No-one had a view like Paraic Maher.
As John O’Dwyer leaned over to place the sliotar for that injury-time attempt, the Thurles Sarsfields defender made it his business to take up station in his wake. Ahead of them both was 100metres of turf, the Davin Stand and immortality.
For 70 or more metres of its flight, Maher watched as it zeroed in on a point between the two uprights. For 70 or more metres they were All-Ireland champions. And then they weren’t. As the stadium held its breath, Maher exhaled in disappointment.
“I was standing right behind Bubbles. I stood right behind his free and I thought it was for three-quarters of the way going over the bar, but it just curled off at the finish. I didn’t even look up at the Hawk Eye because I f***ing knew it was gone wide.
“Excuse my language, but that’s just the ups and downs of the game. It was fantastic. It must have been some game to watch and it was great to be a part of it. It’s a big game again in three weeks’ time and we’ll just try and come out the right side of the result.”
With a draw, there is no right side or wrong side, just a vacuum. Polar opposite emotions wrestle with each other in an endless and soul-sapping struggle and Tipp’s afternoon summed up the coulda, woulda, shouldas inherent to all these occasions.
Eight goal chances spurned yet a four-point deficit roped back in point by agonising point with just as many minutes to play. Little wonder, under suchcircumstances, for Maher toexpress his satisfaction that,despite it all, he was glad of the opportunity to take two.
“Yeah, but we have a lot of things to improve on too. We wouldn’t be happy with the goals we conceded. We gave them a bit too much space and stuff but we have positives too. We created a lot of goal chances and hopefully we can take them the next day.
“We have to put the heads down and work twice as hard again for the next day. It’s a replay and an All-Ireland final: it’s no different a game. Kilkenny re going to be thinking the same way. It’s going to be 50-50 again.”
Admit it, you doubted Tipp. If you didn’t, you know plenty who did. How could we not? They struck gold when mining a seam of underage talent. Theypunctured Kilkenny’s bid for five-in-a-row. And then … nothing.
If it wasn’t oblivion then it was house next door, but if Tipp were uncomfortable in their surroundings then they never doubted in their own ability to climb the property ladder and make good the losses incurred in the last three years.
Like so many of his colleagues in recent times, Maher was asked about their character yesterday and his reply was striking. Not for the manner in which headdressed it, but for the fact it hardly registered with him as he looked forward.
“Yeah, but we have a lot of things to improve on too.
“We wouldn’t be happy with the goals we conceded. We gave them a bit too much space and stuff but we have positives too. We created a lot of goal chances and hopefully we can take them the next day.
“We have to put the heads down and work twice as hard again for the next day. It’s a replay and an All-Ireland final: it’s no different a game.
“Kilkenny are going to be thinking the same way. It’s going to be 50-50 again.”
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