I was hoping Tipperary would win last Sunday, a function of a desire to see something new and thinking that Galway would have it easier against them than a resurgent Kilkenny (wanting Galway to win, how times change). In the end though, I was willing every Kilkenny strike over the bar and into the back of the net. It’s not right to lump all Tipperary supporters into the category of boorish yahoos, and I’d like to think I take people as I find them and keep my interactions civil. Still, they do have a tendency towards pomposity, more so (in my opinion) than their Big Three counterparts in Cork and Kilkenny. When Waterford succumbed to the Kilkenny avalanche in 2008 there were more than a few snide comments from the Premier County to the effect that Waterford had gotten notions above their station and how you can’t bate tradition. Having not taken as bad a beating since 1897, I guess this must go down as a re-affirmation of a 115-year-old tradition. Add in some shocking pulls from Tipp players that would have made the men of Hell’s Kitchen blush and a flawed physical strategy that has turned them into a colossal joke and there was some pleasure to be had on Sunday evening.
But not much. Kilkenny now go into a match against Galway bent on revenge. I’m not convinced by all the talk about what a mistake it is to rile the Cats and how Galway will live to regret their win in the Leinster final. The Kilkenny team were no doubt given the mother-and-father of all bollickings by Brian Cody at half-time in that game and it made no difference. Still, Kilkenny will have analysed what Galway did so right that day. The Tribesmen famously pulled the rug from under Kilkenny in the 1986 All-Ireland semi-final by taking a man out of the full-forward line and allowing the corner forwards to wreak havoc when the Kilkenny back followed his man out. In the final, Cork simply allowed the man to go and Galway’s attack was blunted, one of their two goals coming courtesy of penalty by goalkeeper John Commins. Kilkenny will have have learned and go into the final as justifiable favourites for the umpteenth time.
It’s getting a little wearing. Getting back to my original point, it’s hard to get the blood up for yet another appearance in the All-Ireland final for Kilkenny. You can intellectualise it all you like, arguing that it’s up to others to bring themselves up to Kilkenny’s level and expressing admiration for the domination – and I admire it, I really do. You can do all of that and still find it utterly demoralising. Every time you think you see a tiny chink in their armour, it turns out to have been the gap between their sword and your head. Tipperary looked to have their number in 2010 and with the age profile of the Kilkenny squad seemingly nudging into the red zone there was optimism that their reign of terror was about to be brought an end. Now it looks like it is Tipperary’s time that has passed and Kilkenny look stronger that ever.
What is a minnow like Waterford to do in the face of such opposition? We’ll keep coming back. We always have done, and you can almost make a virtue of the lack of games at inter-county level as it least it isn’t expensive to follow your team. But having routinely bemoaned Waterford’s penchant in recent years for taking knives to underage gunfights, it’s looking increasingly like the only ones packing heat at all are the Cats. And it’s getting downright scary.