Blog: Curiosity Not Enough to Kill the Cats

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Post  bald eagle on Tue Jul 09, 2013 4:13 pm


The cars started to park up from four o'clock on. A full three hours before the ball was due to be thrown in at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. An atmosphere had been building all week in the marble city, Tipperary were on their way, they could smell blood, a wounded animal lay in wait. Dublin's dismissal of the All Ireland champions the week previous had the hurling world ablaze with chatter. Was this to be the end of the great team? Would their biggest rivals be the ones to finally put the Kilkenny domination to rest? Beware of the wounded cat.

The sun was splitting the stones, as they say, nearly as unusual as Kilkenny and Tipperary fighting for championship survival in July. Only one could survive. The walk to the park accompanied by a surreal evening heat had more in common with attending a bull fight in Spain. An hour before throw in, the park was jammed, expectant sets of fans on both sides. The Kilkenny fans hoped and prayed that their team could rise one more time. The ultimate embarrassment would be to go out to Tipperary at home. For what seemed like an age both teams warmed up at either end of the field. An announcement of team changes for both sides echoed around the park. Paul Murphy was to start, a roar of approval from the home fans. Oh yes and Kilkenny have added a player to their panel, wearing number 28, Henry Shefflin, a bigger roar and a chant from the terrace, Henry, Henry, Henry. Kilkenny had their leader back in the fold.

The game was on, it was a tight affair with both sets of forwards going tit for tat. Cody had opted to start Eoin Larkin in midfield and he was immense as he dropped into his half back line and cleared ball after ball. Both sets of forwards were making the job more difficult for their backs. Possession seemed to be given up easily and the defenders had to watch as their clearances were returned with interest, time after time.

A fortuitous goal from Lar Corbett gave Tipp the early initiative. Kilkenny however, hung in there, picked off a few points and were probably relieved to go in at half time level. The same Lar Corbett pulled up in the first half with a hamstring injury, would his departure cost Tipperary? He took his goal well but Paul Murphy wasn't letting Lar do much anyway.

The second half began with Tipperary taking the early lead again. Kilkenny fans mumbled nervously as the Tipp forwards seemed to find some room in what seemed to be an over crowded pitch. All games have a turning point and this one maybe had a few. Tipperary's Eoin Kelly after receiving a hand pass seemed to have a one on one goal chance, he struck his shot and from nowhere, JJ Delaney flung his body in front of the ball, blocking it out and away from danger. Kelly missed the resulting 65 and momentum seemed to swing the way of the cats. They picked off a few points and started to gain control of the scoreboard. Henry Shefflin began warming up on the sideline and the anticipation of his introduction saw most of the crowd switch their attention to the sideline rather than watching the game. Tipperary weren't gone yet though and they managed to reduce the deficit to the narrowest of margins.

It was said later in the night that the roar from Henry's entry onto the field could be heard in downtown Kilkenny. Kilkenny scored a few more points and held on to see off a tired looking Tipperary side. The home crowd had got what they wanted, the final whistle was greeted with as much relief as joy. The second half saw probably the greatest exhibition of aerial ability from a set of backs that any game has seen. Jackie Tyrrell, Paul Murphy and JJ Delaney came out of the full back line with ball after ball, but it was the half back line that were so, so impressive. Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan and especially Kieran Joyce were immense. When teams play Kilkenny, they often try to keep Tommy Walsh out of the game by targeting the other wing. Kieran Joyce has however somewhat made that option futile. His aerial ability and pure strength with ball in hand is something to behold, he is a half forwards nightmare.

So Kilkenny progress, anyone at this game will say that this is what the game of hurling needs. This type of game every summer. It adds to the debate for change, an open draw could provide such a spectacle again. Next Saturday, Thurles will host a double header. Wexford will take on Clare and Kilkenny will play Waterford. Emotionally, Kilkenny will find it difficult to rise again for a second week in a row. This years championship is the most open it has been in years.

If anyone doubted Kilkennys hunger, the scene after the game in Nowlan Park was worth watching. The super stars of the game, with five, six, seven, eight or even nine All Ireland medals in their back pockets jumped and hugged each other with the joy of victory. They've done it all but they want more. So can they retain their All Ireland crown and claim yet another three in a row? Of course they can but next Saturday will be more of a test than most think. Waterford are not Tipperary but they can hurl and they have nothing to lose. They have been humiliated by Kilkenny in the past and won't need any more than that to get up for this game. Galway are another dangerous team now lurking in the back door. It's hard to believe that the three top teams in the country have had to make use of the back door system. Galway again froze on the big day but they are very capable on their day. Next weekend will obviously tell a lot but whether it's the back door or the side gate Kilkenny are still in this championship. It would be no harm for the game of hurling if they were to exit next weekend but that's not the way this game works. One thing is for sure, that game in Nowlan Park had to have opened the GAAs eyes for a change of system. It will be difficult to beat the atmosphere that was created there. The weather helped and it was festival like but you can't beat knockout hurling.

This blog is posted with the kind permission of Fergal Cantwell and was originally published 08/07/2013.

You can read more of Fergals blogs here - [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] and you can follow him on Twitter by following @fergalcantwell link - [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

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Blog: Curiosity Not Enough to Kill the Cats Empty Re: Blog: Curiosity Not Enough to Kill the Cats

Post  Thomas Clarke on Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:29 pm

Great read, Fergal. I didn't see the game, but thoroughly enjoyed your report.
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