by Jimmy Rhatigan

OUR hurlers may not have brought home the bacon but, all things considered, it would perhaps be fair to say that our squad is still on the pig’s back.
It would also be honest comment that former hurling star, Derek Lyng in football lingo, now the senior hurling gaffer at UPMC Nowlan Park, is doing a good job filling retired inter-county manager Brian Cody’s boots.
Okay, so our lads finished second for the second consecutive year against hurling giants Limerick.
The squad that could be described as being in rebuilding mode has however won two successive Leinster Finals.
There are other more experienced teams that have nothing to display on their sideboards in the season just finished.
Satisfaction could be the lot of many Kilkenny supporters but with our county’s tradition of winning the clash of the ash with class, half a loaf may not be considered better than no bread.
Let’s slow down and give credit where credit is due.
Last year and this year it was Kilkenny that rose majestically to the surface while all others were drowned in gallant attempts to paddle or piddle to the final pulpit of the beautiful game.
Last year two points only separated the teams at the end of a storming battle. Limerick had a feed of bacon. Our Cats had to settle for the rashers.
This year, thanks to a Roy of the Rovers-type late, late winning goal by now newly-wed Cillian Buckley, Derek’s hurling dynamos edged to what we might term a revenge shot at the Treaty.
The gloves were off. The pig was fattened, both sets of players were lickin’ their lips and the hurling fight of the century was billed for Croker.
The devil and his mother craved tickets for the showdown. But, Holy God, seats for the Hogan and Cusack were as scarce as hen’s teeth.
First half action suggested that there would be celebrations at a black and amber barbecue. The pig was on the spit.
Kilkenny hurled like men possessed, had Limerick in a tizzy and led at half time. The Cats were jumpin’ out of their skins as fit as any Stradivarius.
Lyng’s men had put it up to a team that is arguably the best in the business.
Half two didn’t go to a script that might have been written by a Kilkenny man or woman.
Limerick developed horns. The team was akin to raging bulls that may have convinced themselves that our Cats were wearing red.
Gears of the Limerick juggernaut were upped and the very willing but under pressure Kilkenny now had a task that was akin to stopping the lava from a raging volcano from running down the side of the mountain.
Slowly but surely, Limerick manager John Kiely’s warriors had Kilkenny on the ropes in a game that if it were in a boxing ring might have seen a towel being thrown in.
Not a hope. In true Kilkenny spirit the Cats continued to battle and scored what might have been a game-changing second goal.
But, even courage wasn’t enough to halt a stampede of raging Limerick bulls that showed no mercy.
Limerick deserved to win. Kilkenny showed gallantry, early class and admirable work-rate.
Kilkenny just may have got an idea of how General Custer and his soldiers felt after Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and their Sioux and Cheyenne Indians cut through them like a hot knife through butter in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
The Treaty showed no mercy. Kilkenny had fought the good fight, went home with pride intact and vowed no doubt to make it third time next time.
The Limerick side that we might respectfully call The Manchester City of hurling had completed four-in-a-row, some claiming that the squad is as good if not better than the great Kilkenny teams of yore.
Proud Cats will argue the latter.
But as true aficionados of the small ball game, Kilkenny supporters admitted that Limerick deserved its feed of crubeens.
My friend Dave Kenneally of Smartscastle, Kilmacow, a loyal Kilkenny follower since 1957 said Limerick was so good that if a player, with back to goal, threw the ball into the air and closed his eyes, the sliotar would sail over the bar.
Praise indeed.
Delight for Limerick’s excellent ambassador in Kilkenny, one Ger Moloney, master musician, gentleman and scholar and member of Mick Leech’s wonderful entertainment team in Paris Texas.
My photographer friend Donal Foley, also a son of Limerick, is no doubt dancing a Siege of Ennis in his Hugginstown, Kilkenny home sweet home.
When Limerick hooleys die down, around Christmas perhaps, The Treaty will focus on five-in-a-row.
But they will know well that lying in the long grass will be the hurlers of Kilkenny, watching, waiting, willing to take advantage of any Limerick slip-up.
Every dog has his day.
A home celebration with Liam MacCarthy would be purrfect for our Cats too.
Finally, well done to Kilkenny players for their super human effort in the hurling league and championship.
Passion, pride, sacrifices and all their sisters and brothers were features of a superbly dedicated squad, management team and backroom crew.
I am happy that our wonderful supporters appreciate every minute that the boys and girls gave to the cause.

Related Articles