John O’Dwyer produces magic when it matters most

Full-time: Callanan-Bubbles-John McGrath 2-21, Kilkenny 2-20.

Was there ever any doubt about John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer and his potential to produce when it mattered most?

“We’re champions of f*****g Ireland!” O’Dwyer declared on live TV at full-time. Finally, he could let it all out.

On the pitch, O’Dwyer lanced 1-5 for the Premier. One of those sideline cuts was thrown into the mix, a goal for the ages, three points from play and a free. Not a bad haul on the first Sunday in September.

During the course of a two-hour Tipp FM pre-final special Friday evening, the overwhelming consensus was that ‘Bubbles’ had to start.

Derek McGrath said it, so too did Jamesie O’Connor. Former Kilkenny goalkeeper David Herity agreed and while Liam Sheedy noted that Michael Ryan is very much his own man, it was Bubbles for him, too.

Joe Bracken, the genial county board PRO, strode into the LIT auditorium in Thurles to deliver the news. The sheet of paper he held in his hand was almost like a scroll. All that was missing was ‘hear ye, hear ye.’ Pure theatre.

As Bracken confirmed one change in personnel, and that ‘Bubbles’ was in, the auditorium erupted. Spare a thought for Niall O’Meara in all of this. The young Kilruane player is hugely respected within the Tipp panel and he’ll have been hurting.

But ‘Bubbles’ more than justified his inclusion with a show-stopping display that gave an absolutely outstanding player, Paul Murphy, one of those difficult afternoons he rarely experiences.

O’Dwyer started on Murphy, moved across on Shane Prendergast briefly, but was on Murphy for the most part. There were three wides in the first half — two in the second half — but the points ‘Bubbles’ put over were in the ‘gorgeous’ category.

He began with an exquisite eighth-minute sideline and kicked on from there, all flash and movement.

His first point from play arrived in the 22nd minute, ‘Bubbles’ working beautifully off Brendan Maher’s left shoulder and taking a short hand-pass.

The end result was Tipp’s eighth point. He also scored their ninth, Murphy chasing shadows as the Killenaule man split the posts again.

In the final minute of the half, he was on target again, lofting over a free from inside his own half. Tipp two points clear at half-time, Bubbles with four of them.

Kevin Kelly’s 42nd minute goal rocked Tipp but their response was magnificent.

In the spell that followed, Tipp outscored Kilkenny 1-8 to 0-2, a spell that effectively won them the game. The goal? ‘Bubbles’, of course. Postage-stamp stuff at the Davin End, in Eoin Murphy’s left hand corner before he knew it.

Seven minutes from home, ‘Bubbles’ put the icing on his own personal cake with his final point and he was still going to the finish.

The memories of that Limerick red card are just that now: memories.

The Celtic cross is all that matters and two years on from almost nailing it, HawkEye verifying that his late, late effort drifted just wide, ‘Bubbles’ had his day. Suspended for the Munster final, on fire for the All-Ireland final. That’ll do, Bubbles, that’ll do.


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