30 August 2007 Edition
The Matt Treacy Column
Sport, like life, is about trying your best and putting yourself on the line
Within minutes of Bernard Dunne being stopped in the first round at the Point I received several texts from a number of different people all posing the same question: Was Dunne’s defeat a bad omen for the Dublin football team?
Obviously the two events were unconnected, other than that Bernard is a Dub, but it did not help to make me sleep any easier. While the start of the match, with Kerry scoring three quick unanswered points, and the start of the second half, with Declan O’Sullivan’s goal, were similar to Martinez’s devastating opening onslaught on Dunne, at least Dublin landed a few punches – metaphorically speaking of course! – and stayed the distance.
Not much of a consolation and all that remains is for Dublin to try and pick themselves up off the floor and have another go. That’s all you can do and despite a few unforced errors and bad decisions no one can take away from their courage and determination. The hurlers, or footballers, on the ditch can sermonise about “choking” and whatever else but none of them would be able to take any of their places. Sport, like life, is about trying your best and putting yourself on the line. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Character is when you get up, dust yourself off and keep going. Like the Waterford hurlers and like the Dublin footballers.
Courage and determination, however, were no match for Kerry who also had both those qualities in abundance with the crucial added ingredient of the ability to take their scores at vital times. Declan O’Sullivan’s goal was a prime example. It was Kerry’s only real goal chance and it was by no means clear cut but O’Sullivan made it happen.
Kerry also possessed the incalculable virtue of being able to kick points from distance, especially in the second half when Dublin threatened at times to build up a winning momentum. Any team that can do that is always going to be hard to beat and it has been the key to Kerry’s consistency and success over the past five years.
If Kerry do beat Cork then they will have established themselves beyond doubt as the best team of the past decade and will have earned their right to be considered alongside the great teams of the 70s and 80s. Cork will have a lot to say about that and Billy Morgan will have them well prepared both physically and mentally. It will be the first all Munster final and it promises to be intriguing. And tough.
Before that comes the hurling final on Sunday. Richie Bennis has been famous for most of his life – much like Seamus Darby who scored the winning goal against Kerry in 1982 (that’s just for Frank Farrell!) – for his winning point, or was it?, from a ‘70’ against Tipperary in the 1973 Munster final.
These days he is best known for his fiery crusade to return Limerick to the top table of hurling. He has achieved that by getting them to the final but one assumes that neither he nor they will be satisfied with anything less than an All Ireland. A feat that has eluded Limerick since 1973 when they beat Kilkenny in the pouring rain.
Seeking to thwart Richie is another fiery chap with a mission. The great Brian Cody. A gentleman when not wearing his Glanbia hat – as can be attested to by numerous young Dublin hurlers who have been at the receiving end of his encouraging words – but a man fanatically dedicated to Kilkenny hurling and their Samurai like devotion to being the best. All of the time.
Despite having borne witness to a litany of often crushing defeats by the Cats of the Dubs, I have a soft spot for them. Partly for family reasons but mostly because anyone who loves hurling cannot but admire them. But of course I never allow personal considerations to colour my unbiased analysis of a match!
I like Limerick hurling people. In the groundswell of sympathy for Waterford – in which I shared and I would have loved to see them get to the final – it was overlooked the extent to which Limerick have also endured decades of disappointment. And dareonesayit even humiliation.
But they have kept at it and it is amazing to think that they are where they are today in the light of their devastating 17 point defeat by Clare last year. It was in the aftermath of that that Bennis stepped into the breach and not only have they restored pride in the jersey, they have become serious contenders.
I saw Dublin beating them in the league and 14 of that team featured at some stage in Limerick’s defeat of Waterford. That is less evidence of Dublin’s progress – and they are not good enough yet to challenge at this level – than of both the remarkable progress made by Limerick and that they were clearly planning ahead for the championship.
A lot of their stars looked sluggish and even off pace against Dublin. Now they are like greyhounds and hurling to a pattern and with a power that literally overwhelmed Waterford at the start of the semi final.
The questions to be answered now are can they replicate that against Kilkenny and even if they do will it be sufficient to beat them? Richie thinks not and that Limerick need to improve. Brian thinks the opposite of course! Neither believes any of it one suspects.
Limerick will believe that they can beat Kilkenny and Kilkenny will as usual not be contemplating anything other than taking home a 30th All Ireland title. Kilkenny do not do lack of confidence or self doubt.
Limerick if they are to beat them will need to get stuck in and hope for the kind of start they got against Waterford. At the very least they need to prevent Kilkenny getting early goals and imposing their own pattern on the game. Past form favours the Cats but there could be another really big day in Limerick.
Deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Tom Mulligan, former Dublin and Good Counsel footballer who passed away last Sunday. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.