenge to the head area would be dealt with under a zero-tolerance banner. Tipp were actually the first side to ‘benefit’ from that policy when Tony Kelly was shown the line for an incident with Padraic Maher back at the start of the league.
Cody wouldn’t be drawn into the wider debate on the rights and wrongs of such diktats from on high — and he was at pains to stress that he was in no way ‘whinging’ about the debated issue — but his feelings on this specific incident and the punishment it may have merited were crystal clear.
“There’s a lot of ye here and I wonder what ye all think because nobody seems to know,” he said at the post-match press conference. “I was close to it. I was amazed. I am the manager of the Kilkenny hurling team ... and I didn’t really know. I hadn’t a clue, to be honest.
“I saw he just turned and he went down but the only thing I will say is we won’t make any excuses for not winning the game. We were beaten well in the final score but it is a huge decision to make, to issue a red card.
“You would want to be very, very definite before you do a thing like that and certainly it took the referee a long, long time to make up his mind and say ‘I wonder what that should be’.
He consulted himself, he consulted his linesman and he consulted the player himself, went over to have a look at him. And I would say if he knew for certain what it was going to be he would have made his mind up straight away.
Cody was sometimes spiky at other times, not least when disabusing the notion that Adrian Mullen had spent time in hospital for “a slight bug” last week. But it was, on the whole, an impressive performance from the manager and one that struck a lot of the right notes. Like so many gaffers, he is infinitely more quotable in defeat.
The disparity on the final scoreboard no doubt informed his words given this was the heaviest defeat suffered by a Brian Cody Kilkenny team in league or championship and the largest by any Kilkenny side in summer since 1990. And it’s not as if the Cats didn’t use up some of their own lives.
Walter Walsh and Hogan missed gilt-edged chances to add points during a first-quarter when Kilkenny were in the ascendancy and there was the perplexing sight of the Leinster side bombarding a stiffening Tipp rearguard replete with an extra man with high, hopeful balls for much of the second half.
“Well, I would say that the use of the ball in the first half was superb, superb, when we had a player in every position,” was the manager’s counter to that. “It became very difficult then in the second half to find the men. You are talking about playing a very fine team and conditions not particularly conducive to finding everything you want to find in it.
“I don’t think it’s down to anything in particular like that. We were beaten and we are not going to be going around making excuses. That’s life. I still believe that our players were superb.”