There was a moment in Sunday’s game where the Premier faithful began to believe that there would be celebrations across the county that night. Henry Shefflin, sharpshooter extraordinaire, steps up to knock over a free which surely couldn’t trouble someone of his stature. Amidst the inevitable cheers from the Tipp supporters there was an audible groan emitted from those watching in black and amber as the umpire takes a step forward and waves the free wide. Surely not? Surely there’s some mistake? Henry doesn’t miss those ones.
Yet he did miss, and then he proceeded to miss the final sixty minutes of the game after his knee gave way. It was a sad sight, not just for those of a Kilkenny persuasion, but for anyone with a grá for hurling. But the show must go on, and it did. In style.
When one thinks of a cat, the immediate thoughts are of a selfish and lazy feline, lying on a rug in front of the fire. Kilkenny then are hardly suited to their Cats nickname, as they never take anything lying down, and lazy and selfish just don’t enter their style of play at all. They’d put you more in mind of a pack of piranhas, working together tirelessly to devour their opposition. They’re a fearsome sight, piranhas. But what happens when a bigger fish comes along? We found out on Sunday. Tipperary are now the big fish in the pond, and they’d better be prepared for teams to come at them hard next year, because with the display they put on in Croke Park, teams are going to need to throw the kitchen sink at them to knock them off their deserved pedestal.
Consider a minute the heroes of September 5th. Last year missed goal chances, and ill discipline were factors in their defeat. This year the only red to be seen in Croke Park this year was Tommy Walsh’s helmet and Brian Cody’s face post match. And goals? By god there were goals. Lar Corbett may spend his life playing down his contribution on Sunday last but the chances are there’ll be ballads written in his honour before this week is out. A hattrick in an All Ireland Hurling Final hasn’t been achieved since 1966, and there wasn’t a bad finish to any of Lar’s goals. There were legends born all over the field, and some who’ve carried that status renewed it between half three and five o clock Sunday evening. Brendan Cummins scored his first championship point, and what a game to score it in. Eoin Kelly tagged on vital frees at vital times. Noel McGrath showed the maturity, skill and vision of player’s years his senior with both his goal and his assist to Corbett’s second. The half back line defended with a ferocity befitting the occasion. Brendan Maher hurled himself into contention for player of the year.
Tipperary supporters heard tell that there was rain in Croker Sunday. Rain? What rain? A hurricane could have ripped through Croke Park that evening and no Premier follower would have noticed. Indeed, a hurricane of sorts did pass through on Sunday. Its name was Lar Corbett, and he left a trail of devastated cats in his wake.