Friday 28 July 2017

Kilkenny come to end of the road in 'drive for five'

Conor Kane

DISAPPOINTED but proud was the overwhelming mood in Kilkenny last night as supporters came to terms with the end of the "drive for five".

Yes, there was sadness at losing out on an historic opportunity to set another record, but pride at what this team has achieved during the last decade.

In The Butts area in Kilkenny city's Pearse Street, veteran supporter Ann Duggan said they were "not sore losers" and acknowledged that "Tipperary were the better team on the day".

The Butts is traditionally one of the most decorated areas of the city in the run-up to All-Ireland day and this year was no different.

And many fans will be turning out this evening to greet the players who have achieved so much.

"If you think Tipperary is going to be busy, wait until you see Kilkenny," Ann said. "The homecoming will be even bigger than if they had won. They're some team."

Also on the train home -- due into Kilkenny at about 6.15pm -- will be the minors who went one better than their senior counterparts yesterday and beat Clare in their All-Ireland final. "They're the up-and-coming team now," Ann added.

Both teams will be given a civic reception tonight in Kilkenny's Market Yard after parading through the city streets on open-top buses.

Musician and former mayor Malcolm Noonan -- who performed with his band on RTE television's 'Up for the Match' on Saturday night -- said the players and management had "a great run" in recent years.

"It's unfortunate that history isn't made this time but the team have given it all, many of them for the last decade, and it just wasn't to be. Tipp were deserving winners."

Debate

If you want to start an argument between a crowd of Tipperary supporters and a group from Kilkenny, ask them where exactly is the "home of hurling".

Long claimed by Tipp, the title causes no little banter and niggle at times like this, particularly in border areas.

Last night the debate had taken a decided swing back towards the Premier County.

Tucked just inside the Kilkenny side is Urlingford, where a fair sprinkling of blue and gold- bedecked fans watched the big game side by side with their Cat-supporting neighbours.

Owner of the Urlingford Arms, Nicholas Healy -- sporting a Kilkenny top -- said he was glad to see Tipperary people coming along to his bar with their custom -- despite the afternoon's events.

"We don't mind that at all," he laughed. "We let them come in now and again."

Kilkenny supporter Annette Grant was there with her son Liam, also a Cat fan, although husband Willie is from the Tipperary side.

"There's always plenty of chat about it in the house around now," she said.

Outside, Tipp-supporting Stephen Barnaville and John Kelly said "a gang from Gortnahoe (Tipperary)" were responsible for painting blue and gold colours and "Up Tipp" on the Urlingford signs leading into the town.

Another sign, on the Littleton road, predicted that "the drive for five ends here". And so it proved.

18-page gaa special: see sport

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