FOR Sunday Game pundit and former Kilkenny star Eddie Brennan, Kilkenny living to fight another day was down to just one man. He “single-handedly” kept Kilkenny’s All-Ireland hopes alive.
“The forwards know themselves they didn’t perform, it would have been a shame to have a loser. Our defence really got on top and its brilliant to have the chance to go back to the drawing board,” said Fast Eddie on the Sunday Game that night.
So back to the drawing board for Kilkenny. Was that the likely outcome before the game? In fairness to the TV pundits, none were going the way of their print colleagues in their emphatic endorsement of Kilkenny’s revenge mission. Former Tipp manager Liam Sheedy said its indicative of Kilkenny’s stature in the game that they were favourites, having lost to Galway by ten points in the Leinster final. Ger Loughnane predicted a “ferocious” first 20 minutes, suggesting that Galway would reproduce the Leinster final form but Kilkenny are unproven. Loughnane was suggesting Kilkenny would fight “fire with fire.” Michael Lyster remarked that it would be more like an “inferno” and Kilkenny would want it to blaze away.
Little talk about the man in the middle, Tomas Mulcahy suggested there would be pressure on Barry Kelly but the tactical battle was what was whetting the appetite of the panellists before the game - rotation on behalf of Galway, man marking on behalf of Kilkenny. The Michael Rice injury and his loss from the game was also discussed, with Liam Sheedy saying Kilkenny were “unfortunate” to be without him. Ger Loughnane gave his insight in to Kilkenny’s reaction to the injury saying that Brian Cody has shown consistently that if “anything is done against Kilkenny, he will attack back - I’ve been on the side of that.” The Clare man noted Brian Cody’s recent doctorate at UCC, and all congratulated him on it.
And so to the game. Loughnane, at half time, said it was a replica of the Leinster final and if Kilkenny were to win it they need to be more disciplined. “The game is now there for the taking for Galway, a lot of the Kilkenny lads are out on their feet.” Mulcahy said Kilkenny were in big trouble, and no one predicted the outcome of a draw, leaning towards a Galway win - yet were delighted with it.
All agreed it was a great final - the word epic from Loughnane summed it up. Michael Duignan, co-commentating with Ger Canning, suggested that Galway would be the more disappointed after it all.
On the Henry Shefflin penalty decision, all agreed it was definitely a penalty, and agreed with Henry Shefflin’s decision to take the point. And they couldn’t wait for three weeks time when the sides meet again.
The other controversial decision - the final free from Joe Canning which secured the replay was summed up with Canning’s commentary “Did he charge or was he fouled?” Michael Duignan intervened saying “That’s what happens in All-Ireland finals.”
For the TV panel that night, they were not surprised. Barry Kelly had been blowing such ‘fouls’ all day. “The forward was trying to win the free, has the defender impeded him? He played for the free” said Eddie Brennan. Donal O’Grady said Jackie Tyrrell’s hurley was a “little high”.
The panel agreed with their day time colleagues on Shefflin’s decision to take the point from the penalty.
At the end it almost sounded like a cut-price auction for the price of All-Ireland tickets. Cyril Farrell suggested fifty, Donal O’Grady wanted half price - Eddie Brennan was next and you expected him to go lower again, but no.
For the replay, Donal O’Grady felt the concerns will mainly be in the Kilkenny camp, while Cyril Farrell said it would be tough if anyone had to lose it.
The analysis of Niall Burke’s goal, in the second half was also insightful - showing the Galway centre forward did not pick up the ball, yet he did not play it off his hurley as he eyed up the goal. So it was a technical foul on steps, a marginal five.
It was RTE’s first drawn All-Ireland final to cover in hurling, and they were all geared up at both hotel venues for the banquet. In fairness to both camps they hung around to give interviews before heading home. Brian Cody described the replay as “uncharted territory” but it said it was a “nice place to be.”
Anthony Cunningham was hoping that his perceived tradition of the team that equalises winning the replay would continue.
But like any drawn big match, the real winner was the GAA.
And to that end the most telling comment came from the most influential person in the GAA at present - President Liam O’Neill. He suggested a draw on Up For The Match on Saturday night as his hope or prediction. How right he was!