My maths may be wrong, but I make Sunday the 22nd meeting between Kilkenny and Tipperary in league and championship since 2009, when the latter began bringing through their 2007 minors and established themselves as the main opposition to the Cats in senior hurling.
That makes it difficult, though, for GAA writers to keep it fresh. What many readers don’t know is that there are rules to writing about Kilkenny-Tipperary — specifically, what sports editors everywhere don’t want to see ever again.
Previous meetings are a lost cause
This is a minefield because the back catalogue is so dense.
There’s no point in citing a precedent in a league clash two or three years ago, because it’s all a blur, even to the participants.
The upside to this is that the odd reference can be so outrageous nobody will even question it.
You can write casually about Bubbles O’Dwyer’s use of a mahogany hurley in the 2015 league game, or Henry Shefflin wearing a helmet made of dark chocolate and corduroy in the All-Ireland final of 2009, and lads in Bennettsbridge and Thurles will nod and say, “Yeah, God, I’d forgotten all about that.”
Contested lands are out
Because of all those games, we squeezed the last drop from border tensions long ago. You go up around Mullinahone or Ballingarry or Urlingford and ask about the enmity, the solemn promises extracted from the county team not to lie down so you can face the neighbours with pride, and the locals beg you for mercy.
“Stop, stop,” they cry, “the other crowd are only human beings like us. We stopped hating them after the league game in 2015.
“Or was it 2016?”
Brian Cody and (insert Tipperary manager name here) comparisons are a no-no
As a still point in a turning world, Brian Cody is great. As a prop to a desperate scribe scrambling for a piece so he can meet his mates for golf on Friday afternoon, he’s heaven-sent (for some reason all such articles must refer to Cody’s working life as a school principal.) Hence the embargo on features comparing Cody and Ryan/O’Shea/all other Tipp managers in his tenure.
The novelty disappeared from Cody’s backstory years ago, and unless an Oscar-winning choreographer had the Tipp team lipsyncing the Hamilton soundtrack as they took the field, these comparative pieces are a dead loss.
The turnover in Kilkenny selectors has provided the odd respite for hard-pressed hacks, but writing about same breaks the spirit if not the letter of the rule cited above. Did you know Brian Cody was a school principal, by the way?
A sub-heading: the ‘Brian Cody thinks...’ column must be retired
As a long-standing and immensely successful manager, Brian Cody is a fascinating character, but as a target of speculation about how his mind works? If only we had a fiver for every time you hear or read someone (who doesn’t know the man) refer to what the Kilkenny man thinks about Tipperary/winning/team-building/Ready Player One*.
While every inter-county manager — every international coach, Fifa executive, GAA president, come to think of it — can be subjected to a psychological profile based on absolutely no evidence, surely Cody has figured in more than anyone.
Hence the cease-and-desist order.
(*inserted for emphasis).
The ‘say what you like but these are the two best teams in the country’ piece is verboten
For many years any complaints about the repetitive nature of this pairing were easily rebutted, as above.
Nowadays that’s not so clear, particularly as neither side were in the big show last September.
Galway are the All-Ireland and Leinster champions, Cork the Munster champions.
Kilkenny were put out by Waterford last year and Tipp exited at the hands of Galway in the league final and semi-final of 2017.
Both sides are in the league final on merit but compared to previous years, this isn’t necessarily seen as a locked-down dress rehearsal for the All-Ireland final. Not yet, at any rate.
‘This game is a turning point in the Kilkenny-Tipp rivalry’
No it’s not. Just because you see it as a watershed moment for Kilkenny or Tipperary, that doesn’t necessarily make it so.
The two sides have had a long, tangled relationship for decades, and the plethora of meetings in the last 10 years means that pivotal encounters are rarer, not more common.
In 2012 Kilkenny beat Tipperary by 18 points; two years later they drew and Tipperary had the last chance to win that drawn game.
Yet 2012 was probably seen as a turning point, if only we could remember the aftermath.
And a final interdiction based on the time of year...
This isn’t necessarily specific to the contestants this weekend, but it still needs to be said. Keep any references to not being able to wait for the summer to yourself.
No matter how often Kilkenny and Tipp face each other, the championship comes around at (much) the same time every year. You can wait a few weeks. You know you can.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved