Dye runs in blue and gold

One word to sum up Sunday’s events in Croke Park?

Sad. Sad on so many levels.

Sad that a team that raised attacking play to such an intoxicating, imaginative new high in the 2010 All-Ireland final were reduced to such myopic, boneheaded vapidity.

Sad that the most electric forward in the game was sent out not to terrorise but to defend.

Sad that the same forward was seen to celebrate when his dance partner of choice was yellow-carded.

And sad, though naturally this is their sadness only, that what might have been Tipperary’s first golden era in half a century has turned to ashes and gall. Those last two Munster titles are now empty baubles.

Four-in-a-rows, eh? Tricky things. Not quite as easy to achieve as the more excitable souls in the homes of Tipperary imagined following the 2010 triumph.

Look at some of the rocks on whom the new empire was to be built. Brendan Maher, a shadow on Sunday of the player who came within an ace of the Hurler of the Year award two seasons ago.

Noel McGrath, for all his gifts, again unable to take possession of a big match. Even two in a rows aren’t as straightforward as they may have appeared.

In retrospect the last two league meetings of the counties, both of which were won by Kilkenny, mattered.

Particularly last February’s encounter at Nowlan Park when the visitors, albeit understrength, succumbed without a whimper. What we do in the spring does echo in August and September.

On an afternoon that raised an interesting new existential question — is a forward really a forward if he spends the game trying to mark a defender? — it wasn’t so much that Tipp lost as how they lost. It wasn’t that they failed to put enough scores on the board as that one of their attacking objectives entailed not putting scores on the board. The Italians at their most catenaccio-obsessed, and Jim McGuinness, would have been awestruck.

At the risk of coming over all Eamon Dunphy on it, this was moral cowardice writ large: a strong accusation to make of people in an amateur game, yet true nonetheless. If Declan Ryan wanted to reduce Tommy Walsh to onlooker status, all he had to do was tell his defenders to keep lamping the ball down the opposite wing.

And what was with the wheeze of putting Bonner Maher – a one-trick pony, perhaps, but what a trick and what a selfless worker – at full-forward?

Down the generations they made a virtue of being lean and hungry, stern and uncompromising, manly and astringent, hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder, gothic rather than baroque. On Sunday they were none of those things. Tipp for the hurlers, Kilkenny for the men. John Doyle must have been gyrating in his grave.

What’s more, there was a meanness of spirit about them that was as surprising as it was misplaced. Had they not seen what happened to Waterford’s attempts to rile the beast in 2008? We said here on Saturday that Kilkenny are not in the habit of bringing knives to gunfights; on Sunday they went the whole hog and brought a bazooka. Cue collapse of blue and gold party.

As an aside, The Sunday Game production team could do worse than treat themselves to a look in the mirror after the manner in which Pádraic Maher’s antics were airbrushed out of the day’s history.

Had Tommy Walsh done what Maher did, the panel would have been demanding his summary execution and/or transportation to Van Diemen’s Land.

One has to feel sorry for Lar Corbett. Did he at any stage think, “This is ridiculous, it’s not helping us score, it’s making me look stupid so I’m going to go inside and try and score a goal”?


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