Drive your own crowd livid is the first rule of engagement

Dwyer had good players too, and what did he get out of them? Only eight, was it?

Jim Sullivan never fails to remind me of our exchange on the way into the press night the year of the second four in a row.

“How’s the team moving, Noel?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” I replied, “and thanks for asking,”

Unfunny thing is, he thought I was joking.

Confidence is a great thing until it spills over into arrogance — at which point, it becomes truly invaluable. Humble men limp in front of the lame: hurling men take them for 2-4.

As I often reminded Nancy and her colleagues during the 11-in-a-row segue, show me a man who will settle for a point, and you’re not showing me a man at all.

Cody was smug when he Snapchatted Tuesday. Smug Tuesday = unbearably, irredeemably, unapologetically arrogant Sunday.

“What will I do with Bubbles, Noel?” he led.

“Blow him out of the water,” I replied.

He Snap-stumbled.

“Even if he’s only on the bench,” he countered.

“Only if he’s on the bench,” I returned.

He Snap-sighed.

“Would you start him?” he continued.

“Don’t start me…” I warned.

It’s not today or yesterday that Michael Ryan paid his first visit to a certain Ballybore backyard. Bemulleted corner-backs always intrigued me: Ryan and Nancy were my two favourites of the genre.

Ryan is playing a dangerous game. He will surely be tempted to start Bubbles. As a general rule, I broke all the rules on hurling final day. If I had Bubbles, I wouldn’t have Bubbles at all: drive your own crowd livid is the first rule of engagement.

Bubbles wouldn’t make my team: nor would he make the team hotel.

I would tell him it was nothing business, just personal. Then, when utterly wild with anger, a ‘fast car’ would transport him forthwith to Croke Park whereupon he would wreak havoc.

He would never forgive me, but what would I care: we’d have our medals. I know the great glory of being shunned at the banquet.

Torturous bust-ups — brother against cousin, club against village — are a grand diversion to while away a winter.

I never had a full complement for a victorious homecoming. And I never had any other type of homecoming.

Show me a harmonious reunion and I will show you a losing reunion.

I’ve never looked forward to a final less — and that excites me. Kilkenny and Tipperary are a cantankerous, ill-fitting pair: when one is good, the other is average; when one is average, the other is poor.

Ryan was here Friday night. Nancy was fond of playing with his locks. Can he pick the lock Sunday?

From where I’m looking — high on Cnoic an Nollaig behind the house, facing due east — he won’t.

When Cody speaks about composure and intensity, Cody is so utterly convincing, you could almost fall into the trap of believing he knows what the words actually mean. They clearly fell off the back of a lorry on the way to Langton’s.

Men like Cody, Nancy, Heffernan, and me, we speak a different language.

A language that is half-man, half-beast, half biblical. Getting that mix right is crucial. It’s in Ryan, but it has yet to come out.

The Bubbles question must be handled insensitively if it is to have any value. Split the squad or get off the pot, as the old saying goes.

If Bubbles is the man I think he is, he will understand. No-one else will: better again.

Get it wrong, and Ryan will never be forgiven — a promising place to start next season, of course. Another figure with a weakness for the timeless mullet, a Mr Keegan from the north of England, if that was his name, still regrets his belated discovery of a certain backyard near the village of Ballybore.

I will, of course, be up early Sunday morning, if God spares me — and He knows better than to play God on a day like this — and I will go along for the coronation. Cody deserves some credit, people.

You can’t always be saying he has it handy with the good players he has.

Just because he’s a redoubtable charmer — and a lovable rogue — doesn’t mean he’s a touch soft for the pantheon.

Witty repartee does not automatically a vulnerable manager make.

Dwyer had good players too, and what did he get out of them? Only eight, was it?

I’m not one to be jealous: rather a waste, given that I’ve little enough to be jealous about. When Cody steers them home Sunday, I will be the first man to shake his hand — mainly because he will insist mine is the first he shakes. We will look each other firmly in the eye. And he will blink. And I will hit him a solid shoulder back down the steps again and we will both laugh heartily at the utter magnificence of it all.

Pantheon, yes — but there’s a hierarchy to be observed there too.

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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