In both instances in Semple Stadium, Thurles, on Sunday the best team on the park won their way into the All-Ireland senior hurling semi-finalst.
Cork were better than Waterford in the opening semi, and while the ne’re say wells might instance cameos that could have changed the Decies fortunes, denial of a simple truth is foolhardy, and rather denigrating to gallant Cork. The more pessimistic Waterford supporter could say that the game was Waterford’s to lose, and they succeeded admirably.
The most optimistically vociferous Cork supporter (is there any other?) could say that the game was there for them to win. They did just that!
But back to our game, the Kilkenny one.
Like many Kilkenny supporters around our area, a bad feeling about the outcome was oft times referred to during the first half. In fact, a man near me offered that even before the throw-in, the players looked listless, nondescript and somewhat disinterested as they sloaped around the midfield area in a clump without any sign of passion or interaction.
They were there for a full four minutes, and not a ball between them.
With Limerick now a subscriber to the “tear into Kilkenny and you’ll bate them” module, the first quarter was not pretty viewing from a Kilkenny viewpoint. The reigning All-Ireland champions were powerless, second and missing on too many cogs in the drive shaft.
Defensive mix up
The Limerick half-back line of McNamara, O’Grady and O’Mahoney hit the delete button on the starting Kilkenny half forward line. The McCarthy Cup holders missed a few frees from scoreable distance, and another, flagged as a point, was wiped out as well by a sideline official.
To compound matters, a defensive mix-up – there were a few costly ones on both sides - allowed David Breen to clatter home a goal two minutes after that infuriating incident. Limerick were the only team on the park for the opening 15 minutes or so.
Kilkenny realigned, and resited their attacking forces.
If Limerick’s goal was fortuitous, Henry Shefflin’s goal in the 16th minute was pure Music Hall. Limerick goalkeeper, Nickie Quaid, his full-back, Richie McCarthy and cornerback, Tom Condon suffered from a communal mental moment as a long delivery came into their patch.
No better than the Ballyhale Shamrock man to hover, unnerve and eventually thieve the sliothar from the confused trio. The brat glas was waived by the umpire.
Henry, and to a lesser extent, Colin Fennelly were the two forwards getting any sos from the rip-roaring Treaty men. Fennelly, the guy that runs the main road, set up Henry for another goal.
Shefflin’s screwed, calculated little dink – it takes years – got over Nickie Quaid’s shoulder for Kilkenny’s and Henry’s second goal. It gave Kilkenny the lead and they were never behind again.
However, we had read an article by Dermot Crowe in the Sunday Indo, where he quoted John Power about the opinion of some that Tommy (Walsh) might be slipping. Power made the point that such foolishness was tantamount to installing batteries into Tommy.
Talk hit the red button
The Duracell were on overload all day. His point in the 32nd minute took most of the 38,000 off their bottoms.
Whatever BC said at the break certainly hit the red button.
Kilkenny roared out of the trenches. T.J. Reid said something with his contribution. Mick Fennelly with power, presence, passion and the awareness of a submarine periscope ran every millimetre of the hard yards. J.J. Delaney was like a mahogany antique sideboard - solid, dependable, comfortable, defiant and classy. Tommy out-shone all as he larruped anything in his parish back up to the Limerick end.
What a truly amazingly spirited leader he is?
I would not disagree with his MOM Award. He charged with ball out of defence like Lochinvar of legendary mythology. He was hammered, checked, fouled and obstructed, but time and again, he rolled with the action, stood four-square and ten, and at times he reminded me of an Indian rubber ball – it cannot be stopped, and keeps on rolling.
Tommy’s heart and mind were bigger than any he met in a green jersey. That was a major reason why he and his colleagues won.
Not two centimetres behind Tommy was the Danesfort star, Paul Murphy.
Here is a lad who is learning every lesson being taught by the men around. His tremendous passion is headline setting for most. His courage and dependability is without blemish.
If you take some time to watch him as he works his trade, you will notice little ingots of skill that have been the hallmarks of J.J. and Tommy. Of course he is not yet the finished article. He will readily admit, but he is most definitely a talent in progress.
His first half was somewhat fractured; his second was without blemish.
Allow me to put this thought before you. It was voiced by a diehard Kilkenny supporter.
Would a rest under a bit of sunshine buy the lads a little extension of energy, and renewable enthusiasm? I am only the messenger!