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25 June 2009 Edition

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More than a game BY MATT TREACY

Invasion and demonisation

IT’S not often I take part in pitch invasions. Last Sunday was the third occasion that I can recall and, perhaps significantly, the other two – after the under-21s won the Leinster final in 2007 and after the senior hurlers beat Galway in the league the same year –have all been of recent vintage. Traditionally, the most likely reaction of Dublin hurling supporters at the end of games would be to quietly consider the merits of self-garrotting as opposed to cyanide tablets or leaping from the top of a tall building as the most efficacious means to put an end to the misery.
All is changed, changed utterly.
Wexford people were probably looking at us as though we had lost the run of ourselves as we hurdled the wall around Nowlan Park and you can see their point of view. Qualifying for a possible tonking from Kilkenny in front of the entire country is a dubious honour. For us, however, it is something wonderful and new and the consummation of the targets set for this Dublin team for the year: survival in Division One and a place in the All-Ireland quarter-finals, at least.
Now there is the small matter of beating the Cats.
The turf accountants are in little doubt about that conundrum. You can back Kilkenny at 1/20. So, for the uninitiated, if you put €20 on you will collect, if successful, the princely sum of €21. It is, however, probably a realistic appraisal of the relative merits of the two sides.


FOR pessimists (that is those who fear that Dublin will be beaten by a cricket score) there is ample evidence to support their concerns. Kilkenny beat everyone easily last year and even in games where teams stayed with them for most of the match, they still put considerable daylight between them by close of play. 
For optimists (that is those who hope that Dublin can keep the margin of defeat within the bounds of decency) there is the evidence that the Cats have been run close on several occasions this year: by Limerick and Dublin in the league; by Tipp in the league final; and for over 60 minutes by Galway last Saturday. And no, for those of you hoping to detect some mad rush of delusion here, I have met no one who seriously believes Dublin can beat them. In two or three years, perhaps, when hopefully Cody and the lads succumb to McCarthy fatigue, but not yet. 
Whether that is a credible ambition will itself be put to the test when the Dublin and Kilkenny under-21s meet in the Leinster final on 15 July. Several Dublin senior panellists are on that team and it is an age cohort that has been remarkably successful against the Cats up to now. If that continues then there is real hope for the future at senior level. For the moment, we can only sit back and enjoy the rest of this summer and perhaps even the early part of autumn.
As for the hype and the bandwagon, I will leave comment to one Mr Daly (or ‘Anto’, as we like to call him):
“I’d like people to come to the Leinster final but the diehards who came to Nowlan Park and who followed us through the league are the people I’d be concerned about. The people who only turn up for finals wouldn’t bother me, no more than they did when I played with Clare.
“I’d have massive time for the 7,000 faithful from Clare who turned up for the 1995 Munster final even though we were beat in the two previous finals. They weren’t afraid to be there. I wouldn’t have been as concerned with the 40,000 who were looking for All-Ireland final tickets that September. That would always have been my way.” 


IT’S a good job that there is not a hurling team based in the Pentagon as otherwise the demonisation of Tommy Walsh might lead to a new ‘War on Terror’ directed at the terrorist headquarters in pastoral Tullaroan. Every game Tommy plays now he seems to be both the focus of the RTÉ jury (at least one of whom ought to be blushing to the roots of his toenails when pontificating on such matters!) and intense terrestial debate on whether his awfulness exceeds that of Genghis Khan or Jack the Ripper.
Walsh has proved himself to be beyond any doubt the outstanding right-half-back of his generation; and he would probably acquit himself as well on the left side or as a wing-half-forward or corner-forward. In an age where hurlers are becoming to resemble more the huge chaps who play inter-county football, Walsh is relatively speaking a slight individual. He has also occasionally been the target of pure thuggery. Such attempts at intimidation, and the prelude to the All Ireland final last September featured one such, have been notably unsuccessful.
Tommy was once again the focus of attention last Saturday when he was yellow carded and some claiming that he ought to have been carded a second time and therefore dispatched to the line.
As far as I could see, there was only one player on that pitch who deserved an early shower and he got one. Indeed, it would be far better to discard the new system and allow referees to punish acts which are clearly beyond the pale and not be sending off players for relatively minor second offences. The danger, as Eddie Keher has pointed out, is that this will encourage some hurlers to copy the habits of inter-county footballers who feign injury to persuade the referee to wave the card.
But that is just a minor quibble after a weekend that saw four excellent hurling matches which belied the jeremiads of those who last September were forecasting the end of the game as we know it. Now for the weekend, it’s back to the Greco-Roman wrestling. 

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

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