All-Ireland replay - we just can’t wait

Aoife Sheehan of Limerick with Edel Frisby of Kilkenny. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Following a pulsating All-Ireland hurling final against great rivals Tipperary, the Kilkenny supporters left Croke Park with mixed emotions.

Following a pulsating All-Ireland hurling final against great rivals Tipperary, the Kilkenny supporters left Croke Park with mixed emotions.

The most obvious one was a sense of relief that the game ended in a draw because that late free from John O’Dwyer came mightily close to securing victory for Tipperary.

The decision by referee Barry Kelly to award a free against Brian Hogan was harsh. A free to Brian Hogan would equally have been harsh. Modern day hurlers have no problem striking a sliotar 100 yards so there was little doubt that O’Dwyer would manage the distance, whatever about the accuracy.

Tipperary supporters would have been delighted had O’Dwyer pointed the free. It would have left Kilkenny very irate at what many felt was a poor refereeing call.

If Kelly made a couple of controversial calls against the Cats, he was also lenient on a few occasions when he might have penalised Kilkenny players, particularly in the lead up to T.J. Reid’s goal after half-time. The relief with which Kilkenny supporters greeted the final whistle was understandable.

Aside from the late missed free, Kilkenny was playing second fiddle in the closing five minutes. All the momentum was with Tipperary.

Kilkenny’s position looked a lot more positive with 10 minutes remaining. In hindsight while Kilkenny’s ability to score goals was important, the manner in which Tipperary responded was very impressive.

Much has been made of the two penalty saves. I accept the pendulum has swung back in favour of the defender but in truth the shots from Seamus Callanan and John O’Dwyer were poor.

I will reserve final judgement on the new penalty regulation until I see how T.J. Reid performs. I reckon T.J. will show that it is possible to score a goal in such circumstances.

It is impossible to say if the replay will be a repeat of the spectacular game we enjoyed. Weather conditions were perfect in the drawn tie but may be a lot different on September 27.

A 5pm throw-in means that the floodlights will be switched on early, something new in championship hurling. Tipperary has access to the Semple Stadium lights so I imagine Kilkenny will look elsewhere to hold a flood-lit training session.

The general consensus is that Kilkenny must improve. I was not surprised with Tipperary’s performance. They have been building steadily through the Qualifiers.

That belief may have been dented at their failure to get over the line. Tipperary know the Cats will play better the next day. That is our hope anyway!

All the talk in Kilkenny in advance of the replay will focus on the team selection. Changes are far from certain. More anon.

Viewing figures

The viewing figures for the game were very impressive with close to a million and a half people watching events from Croke Park on RTE and Sky. Reading the feedback from UK viewers was both informative and entertaining.

It was not just the viewing public across the world who were enthralled by the endeavours of the players. Among the guests of Fáilte Ireland in Croke Park was a representative of National Geographic, the highly respected global magazine which was first published in 1888.

The individual described his trip to Croke Park as ‘the opportunity of a lifetime’. He encouraged visitors to Ireland to visit the stadium and its museum. Those comments will have been picked up by a huge global audience.

It has taken Fáilte Ireland a long time to recognise the tourism potential of Gaelic games. Hopefully this new found interest will be backed up with an appropriate marketing campaign in 2015.

Their first task ought to be a conversation with the people who publish the Cara magazine for Aer Lingus. The current edition of the magazine notes a programme on Kilkenny ‘Kings of Hurling’ which features the Cats 2008 All-Ireland hurling final meeting with Cork.

This is how the introduction to the feature is described: “In 2008, it had been almost 100 years since Kilkenny won the All-Ireland GAA hurling championship”.