Who’d win a World Cup of hurling?

Comparing teams, who’d win a World Cup of hurling if every county was matched off to a country.

Galway: Brazil

Don’t be fooled by the occasional paean to the joga bonito.

Brazil have always had plenty of steel on offer, though it tends to be sheathed in silky touches and smooth passing, to mix a metaphor or two.

Galway’s awesome power is too obvious to miss, but Joe Canning’s command of the ball in all situations gives them the kind of elegance you associate with the Copacabana.

The white-and-maroon jerseys are decent beachwear, too.

Waterford: Iceland

True, Derek McGrath’s team aren’t at the same level of underdog (underdoggedness?underdoggability?) as Iceland, but the links go beyond the shared Viking heritage you see in the name. Waterford tend to be everybody’s second-favourite team after their own county, much like Iceland, while selector Dan Shanahan’s exhortations to the team as he bounds along the sideline look like that overhead clapping routine the Iceland players indulge in sometimes after matches.

You didn’t notice that? Geru svo vel.

Cork: Spain

It’s not just the gourmet capital tag, with Cork standing in for San Sebastian, nor is it the general regional separatist tendency, nor even the fondness for red in the jersey.

Cork have a relatively new fondness for tiki-taka hurling through the middle, short rifled passes used to try to unpick the lock of opposing defences, while some of the Rebel players look as slight as Xavi and Iniesta at their less-then-hefty prime.

Suggestions that Sergio Ramos could be tried out at centre-back for the latter stages of the championship unconfirmed at this time.

Tipperary: Argentina

Before anyone draws conclusions about the Premier County claiming Jose Luis Brown, the 1986 World Cup-winner in white-and-blue stripes who was claimed by Ireland/Scotland/every other jurisdiction on earth, our parallels lie elsewhere.

No other county has quite as strong an emotional bond between team and supporters, with those emotions often drifting to the operatic, much as they do in Buenos Aires.

Tipp win a match and a three in a row is in on the cards; they lose one game and the end times are in sight.

The temperate setting is never the first option. And isn’t Buenos Aires just a loose translation of New Inn?

Limerick: Belgium

With an athletic but fresh-faced squad, Limerick boss John Kiely is in a similar position to Roberto Martinez, the Belgium boss, because just as Martinez can omit the likes of Christian Benteke from his World Cup squad, Kiely can afford to omit players with All-Ireland club championship medals with Na Piarsaigh.

I’m aware this equates the likes of Kevin Downes and Shane Dowling with the big man from Crystal Palace, but it’s for illustration purposes only. Promise.

Wexford: Sweden

The Swedes have had a long wait to replicate their class of the fifties, when they were able to make a World Cup final, albeit on home soil.

Likewise, the men from the sunny south-east, whose glory days came in that same decade.

Beautiful jerseys and hard-working players, not to mention a progressive social outlook (Wexford elected Mick Wallace, after all), but are the parallels all flattering? Are ultimate honours just a step too far?

Clare: Colombia

As with Wexford, a previous decade — in this case the ’90s — was the high watermark for this pair of teams.

The resemblances continue on the field, however, as Colombia’s traditional strong point has been flair and elan in the final third offset by a certain fragility at the back.

Clare have mirrored that combination of strengths and weaknesses in recent years, though Anthony Daly and Davy Fitzgerald never copied the hairstyle of their contemporaries, Carlos Valderrama and Rene Higuita. For which much thanks.

Dublin: Australia

Always physically strong, always game, always competitive, but never quite involved at the business end.

The Aussies’ sporting DNA means they’re never an easy opponent but last time out they found their 2014 group (Chile, Spain, Holland) tough going compared to 2006, say, when they got to the next round.

Eerie parallels then with Dublin, who have overcome tough early championship defeats to get back on the road with a win last weekend.

Kilkenny: Germany

The most obvious parallel of all.

Always disciplined and competitive, hard-working and superbly conditioned, unwilling to give in, heedless of opinion — and with far more quality than generally admitted, though that last point is truer of Die Mannschaft than of the Stripey Men.

Well prepared, methodical, and relentless, these two teams’ crossover traits are undeniable and persuasive, with Teutonic efficiency a synonym for Kilkenny’s spirit.

Offaly: Uruguay

If you know Uruguay only as a haven of tough guys and cheap-shot merchants, this looks harsh until you realise a) that the South Americans are a country trapped by a far more glorious past; and b) artists like Enzo Francescoli— those jerseys! That hairstyle! — were among the handful of geniuses playing in the World Cups of the ’80s.

Offaly enjoyed a golden age in the same decade, even if nobody ever accused Joachim Kelly or Pat Fleury of being as septic as Francescoli.

If they did then they didn’t do it too loudly, anyway.



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