You see things clearly sometimes and you are absolutely sure about your stance on them, yet it is still nice and comforting to hear a collaborating voice.
All the more so if that support, intentional or otherwise, is from someone in authority, someone who knows and has a genuine feel for the subject they are talking about.
Kilkenny fans must have felt that way at the weekend. There was a fair bit of disgruntlement among the populace following the All-Ireland senior hurling quarter-final defeat by Cork (0-19 to 0-14) in Thurles.
There was no gripe with Cork, who earned an All-Ireland semi-final place against Leinster champions, Dublin in Croker Park on Sunday as they continue their pursuit of the Liam MacCarthy Cup. For Kilkenny that race has been run.
Fair play to Cork! Fair play to the Dubs too. They were another team who beat Kilkenny in this season’s championship. We wish them both well.
The general feeling – a very deep feeling – in Kilkenny after the loss to Cork was that the county had been shabbily treated, not by the opposition but by referee, Barry Kelly. The sending off of that gentleman of hurling, Henry Shefflin was harsh; so too was the call to retake a penalty that had been scored.
The gripes went on and on. Offical Kilkenny said nothing. People in the street, the fans, vented their frustrations, as they have every right to do. The misfortune suffered by Kilkenny in Thurles comes under the general heading of the ‘vagaries of sport’. Everyone moves on quickly, apart from those who feel aggrieved.
It was interesting to hear a collaborating voice……the voice of former Galway All-Ireland winning manager, Cyril Farrell. The former school teacher has been a staunch ally of the Cats during the glory days, all the time praising them for setting new and exciting boundaries; challenging others to keep up; meeting that challenge when others did catch up and singing the praise of a bunch of players and officials who invariably let their strong actions do the talking.
On the sending off of Henry Shefflin, Farrell was direct: “It was a wrong decision,” he wrote in his column in the Irish Independent on Saturday. “Both yellow cards were harsh.”
He added: “I’m totally against dirty play, but if hurling is to be sanitised to such a degree that physical contact carrying no danger whatsoever is a yellow card offence, then the game will be destroyed. If what Shefflin did merits dismissal then dug-outs will have to be doubled in size to cater for all the guilty ones.”
His next point was even more interesting. He referred to an anti-Kilkenny feeling, “a slow burning campaign designed to portray them as sly lawbreakers.” He referred to that old “living on the edge” suggestion heard everywhere a few years ago and, as Mr Farrell put it “used continuously by a number of writers/commentators/analysts, some of whom were no doubt influenced by Kilkenny’s continued dominance over their own counties.” A fair mouthful!
Remember the time the suggestion was put about that Kilkenny were a bunch of ‘hand tappers’ hurting and injuring opponents going on a solo run? What was a nasty and serious allegation was simply put out there. That opinion of one commentator was never substantiated. In fact, it was contradicted by a doctor from another county who felt compelled to defend Kilkenny. The allegation, a slight on the players and the county, was never withdrawn.
Farrell wasn’t finished.
Tommy Walsh, he reckoned “came to be depicted as a man living on the edge, who needed to be restrained. So much so that he became fair game for anything over the last few seasons but rarely got a free.” Walsh’s favour among Kilkenny fans mushroomed. He was the ‘son who needed protection, who needed support’. The fans unspoken reaction was prompted by what they believed was going on.
There was even sustained talk that Walsh would stop wearing the red helmet because it made him too conspicuous. Farrell even said he suspected that Kilkenny weren’t popular among the GAA’s establishment.
“There has been an anti-Kilkenny sentiment across various sectors in recent years and once it becomes established, it influenced a lot of people. Indeed, it may have contributed to Shefflin spending the second half on the bench.”
There you have it – an independent voice. Will the sinners recognise themselves and repent? Don’t count on it!