Kilkenny manager Brian Cody raises a cup Kilkenny fold hold dear
The last time I did an All-Ireland vox pop for this newspaper was way back in 1987. A couple of weeks before Kilkenny and Galway collided I nervously positioned myself up High Street one sunny afternoon, somewhere between Crotty’s (now Paris Texas) and Good’s (still Good’s), and importuned any familiar faces that happened by.
The familiar faces paused and predicted a Kilkenny victory. None of them copped out, sat on the fence and declared, “It’s all on the day.”
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(Unfamiliar faces I was much too scared to approach. As for the kind lady pushing a pram who stopped and asked, “Are you selling something?” – well, let’s just quietly pass over that one, shall we?)
Fast forward to last Saturday night in fair Parliament Street, where we lay our scene. Cleere’s was unusually quiet, especially for a weekend in Arts Week, but a number of the usual hurling heads were there.
The moment had come for – ta dah! - another vox pop.
The question could not have been simpler. Who’ll win the All-Ireland final and why? In order to protect the guilty, the names have not been changed.
Seán (Dicksboro): “Kilkenny. The Tipperary forward line are not as good as they’re made out to be.”
Aidan (Dicksboro): “Kilkenny. The Tipperary half-back line are not as good as they were in 2016 and can be run at.”
Jim (Dicksboro): Hmm, turns out I didn’t write down what Jim (Dicksboro) said and now I can’t remember. Sorry about that, Jim.
Philip (O’Loughlin’s, now exiled in Cork): “Kilkenny. Dogged ruggedness.”
Liam (somewhere out the country): “I have absolutely no idea. Put me down for whatever the rest of them say.”
Other Jim (Rower-Inistioge): “I didn’t think Kilkenny would beat Limerick. I don’t think they’ll beat Tipp. So… Kilkenny by two points.”
There you have it. The Cleere’s jury goes black and amber. Read into this what you will.
Were they ever going to say anything else? Would a similar jury empanelled in the Thurles or Nenagh equivalent of Cleere’s go anything other than blue and gold?
On the latter score clearly not, but it would have been interesting to be able to look back at a putative vox pop from Cleere’s the week before the 2016 All-Ireland final. I can’t imagine too many of the punters would have opted for Kilkenny on that occasion – and they’d have been perfectly right not to have.
What awaits next Sunday is the 50/50 affair of cliché, or at worst a 55/45 affair in Tipperary’s favour. From a Noreside point of view that’s more than acceptable.
A couple of obvious caveats exist.
Liam Sheedy’s team inarguably pack more high explosive in their attack. For this reason, if the match turns into a shootout they’ll surely win it.
If it’s to be decided by substitutions, a not unlikely scenario, Tipp will probably win it, although it shouldn’t be forgotten how effective the Kilkenny subs were against Cork.
On the other hand, Tipp are not the side they were in 2016. Whether Kilkenny for their part are better or worse than they were three years ago, or are much the same, is open to debate.
Bring The Noise
One thing about the 2016 final, however. Kilkenny, for once, failed to bring the noise that day. They failed, for the first time in a championship match since the 2001 All-Ireland semi-final, to get boots on the ground. They failed to render it a contest of will as well as a game of hurling.
They won’t be guilty of the same failure next Sunday. Of that we can be sure.
Finally, in case you see me around town in the next few days, I don’t have tickets – a common misconception re journalists and All-Ireland finals. I don’t have access to tickets. I get a press ticket and that’s my lot.
Finally finally, who’s going to win? Sorry. It’s all on the day.
For more on Kilkenny People sport read here.