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Tame Cats turn to hungry tigers

by Jimmy Rhatigan
Pics by Donal Foley

LET’S BE honest.

Many of us were Doubting Thomases as we tip toed around conversations as to whether or not Kilkenny would beat Galway in the Leinster Hurling Final.

The odds were stacked against us.

The Tribe was red hot to add to skinny Salthill victory over the Cats.

Bookmakers too had Galway at short odds.

What so many thought might happen and worried Kilkenny fans feared could be the outcome never came within an ass’s bawl of coming to pass.

The game proved to be exactly as most didn’t predict. 

The only common denominator between the Kilkenny team that fell to Wexford and the Kilkenny that rolled over Galway on Saturday  was that the players wore black and amber.

That a renaissance was spawned, honed and perfected following the Nowlan Park disappointment has to be one of the great hurling miracles.

It may not be as significant as turning water into wine but it is certainly a next door neighbour.

The Cats weren’t good against Galway.

They were brilliant, superb, magnificent, fantastic, hurl on any superlatives you choose.

And that a strong army of Kilkenny supporters, including a terrific young battalion headed to Croker to roar on their heroes is proof positive that passion for the game by the Nore goes far deeper than a blip against Wexford.

It reminds too that our comic character hero of the 1960s, the legendary myth that was Roy of the Rovers is alive and well and living in our city, county too.


The transformation from struggling against the Wexicans is a huge credit to team manager Brian Cody, coach Mickey Comerford and selectors Martin Comerford, James McGarry and Conor Phelan.

Team Kilkenny is a healthy mix of devoted players, mentors and supporters.

But the kudos for a rip-roaring Bob O’Keeffe Cup win will lie fairly and squarely with a Kilkenny squad that proved that fighting spirit combined with skill and clever tactics can upset the most vaunted of foes.

So good was the Kilkenny recovery that the game would have warranted a Men of the Match award.

Kilkenny was that good as it held its own in the first half and then shattered any Galway resolve as the Cats faced into a contrary wind.

 As the game edged towards a song from the Fat Lady, our warriors were in control mode.

Galway created several goal scoring chances but Eoin Murphy’s acrobatic and brave saves meant they earned zilch for hard work.

Half one was a cat and mouse affair as Kilkenny’s tactics of short puck outs and the use of a wide man to pick off scores worked a treat.

Galway emphasis was on grabbing a killer goal but so good was ‘keeper Murphy that if a herd of bulls were to charge his goal not one of them would have got past him.

His performance was flawless.

We could go right through the Kilkenny players and all would get at least 7 out of 10 for performance.


When push went to shove we ended up with the names of TJ Reid, Eoin Murphy and Mikey Butler as prime candidates for, with respect, top dog among talented Cats.

It was Mikey the Magnificent.

His work rate was terrific; his overall contribution was out of this world.

He got 10 out of 10 for a sensational show of true grit, steel and camán craft.

Our Roy of the Rovers has to be TJ Reid. He is with respect the daddy of the team but he is also the mother and father of the game of hurling.

His free taking was awesome, so cool, so precise and so accurate.

As Kilkenny followers know well, TJ is no one trick pony. He is as cute as the proverbial fox, creates problems for defenders and his aerial excellence was a lesson in the art of fielding a sliotar at aeroplane level.

The final whistle brought tears for souvenirs.

It was emotional; it all meant so much with the Henry v Brian managerial spat and other peripherals. 

But on an evening when a wisp against Wexford was transformed to storm-force Kilkenny the focus was firmly on the Cats that again licked the cream that some were scared was going sour.

Turf accountants latest odds that may change on the hour, sum up where the Cats now stand. Prices today, Sunday, are:

Limerick 4/7; Kilkenny 6/1; Clare 13/2; Cork 8/1; Galway 11/1; Wexford 33/1.

The Cat is well and truly back among the pigeons.

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