Ronan’s bus left Callan for the big game in Croke Park with a fine load of Ballycallan, Kilmanagh, Ballycloven and Callan supporters aboard. It picked up a few on-line early bookings in Kilkenny, and headed for whatever destiny had in store, writes Barrie Henriques who travelled by bus to the big game with gaily decorated fans.
The bus was smothered in black and amber favours, but there were a few Premier courageous hearts in economy class.
The mood was somewhat sombre.
We got to getting the opinions of readers on the outward journey. Expectation from both camps was more hopeful than definitive.
We met with Martin Cuddihy, one time John Lockes full back of considerable substance, a longer time fado, fado than he would care to remember.
“This is going to be a very tough contest. Tipp will have the incentive of trying to redress what happened last year. They know Kilkenny inside out, so nothing will be a surprise to them. It is so easy to say that it is no better than a 50/50 game to either side. The team which manages to get the goals will win it.
“On that basis I feel that we have more forwards capable of getting the goals than Tipp. I feel that every one of our forwards can get a goal or two. If we get a few, I think that we will be going on this Ronan’s bus again to the All-Ireland final in September”.
“That was the sweetest one ever. I told you that we had a better chance of getting goals than Tipp, and that goals would decide it. Why don’t you listen to a man that knows his hurling. Go on the Cats.
“If Tipp had gone out to play hurling than the bullshit they went on with they could have done better. They wouldn’t have won, but they could have been closer. My man of the match was ‘Taggy’ (Aidan Fogarty) by a distance.”
A thrilled to bits Kilkenny supporter.
This is not going to be an easy ride?
“ Certainly not, but I still think that we will win by four points.”
“Your father-in-law (Paddy O’Connor, famed greyhound trainer and Tipp diehard) would not like to hear that from your lips.”
“No, but sure he won’t be seen or heard from for a week,” smiled Paul, the MD of the Callan steel fabrication unit. “He told me that if Tipp win, he will give the whole week driving around Callan blowing his horn, but I think the car wont be budging.”
“Where would you see the plus side for Kilkenny?”
“People are saying that the scorer of the first goal will be a serious psychological development. But I feel that the first ten minutes will be hugely important for Kilkenny in particular, where serious markers will be set down. I have a feeling that Eoin Larkin will have a seriously good game, and will inspire all round him like a good captain should.
“Then I think that Henry Shefflin will do great business for us, and as Martin said, goals will be important. I feel we will get a few. Now, from whom, I don’t know, but every one of our forwards is a capable sharpshooters. Young Hogan will be a loss, but watch ‘Taggy’ Fogarty. This guy is the most underrated player around.”
“I cant’t wait to get home to Paddy. I’d say he’s dreading meeting me. I won’t let him forget this for a long time. I wasn’t one bit worried at half-time. Sure Lar Corbett was running round the field like a sick hen trying to mark Tommy Walsh.
“Lar had a great game—he kept Tommy scoreless (explosion of laughter). How could you be worried with that kind of messing. A great performance from a great team.”
His man of the match - Aidan Fogarty.
Jimmy Corcoran, father of under-21 star Jason.
“This is going to be a hard, hard battle, and our lads will have to be ready. The lads are well ready by all accounts, and they are well aware of what is expected.
“I love our half back line, and I feel that this could be our five card to trump Tipp. I expect that we will win with a little to spare”.
“ In a word Barrie, B E A U T I F U L.”
Tom McGrath (Ballycallan)
“I expect a very tough and tight match, where goals are going to play a hugely important part. I expect that Henry will do great work for us, but the other five forwards will have to support each other and Henry in every conceivable demand.
“Tipp will be flying, and even though last year’s result will not matter, Tipp will not like to go three one down in the results sequence. Tipp are going up under a little pressure to win. Their management are under pressure to win, and their supporters are expecting to win.
“It is going to be interesting, but I feel that our attack will bring home the gravy at the finish of a classic encounter.”
“An absolutely great performance. Everyone worked like Trojans. ‘Taggy’ Fogarty, T.J. Reid, Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan were just awesome. I was immensely proud of every one of them. I was awfully proud to be a Kilkenny man. Thanks lads.”
Vera Hogan (Borrisokane)
“We met half of the Tipp support on board. Vera Hogan was somewhat reticent to give an opinion, but our gentlemanly good humour and customary meekness prevailed. She is a delightful lady of few, but well-chosen words.
What are your expectations Vera?
“I hope it will be a good game, and I hope that when the referee blows the final whistle that we are in front by a point or two. That would be nice. I am so looking forward to it,” she smiled, a smile that clouded much that remain unsaid.
“The better team won. I am a bit brónach about the size of the defeat. I didn’t think it would be anything like that. I was disappointed with the Tipperary tactics. We should have been closer, but congrats to Kilkenny. They are a great team.”
Bosco Bryan (Kilkenny All-Ireland minor hurling full-back in Centenary year).
“I feel that Tipp might blow up in this one. I have heard a few Tipp supporters talking about Galway, and that Galway won’t do to them what they did to Kilkenny in the Leinster final. Now that is dangerous talk. At least Kilkenny are going in with a complete bill of good health, and that can’t be bad.
“If I had tomorrow’s paper now I’d be terrible wise, and terrible rich too. I’ve weighed up all the angles, and even though I’m setting myself up to be shot at, I think Kilkenny will be carrying too much firepower for the Tipp backs, and particularly their full-back line. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Kilkenny win by eight to 10 points. Oh God help me if I’m wrong.”
“Surely there is now no semblance of doubt remaining that this is the greatest team of all time. They have taken the game to another plane. I am thrilled and privileged to have been alive to see them.
“I though the conduct of Lar Corbett, and the mentors who directed him, was abominable and sullied the great traditions and standing of the greatest game in the World. Nevertheless, the result was correct, and above reproach.”
Finally our busdriver, Dermot Ronan.
“A bit of luck could decide the game,” he felt. “Taditionally this time of the year Kilkenny come real good with the odd exception. I don’t think this Tipp team are as good as they were two years ago. We are back to form, in particular in the second half against Limerick. Word has it that training has been exceptionally good. I feel we will top Tipp.”
“Even at half time I wasn’t worried, because I felt that Tipp wouldn’t and couldn’t get a goal. The one they got was a terrible mistake, and we gave it to them. It was a colossal game, and there were so many great performances that I cannot name a man of the match.
“Any one from Paul Murphy, Kieran Joyce, J.J. Delaney, Tommy and Brian Hogan, ‘Taggy’, T.J. Reid could get it. It’s the result that matters, and we got the right one.”