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Sardine tin: Cauldron of hurling passion

by Jimmy Rhatigan

THERE WAS so much to be grateful for in the giant sardine tin that was Croker on Sunday.

Over 80,000 men and women, children too packed into  Hurling’s Holy of Holies

Even the weather was akin to a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

If a mouse were to break wind anywhere in the gargantuan GAA HQ Agatha Christie’s super sleuth Poirot would have had difficulty finding out from whence the pollution emanated.

Things were that tight.

The Kilkenny/Limerick showdown had all the trimmings of a thunder ‘n’ lightning final without the thunder and lightning of an All-Ireland Final of another era.

Red raw conditions suggested that a blast from the heavens could have been possible.

But as a gift from on high a gentle breeze proved to be the supporters’ No. 1 fan.

Those who threw caution to the wind were happy to take their chances in the scorching sun as tribal rivalry suggested a fire and brimstone war of attrition.

The game was a mere three minutes old when Limerick breached the Kilkenny defence with a rocket to the net.

An early Treaty blitz pointed to a possible Grand Prix between a Ferrari and a Lada.

Oh ye of little faith.

Scalded Cats  showed their claws.

Kilkenny was still not in blood and bandage mode but the Treaty was no longer getting its own way.

There is always a price to pay if a cat is hindered in its search of a milk shake.

Had half one been a world boxing title fight then Limerick would have been well ahead in the judges’ books.

Put manners on Persians

But, on points, where it really mattered, Limerick was four only in front.

They had battered Kilkenny’s hurling door but the trinity of Huw Lawlor, Mikey Butler and Tommy Walsh were akin to the Spartans at The Pass of Thermopylae as they put manners on the Persians that totally outnumbered them.

Kilkenny boss Brian Cody may have done an Alex Ferguson at half time.

Whatever he said or did, our Cats became roaring tigers in half two.

A black and amber renaissance was in a hurling pot and the saucepan was alive.

Billy Ryan crashed a magic goal three minutes after the intermission.

The fat was in the fire and it was sizzling.

Martin Keoghan struck another great goal, followed by a point from sub John Donnelly.

The teams were locked together.

Croke Park was in danger of taking off as thousands of turbocharged aficionados yelled their approval for teams that were in opposing trenches of conflict. 

Hawkeye was working overtime and for a change was doing a good job.

It was anyone’s game.

Limerick regrouped and edged ahead again but Kilkenny, now in blazing mode, was cock-a-hoop and it was a case of together again after supporters’ hero Richie Hogan signaled his arrival as sub with a super point.

Kilkenny fans were now dreaming what was a not so impossible dream.

A fairytale finish would have seen Danesfort’s Richie crash to the net for a famous and what might have been a deserved win for Cody’s warriors.

Limerick had reverse gear

But it wasn’t to be.

We discovered that Limerick had a reverse gear as they retreated to batten down the hatches.

The cats fired everything except the kitchen sink at the now bewildered and near buckling title holders.

With even a smidgen of luck that would have brought a few more scores, efforts that squirmed off target, not through wild shooting but a wicked will to win.

Limerick found new energy from somewhere, tacked on the points that gave them a five-point breather as Fr Time was looking at his clock.

Kilkenny refused to surrender and with a minute or so of injury time left had whittled the lead down to two points.

The final whistle brought a mix of emotions, joy to Limerick and heartbreak for our answer to the Greek Spartans.

It could so easily have been the other way around.

We would have been gutted had it been Tipperary that beat us.

But make no mistake about it, while our supporters may have been gallant in defeat they were still scourged by the kind of pain that they are not used to feeling.

Limerick may be a Lady but the next time these teams meet there will be skin flying.

We will give the good woman a deserved kick in the backside.

And we will consider apologizing after we win the game.

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