IT’S the game that just doesn’t want to be played. For the second time in just three days the eagerly awaited opening round NHL clash between Tipperary and Kilkenny has fallen foul of the weather.
Last night’s re-fixture suffered the same fate as the original on Saturday evening last when referee Barry Kelly again deemed that conditions made it unsafe for the players and called it off.
Snow was again the cause but last night wasn’t anywhere near as severe as the sudden snowstorm that swept over Semple Stadium on Saturday.
On that occasion the projected throw-in time of 7.30 was put back by 15 minutes in the hope – forlorn as it transpired – that the snow would ease and allow the game progress, but when referee Barry Kelly eventually made the final call, both managers were in total agreement.
On this occasion the call was made much earlier, at around 7.30pm, when the snow (actually more like slush) was still pelting down. Ironically, however, by the time the proposed throw-in time of 8pm came around the weather had eased considerably.
A little premature, then, that decision? Neither Brian Cody (Kilkenny manager) nor Liam Sheedy (Tipperary) would criticise the referee’s call – he is after all the final arbiter, and if the game had gone ahead and a player had been injured, it would have been on his head; their frustration, however, was obvious. Cody said: “Look, I am not going to start criticising Barry Kelly’s decision. He had a decision to make and that’s fine. It’s just very, very unfortunate.’’
He added: “We were above in the pitch (Dr Morris Park, adjacent to Semple, Tipp’s training area) doing a warm up and we got a phone call saying that the game was off. I didn’t speak to anyone from Tipperary or Barry Kelly.”
Similar sentiments from Liam Sheedy: “I thought it was way worse the other night – it was really pelting down. It’s more sleety here. It’s gone though, so what can we do. Second time in a row, I feel sorry for the players, getting ready for matches, and the supporters here for a game. But it was Barry’s call and he feels it’s unsafe.”
Neither manager felt, however, that this called into question the wisdom of re-fixing the match so soon after the original, nor indeed the wisdom of hurling under lights.
“I am not going to rule out any idea or any concept – you can’t legislate for the weather,’’ Cody said. “It was called off Saturday night, then Sunday was a beautiful day, and it could have been played then, obviously. It’s unfortunate that if we had the weather tonight that we had on Sunday or yesterday, the game would have gone ahead.”
Sheedy agreed. “We could have played it on Monday night and it would have been perfect – it’s the luck of the draw,’’ he said.
A major problem now will be choosing a new date. There are two free weekends during the regular league rounds, on March 6/7 and April 10/11, and another on the weekend before the final (April 24/25), but Kilkenny secretary Ned Quinn hopes the first option, at least, won’t be the one taken. “I’m concerned that it might now be forced on us to play on March 6th or 7th, which is Fitzgibbon Cup weekend, and I think there’s eight players involved in that between both teams.’’ he said. “It wouldn’t be fair on those players to have to make a call between county and college.”
Given that concern, which will probably be taken on board by the fixtures committee, the most likely replay date is the weekend of April 10/11.
* A word of thanks to Colm Lawton, a Corkman exiled in Kilkenny, for his roadside assistance on the motorway last night – the good Samaritan still lives!
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved