5 July 2007 Edition
The Matt Treacy Column
Possibly the most disappointed person in Croke Park last Sunday was the woman behind me who spent ten minutes before the minor final telling her friend (plus moi!) what the Kilkenny captain was going to say in his acceptance speech. Should he thank the Physio by name or not? Hubris, my dear woman. Hubris.
As it happened it was Dublin captain Barry O’Rorke - a “knacker” according to the same woman - who got to say the few words. Actually “a few words” doesn’t quite do justice to a peroration that rivalled Anthony Daly’s in 1995 for duration and Joe Connolly’s in 1980 for the eloquence of his Irish.
Dublin beating Kilkenny in a Leinster final is a rare event. Indeed over the past decade and more, anyone beating the Cats in a Leinster final is an occasion of wonderment. Of the last 18 minor titles, Kilkenny have won 15.
When Dublin last beat them, en route to winning Leinster in 2005, there was a certain element of luck involved. Other times, Dublin hurlers have challenged Kilkenny mainly on the basis of sheer determination and doggedness. Last Sunday they hurled them off the field. Beat them in every position and had the match won when clear by ten points with over ten minutes remaining.
For those of us reared on a diet of unmerciful hammerings from the Cats, it was a moment to savour, but one that we were almost afraid to until the final whistle had sounded. Let us hope Barry has his speech well prepared for the first Sunday in September. And that he does not forget to give the oul fisiteiripeach a mention.
It was perhaps a psychotherapist that Wexford folk were more in need of given the trauma of once again having to sit through another mauling by Brian Cody’s men in the senior final. Mind you, not too many people did sit through it and there was probably less people in Croke Park just after half time than there had been at the same stage in the minor final.
I was safely ensconced on the high chair toasting the minors and watching the remainder of it on screen. It says much about it that many of the Wexford people in the pub were sitting with their backs to it. Occasionally one or two would wander over tentatively hoping perhaps that Tony Doran had been sprung from the bench and whacked in four goals while they were ordering their treble vodka. Quietly they would wander off again.
If you are not the victim, or a close friend of the victim, then there is a certain aesthetic pleasure to be gained from watching the Kilkenny hurlers in full flow. The artistry with which Henry Shefflin outwitted poor Declan Ruth before placing Willie O’Dwyer for the first goal summed it up. It is the sort of thing you might try and occasionally get away with on the training field. Then again, and no offence to Wexford, Kilkenny training matches are a lot more competitive.
In Parnell Park on Saturday Dublin strove to give Cork something more than a run out and succeeded for most of the match until the scoreboard began to reflect the difference in class. What that class consists of is not easy to exactly define. Pace, first touch, accurate passing, the ability to take scores under pressure. All of that and probably a bit more.
It is never easy to watch Dublin being beaten but there was much to admire about the way that Cork played. Tomas Brady had a difficult day on Joe Deane but in fairness there is little a corner back can do against a player that good who is getting the perfect ball delivered to him four times out five.
Dublin in contrast were enthusiastic, strong in the challenge but too often reliant on the long, speculative ball as opposed to Cork’s picking out of players, often from Donal Óg’s puck outs. For me the leitmotif of this Cork team is the two or three pinpoint passes emanating from Cusack through the half backs or midfield that end in a score. Efficiency and power.
The poor Dubs were the first in the queue following Cork’s defeat by Waterford and the fall out from the Clare match. They felt the brunt of their lese majestie but did not disgrace themselves. That is the standard at which they must operate if the current potential in the county is to come to anything. They are well capable of it and so are the lads coming behind them from the under 21s and minors. Halcyon days lie ahead!
Kerry’s determination to have more good days was signalled by their digging in to ensure that they beat Cork and thus avoided the potentially hazardous straits of the qualifiers.
There was much talk beforehand of the threat posed by Cork full forward Michael Cussen who is closer to seven feet than six in height. It was an obvious ploy to counter Kerry’s use of Donaghy but it didn’t work as little or no ball came to Cussen although the two good passes he did receive resulted in two quick points in the first half.
I wonder did Donaghy’s creator - if that does not sound too Frankensteinesque - meet with his old nemesis Mr. Morgan afterwards to discuss the relative success of their employment of chaps who wouldn’t look out of place on the LA Lakers.
Judging by what Jack said about Billy in his book, however, I somehow doubt that they are lads that ring each other up to go for a pint.