THERE ARE few, if any, as cute as a Ballyhale Fox.
Ask O’Loughlin Gaels GAA Club from the Eastern Environs of Kilkenny City.
The City Gaels and the Shamrocks were hunting for the same prey on Sunday but it was clever old and perhaps not so old Foxy from Ballyhale that won the pre-Christmas dinner for a fourth successive year.
Both clubs were hoping that they would get the key to the hen house that would give access to a Chicken Chasseur.
The latter achievement would feather a hurling nest, reward for months of testing training and playing on the big stage that is the St Canice’s Credit Union Kilkenny senior hurling championship.
The Bally Boys were favourites.
But the holy and not so holy men and women from the city parish of St John were optimistic.
But no one had greater faith than John Street Butcher Boy John Joe Cullen.
Bring home the bacon lads were his apt words to his local heroes as they stepped onto the billiard table-like surface of UPMC Nowlan Park that is the pride of Coogan and McGarry, horticulturalists of class.
GIVE ‘EM THE CHOP, LADS
Young Cullen just might have whispered: Give ‘em the chop, lads.
Regardless, it was the Loughs that were cock of the walk in half one of a game that proved to be an epic.
Ballyhale was favourite but, thanks to the huge hearts and splendid spirit of the city boys, our country cousins were not exactly on fire.
It was obvious that the Gaels had locked the main door of the aforementioned hen house but left a side entrance ajar for themselves.
The St John’s underdogs were hurling like top Cats.
Andy Comerford’s braves were competing with the courage of the Sioux Indians who had caused an upset at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
The Gaels led by five points at one stage and were also in front at the intermission.
Ballyhale gaffer James O’Connor may well have called for an all guns blazing second half.
Whether he did or not, that is exactly what he got.
The Shamrocks went on a scoring blitz that would have knocked the stuffing out of the mightiest of men.
GALES CAN DREAM THE POSSIBLE DREAM
While O’Loughlins remained brave, resilient and hugely committed to the death, there was little chance of upsetting Ballyhale as the clock hadn’t much time for the Gales.
The South Kilkenny club’s record tells its own story.
It was on its second amazing journey to a senior championship four-in-a-row.
Yet, there was a mere four points between the combatants after the Fat Lady sang (3-19 to 3-15).
Many will no doubt ponder on what might have been had Paddy Deegan’s late, late penalty not been saved by goalkeeper Dean Mason.
To be fair to Paddy, one of the finest warriors in modern hurling, it was a case of a brilliant save rather than anyone fluffing his lines.
The Loughs had a player red carded when Danny Loughnane’s enthusiasm got the better of him as his club stormed the Shamrocks Bastille in the hope of a final minutes’ smash and grab.
The game was hard fought, oozed class and was very sporting.
It was a case of normal service being resumed as Shamrocks bagged John Joe C’s bacon and TJ Reid was deservedly voted Man of the Match.
But O’Loughlin’s can continue to dream the possible dream.
Tiochfaidh their lá.