Having being given the hairdryer treatment for not being sufficiently worshipful to Clare after our first defeat in the year’s Championship, it is incumbent upon me to congratulate Kilkenny on their victory. The miles on their clock are beginning to show, but while Waterford may have shown amazing spunk in constantly getting up off the canvas, Kilkenny showed what great champions they are by never once getting flustered by this opponent that, contrary to the evidence of every encounter in recent memory, refused to give up. It’ll be fine, just tack on a few more points there. They didn’t win nine of the last fourteen All-Irelands for nothing. Who would have guessed?
And let’s have a big hand for the Kilkenny supporters around me on the terrace. Sure, during the match tempers got frayed, and there was one baluba who seemed determined during the first half to act as if the Kilkenny players couldn’t lift their arms without him being their puppet master. But I get the feeling he was told to wind his neck in by his friends at half-time, and everyone else was magnanimous after the final whistle. You could argue that it’s easy to generous in victory, but I didn’t sense any insincerity and it would also be easy to start crowing at the people who had spent most of the past two hours celebrating every score you had conceded. Credit where credit is due, they did themselves and their county proud.
The Minors came within a whisker of being a victim of the kind of smash-and-grab that we nearly perpetrated against Kilkenny. I wasn’t at the game, but you don’t need to have been there to know that losing an eight-point lead with ten minutes remaining is never good. At least they have a second bite of the cherry and we won’t have to face Limerick in their own back yard, outnumbered by at least 20 to 1. While it requires a spectacular piece of mental gymnastics to rationalise having the replay of a game initially staged in Limerick take place in a neutral venue, I can just about give it credit. The Senior final is played at one of four venues capable of holding them – Thurles, Cork, Limerick or Killarney. If the Senior participants agree on a home-and-away arrangement, the Minor game follows. Otherwise, the games are played at a neutral venue. The logic works – just. What I don’t understand is why it has to be Thurles. There isn’t going to be more than a few thousand at it and the game is going to be swallowed up in the immensity of Thurles. Venues like Tipperary, Bansha and Fermoy all spring to mind as places that can be easily accessed by the supporters of each county. Maybe demand will be greater than supply, but is that such a bad thing? The Under-21 final was played in Fraher Field in 2009 and the buzz preceding the game as there was a scramble for tickets justified the decision to play it a small venue. I can’t shake the feeling that the Munster Council object to their showpiece occasions being played at the diddy venues. Bansha just wouldn’t be grand enough for the insecure Munster mandarins in Limerick.
Speaking of insecurity, Munster and Limerick, how wonderful it was to see the supporters of the Shannonsiders rejoicing in their first provincial title in seventeen years. I couldn’t suppress a wry smile at the scale of their joy though. For the last decade we’ve been routinely told that winning a Munster title means nothing if you don’t add the All-Ireland. Funny how no-one saw fit to mention that on Sunday. More seriously, in the wider scheme of things winning a Munster title isn’t all that for Limerick. A Limerick man in my presence once bemoaned winning five Munster titles between 1974 and 1996 yet not winning the All-Ireland. He got pretty short shrift from the pre-2002 Waterfordmen around him. A seventeen-year famine? First world problems. It’ll be interesting how they react should this sixth Munster title since 1973 not yield the McCarthy Cup. It’d be great if I didn’t get to see the results of that scenario.
And finally: is this the last time we’ll see this?