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Wexicans Waved Goodbye To Leinster

by Jimmy Rhatigan

Pics by Donal Foley

The Battle of the Alamo in 1836 was replicated in weird and wonderful ways as warring Wexicans and marauding Cats locked horns in a sensational edge of seat confrontation at Croke Park.
Teams of warriors from wonderful Wexford and courageous Kilkenny will have experienced the exertions of a 13-day siege in which 4,000 Mexican troops attacked a mission defended by 200 Texians.
Both the Cats and the strawberry men will have endured spells of defending the fort and then attacking it as a clash of hurling giants was even steven after 70 minutes plus injury time before the war was decided in a blaze of extra time action.
One minute, Cats boss Brian Cody was President General Antonio López de Santa Anna, chief of the Mexican troops, leading an attack and the next he was Davy Crockett defending what he and James Bowie hoped would be fortress Alamo.
In Texas, the combating troops traded cannon balls and bullets. In Croker the weapons of war were magic wands that masqueraded as hurley sticks.

With gingerly honed ash soldiers of true grit battled for supremacy with a combination of skill, speed and startling skills.
As was Texas all those years ago, Croker was a cauldron of pride without prejudice in which men were prepared to die for a cause.
The Croke Park spectacle didn’t last for anything like 13 days but so intense and intriguing was the toing and froing that nail gnawing and heart thumping supporters in the circa 8,000 attendance were hoping that it would.
Not a single hurler had the cheek to turn his backside to the action as players clashed, hooked, hassled, twisted, turned and tried every trick in the book to outwit opponents.
The fight for a Leinster Senior Hurling final spot against Dublin was the perfect storm, without heavy rain or wild winds.
But it was a swashbuckling adventure with lashings of metaphorical thunder ‘n’ lightening that lit up one of the great escapades of modern hurling.

One minute, Kilkenny was in front, then Wexford, then Kilkenny again.
It was an action-fused coming together of gladiators that at times would have made the Coliseum of Rome look like an afternoon tea party.
Exchanges were fierce, ferocious even, yet almost always sportsmanlike and manly, with nobody daring to ask a favour and not a hope of getting a good turn.
As had been the pattern throughout, there was a mere smidgen between the teams as the Fat Lady prepared to sing.
Wexford, beginning to feel the pain of unstinting efforts had its nose in front as the finishing line loomed.
Victory, as in racing parlance, could have been by a short head or even a snout, but then, the inevitable happened.
Kilkenny equalized and the reitóir signaled for an extra 20 minutes.
It looked as if the arse had fallen out of Kilkenny’s bucket of brilliance when Eoin Murphy once more did what he does best.
He stopped a player from scoring.

Battle of the Alamo

The referee adjudged that he had acted illegally, pointed for a penalty and sent our St Eoin to the sin bin.
Wexford goaled from the free and the Cats now faced the might of 15 stalwarts with 14 men only for a spell of 10 minutes.
Slowly but surely the real men of war were driving torment through enemy lines.
Instead of inflicting hardship on the Cats, Wexford had to settle for a single point advantage after their brief scrap with a Kilkenny team minus one.
When the going got really tough, the tough got going and a team of Rambos, Supermen and Hercules’s, with Murphy back on goal, crushed any hopes of a Wexford party with a final flourish that would have brought tears and cheers from a Kilkenny snowman or woman.
The extraordinary Kilkenny machine was in full throttle, running, jumping and crashing home scores as if the game was still in its infancy.
In contrast, Wexford looked war-worn, cramped, beaten down by a deadly enemy.

Kilkenny’s fighting spirit was astounding as they eventually romped to an eight-point win.
Their fitness was out of this world and their hunger for success was akin to the mood of a pride of lions hunting for its dinner after a few days without grub.
To be fair, Wexford, led by the stubborn and wonderfully athletic Lee Chin, a Bull McCabe-like character, also gave every ounce of energy in their willing bodies.
Brian Cody, General Santa Anna, Davy Crockett, call him what you will, had a smile on his face the width of Croke Park at the end of a prolonged fued for South East bragging rights.
That the final against the Dubs has the trappings of another possible classic, there is no doubt.
The Cats won’t underestimate Dublin.
Kilkenny will be favourites but the general and his troops will know that there is another mountain to be climbed.

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