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11 September 2008 Edition

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Matt Treacy







The Cats that got the cream

THERE WAS a rumour on Monday that Brian Cody had hunted James McGarry out of his bed the morning after the All-Ireland celebrations to watch the video of the goal he conceded late on to Eoin Kelly. I’m sure the story is apocryphal but you could well imagine it happening.
McGarry’s substitution was the only element of sentimentality that the Cats indulged themselves in last Sunday. On occasions this year they have been slow to get into gear and some Waterford optimists saw this as a window of opportunity. Some may also have been under the mistaken impression that putting themselves about before the ball was thrown in might unsettle Kilkenny. Instead, it had the opposite effect and the game was effectively over as a contest even before Eddie Brennan’s second goal after 21 minutes.
After that there was nothing to do other than sit back and admire the skill and tenacity of the greatest team in living memory. And indeed who, other than those time travellers who picked players they had never seen playing for the Team of the Millennium, would deny their status as the best ever? The record books certainly can’t.
Under Brian Cody, Kilkenny have won six of the last nine All-Irelands and contested eight of the last ten finals. Of the 2000 team five - McGarry, Hickey, Kavanagh, Shefflin and Brennan - were part of the team on Sunday; and Hickey, Kavanagh and Shefflin have started in all six finals and Brennan and Comerford in five.
Only the Cork team of the early 1940s, the Tipperary team of 1958-1965 and the Kilkenny team of 1967-75 come near them in terms of consistency and continuity of personnel. And all comparisons will be laid to rest should the Cats go on next year to win their fourth title in succession. And for anyone trying to avoid the recession, the 8/13 on offer for them to do that sounds a far more reliable investment than property or a bank account.

AN ANALYSIS of the match itself confirms the devastating nature of the Cats’ dismantling of Waterford. The latter failed to score at all from play until almost 45 minutes had elapsed and their total, including Kelly’s fortuitous goal, came to just 1-4. Mullane, with 0-3, was the only other starting forward to score from play. You would be doing well to win any hurling match with statistics like that and you certainly don’t win All-Ireland finals in that fashion.
Kilkenny’s relative lean period halfway through the second half did at least spare Waterford the ignominy of entering the record books for other reasons. As it stands, Kilkenny’s 3-30 was the biggest winning total since 1970 (and that was an 80-minute final), and the widest winning margin since Cork beat Antrim by 27 points in 1943. All in all, a bad day at the office for Davy Fitzgerald’s charges.
It is difficult to see this Waterford team holding together for another year. Several of its iconic figures are almost certain to call it a day and Fitzy was by no means committing himself to staying there. There is little to tempt him to and there have been rumours that he is being sought by others with pretensions and perhaps better medium- to long-term prospects.

IN THE FACE of the Kilkenny colossus, many county teams will be assessing their future. How many realistically could hope to match the Cats on a performance even at 70 per cent of that they displayed last Sunday? The talking teams earlier were Tipperary and Galway but the fact is they were exposed, and exposed by teams which were brushed aside by Kilkenny. Indeed, I would imagine that both counties were secretly thanking their stars that they had not in fact managed to come up against Kilkenny this year.
That allows them some latitude to ponder the future. Galway in particular seem to be awash with under-age talent and can perhaps afford to wait out the black and amber deluge for two or three years in the hope of being the first to benefit from any slump Noreside. First, though, they will need to build a team that doesn’t expect a certain Portumna man to do everything for them.
Tipp have prospects but they are not as good in my opinion and they do not have the same leisure as Galway. They need to win something tangible soon or the traditional impatience with lack of success within the county will overwhelm them.
Ironically, the other Leinster counties – Wexford, Offaly and Dublin – can perhaps feel a bit better about themselves after Sunday. It would be a brave Munster man who would now dismiss the province not only in the light of the final but the credible performances of all three in the qualifiers against Munster sides.
All three have gotten used to being hammered by the Cats and perhaps adapted themselves to the long game, waiting for the (touch wood!) inevitable relative decline of their feudal overlord. It may be a somewhat fatalistic world view but it is one that could very well see one or other of them better equipped than the traumatised Munster teams in the next year or two. Having faced the Cats regularly at under-age and sometimes beaten them, they have seen that there is nothing worse to fear past Urlingford.
It will be interesting to see then what way the leagues pan out next year as the senior counties come to terms with the new order. Who will be best motivated to try and make up the gap or position themselves for a shot in two or three years’ time?
It will also be interesting to see what becomes of the proposal to put Antrim and Galway into Leinster. That will be put to a special congress on 4 October. The two counties concerned are in favour, as are Kilkenny, but Offaly, Dublin, Wexford, Laois and Westmeath are likely to oppose on the not unreasonable grounds that Galway’s arrival could derail any hopes they had of usurping the Cats.
The arguments in favour are possibly weakened by the final and if the main other Leinster hurling counties remain opposed it will most likely be rejected. One would hope so anyway.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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