10 September 2009 Edition
More than a game BY MATT TREACY
Cats satisfied with the cream
HARD to tell who was the most unpopular Offaly man in Croke Park last Sunday, Brian Cowen or referee Diarmuid Kirwan! Probably Cowen might have shaded it given that he is currently out of favour across the board, whereas Kirwan had at least the Cats supporters and their admirers on his side.
The reasons for Cowen’s unpopularity – mainly his presiding over an attempt to rescue a tiny band of parasites at the expense of the rest of us and our posterity – don’t need to be expanded upon. Kirwan’s was based on two key decisions: the sending off of Benny Dunne for a wild pull across Tommy Walsh’s head and the awarding of a penalty to Kilkenny which, some argue, changed the destination of the match.
There can be no doubt that Dunne deserved to be sent off. Even with a helmet, serious damage could be sustained by the victim. In fairness to Walsh as well, he was on his feet again before Kirwan had decided what action to take. Contrast that with the embarrassing diving we have witnessed again this year on the football field with lads lying down to get their opponents sent off.
As for the penalty, I was sitting almost on the 21-yard line and the initial foul was not committed within the square. As far as I could see, Kirwan allowed Richie Power the advantage but blew when Power was once again impeded illegally. Some argue that the second foul, which was a hurl around the neck, may have been within the square but I don’t think it was. Either way, the free should have been given from where the initial foul was committed and Henry would still have blasted to the net! Well, he might have.
There could be no argument, however, about the second goal, the one that decided the match. It was typical Cats as, for the first time, they began to find space and it was to Gorta, who had only come on in the last quarter to replace Richie Hogan, who supplied the killer goal just as he had done against Dublin in the Leinster final.
Afterwards there were plenty of observers who claimed that had Kilkenny not gotten the penalty then Tipperary would have held out. I don’t think they would.
The Cats did as they have done in all their games in the championship this year and kicked on at a vital period and made it pay on the scoreboard. Their forwards had been kept quiet for most of the day, with Shefflin in particular being kept unusually quiet, but the substitutions, which also saw Reid and Fennelly come on, made a huge difference and they were beginning to stretch what had been a dominant Tipperary defence. The goals were going to come and they did and that was the difference.
CONNECTED to the criticism of Kirwan over the penalty was the claim that he had somehow been biased towards Kilkenny throughout the entire match but that is not borne out by the statistics. Indeed, as a neutral observer, I thought it was quite obvious that, if anything, the benefit of the doubt was being given to Tipperary and that they were being given frees for offences that went unpunished on their side. That is supported by the facts which show that throughout the whole game Tipp were awarded 19 frees in contrast to just 8 for the Cats.
Of course, others will cite that as evidence of how ‘dirty’ the Cats are, so they can’t win!
ANYWAY, they have won their four-in-a-row, a feat that was technically achieved by Cork between 1941 and 1944 but they were actually beaten in the 1941 Munster final by Tipperary, which was delayed until October because of Foot and Mouth. Meanwhile, Cork and Limerick had played to decide who would represent Munster and Cork won that.
So they did win four-in-a -row but it was a flawed achievement. Something which should always be stressed in any conversation on the topic with Cork people. They will thank you for it.
The Cats now have the opportunity to put even that one to bed by coming out next year and winning their fifth title in succession. They are only even money to do so and it is not a bet that represents value given the much stiffer challenge they had to overcome this year.
They are still entitled to be favourites, though, and will be the team to beat. There have been no retirement announcements from the current panel and there are unlikely to be, and that is in itself a token of the Cats’ intent. Cody will, nevertheless, be casting around the existing panel and the recent crop of under-age players to augment what he has and you can be certain of one thing: that if he is there next year then it will be a serious challenge that Kilkenny will mount.
The challengers may be more confident than they were last year following the final but they still face an almighty challenge. Tipperary, once the disappointment of their defeat fades, will be hugely encouraged and lead the field. Galway, you would have to say, are a bit like the Dublin footballers: burdened by too much psychological stuff and far too dependent on Joe Canning.
Cork will be back... but not just yet. And Waterford will, similarly to Tipp, have gained some solace but they are an ageing team and you just get the impression they may have missed their chance several years ago.
Limerick and Dublin gained some comfort from their year but are arguably short of what it requires to make even a final never mind win one. Age favours Dublin in that regard if they continue to imbibe the experience of the top level.
The Cats will not be losing sleep over any of them. They have achieved something remarkable and are entitled to survey that achievement with some satisfaction over the next months. And we look forward to seeing them again in the spring, hopefully somewhat less possessed than heretofore!