You need not have known the scoreline to figure out the result of the All-Ireland Final replay when the opening shot of the panel on the Sunday Game was flashed before viewers.
On the left, was Eddie Brennan, positively beaming and very much looking like the Cat who had enjoyed the cream.
On the right was Cyril Farrell, usually up beat, the ‘hip and whip’ man of the panel who enthuses about all things hurling. But Cyril was down in the doldrums of defeat, and in between, Donal O’Grady who was his usual professional self, the neutral ground between two men going though very much a mixture of emotions.
After the highlights - and there was many from a Kilkenny point of view - a quick spin to the winning team’s banquet at City West. The only upbeat Galway man in the country, Michael Lyster and fair play to him, tackled Eoin Larkin on his singing prowess on receiving the McCarthy Cup - emulating Michael Murphy of Donegal the previous week.
The team captain was quick to credit the management for Kilkenny’s success as team manager Brian Cody remarked about the “huge challenge” which faced the team, that the performance was “absolute terrific” and to “win it was something special.”
Kilkenny and Cody - new heights and delights every year. For Brian Cody and his selectors Michael Dempsey and Martin Fogarty, the philosophy is simple “We pick it as we see it “ as he explained the surprise pre-match selection of Walter Walsh. The players who stand out in training get the nod. More on that later.
Michael Lyster switched and directed the question of going for ten All-Irelands not to the man himself but to the team captain, James Stephens club mate and former pupil - Eoin Larkin. Knowing the Boss, Larkin remarked “Sure he will make up his own mind.” But there was no hint of Brian Cody going anywhere.
And his former star turn in the corner, Eddie Brennan continued the theme when they returned to the studio. His greatest achievement, remarked Eddie is that he is “so hungry...he has kept the team motivated for so long. This year (Kilkenny) had to do it the hard way. What an achievement as a manager.”
Donal O’Grady interjected by describing Walter Walsh as an inspirational selection, while Cyril Farrell said that the build up went Kilkenny’s way - pressure was on Galway as Brian Cody “re-energised” Kilkenny. Farrell added it was the best team by far he has ever seen.
As for Walter, Eddie Brennan predicted bonfires down South all week. “Down in South Kilkenny, they’re tough yokes, wild boys and they will be hugely proud of Walter tonight,” he added.
The panel took a strange twist when Donal O’Grady described TJ Reid kicking a ball on the run, and saying in his day the player would have pulled, and if he connected with the forward’s foot, then “it would be a bonus.” Strange indeed.
So back to the banquet, Tommy Walsh and Henry Shefflin. Henry said he liked to silence critics, he always felt he could get back after injury and added “ I love to see underdogs winning, like Donegal, but we’re delighted in Kilkenny, we’re still at the top and want to stay as long as we can.”
For Tommy, hurling is the first thing we know, the be all and end all.
Then it was down to Kilkenny, outside the Parade with Noel Skehan, prior to Sunday the only Kilkenny man with nine All-Ireland medals now joined by Henry and Noel Hickey. Three time All-Ireland winner Charlie Carter was asked about the greatness of the team by Marty Morrissey - Charlie was quick to fire back they were the greatest before last Sunday. And then Myles Kavanagh aka Elvis to the nation, jumped in with a jump suit so it was back to Donnybrook and the man of the match award.
Mixed views on it - Henry Shefflin, Richie Hogan and Walter Walsh were short listed - all forwards from an attack criticised in the previous game. And it was a delighted debutante, Walter Walsh with 1-3 from play, who got the nod as the RTE Sunday Game man of the match - what an achievement for the young player.
Previously, the live coverage was dramatic as the pundits went for Galway, citing their huge support, the fact they were perceived to be on the up from the drawn game. Ger Loughnane worried about the fire in Kilkenny bellies, yet even at half time and Kilkenny up the feeling was that Galway had yet to hurl.
We’ll leave out the end comments and superlatives, to switch to one of the nicer shots from Croke Park at the conclusion of the game.
Henry Shefflin went looking for his little girl, Sadhbh (4) to come out on to the pitch. She found her daddy, and was in his arms when the cameras zoomed in. She then was seen to point to a cut on her daddy’s face, and daddy showed her another one on his right hand. Nine All-Ireland medals, 62 championship games, ten All-Stars, eleven Leinster Medals, five NHL medals, twice hurler of the year. And Daddy’s little girl wanted to make sure he was ok.
We owe the Kilkenny players, the management and their families, more than we can ever repay. We can just sit back and admire.