AND the experts decided that DJ Carey was not good enough for thehurling team of the millennium!His shocking omission was exposed as a p
AND the experts decided that DJ Carey was not good enough for thehurling team of the millennium!
His shocking omission was exposed as a pure disgrace at Croke Park on Sundaywhen the Kilkenny forward wizard was an inspirational figure in the Cats'demolition of Offaly in the All-Ireland hurling final.
From the moment Carey buried his side's first goal past Stephen Byrne inthe sixth minute, the writing was on the wall for Offaly as they failedcompletely to even make a game of it.
Carey was magnificent every time he got the ball and if you give himKilkenny's second goal when Henry Shefflin's initial effort didn't seemto cross the line, then a tally of 2-4 in a final is superb, by anystandards.
Carey is definitely the most gifted hurler of the last 25 or 30 years. Even Brian Whelehan would probably admit that after Sunday's display.
However, this was no one-man show by Brian Cody's men. This was a tremendousteam effort by a group of players who have gathered themselves togetherafter the heartbreak of losing the last two finals and were just fiercelydetermined that 2000 would be their year of glory.
It would have been an absolute disaster for Kilkenny if they had becomethe first team to lose three All-Ireland finals in succession, but it neverlooked like happening on Sunday.
When Kilkenny surged into a 2-3 to 0-1 lead after only ten minutes, theOffaly players and supporters knew that they were an outclassed side, eventhough they kept fighting for all they were worth, as has always been the casewith the Faithful County (except in Leinster finals!).
Apart from Carey, the other members of the lethal full-forward line, CharlieCarter and Henry Shefflin, were also in great shooting form, and the factthat the three of them contributed 4-10 of Kilkenny's 5-15 total tells its ownstory.
Denis Byrne also carried on from his semi-final form with another excellentdisplay, firing over four great points while substitute Eddie Brennan tookhis goal superbly and is definitely a player to look out for in the blackand amber in the next few years.
It was disappointing to see Brian McEvoy have to leave the field so earlybut it was clear that he was hampered by his shoulder injury but AndyComerford, realising that much was expected of him after McEvoy's departure,was magnificent from beginning to end, winning the midfield battle handsdown.
The Kilkenny half-back line was also in sensational form with Eamon Kennedygetting the better of Gary Hanniffy in the middle and wing-backs, PhillyLarkin and Peter Barry being even more impressive.
Larkin really upped his performance when it mattered most while Barry isone of the most consistent players in the country and is now the best numberseven in the game, ahead of the likes of Anthony Daly, Kevin Martin andSeán Óg Ó hAilpín.
The full-back line also did little wrong and their goal was only breachedby a fine individual Johnny Pilkington goal in the second half, while JamesMcGarry was soundness personified in goal.
For Offaly, it was a match that they were simply overwhelmed in right fromthe first whistle and they can have no complaints about the end result orthe margin of defeat.
They peaked for just one match this year, against Cork, and proved on Sundaythat they are unable to match Kilkenny at the moment. Indeed, the hungerwas missing from a lot of players.
Joe Errity was their best defender on the day and he didn't give John Powermuch possession throughout while David Franks also impressed when introduced.
Both midfielders, Johnny Dooley and Ger Oakley, worked hard but found itimpossible to curb the influence of Comerford. Johnny Dooley will be upsetat the amount of wides he hit while Oakley's striking never rose above themediocre.
In attack, Offaly played only in patches and had no player that was capableof doing something like Shefflin, Carter and D J were producing at the otherend.
Offaly's real chance of making a contest of it came in the 18th minute whenMichael Duignan missed a sitter of a goal chance that would have reducedthe deficit to just three points.
Kilkenny were not missing similar chances.
There will be a lot of talk now about possible retirements from the Offalycamp with the usual names being mentioned - Kevin Kinahan, Brian Whelehan,Joe Errity, Hubert Rigney, Johnny Dooley, Johnny Pilkington, Michael Duignanand Joe Dooley.
Maybe a few of them will throw in the towel now but both their minor andunder 21 teams are Leinster champions this year and, of course, Offaly cannever be written off, so it wouldn't be a surprise if they are back incontention next year.
Kilkenny are a young side and can definitely go on and win the All-Irelandagain, maybe even next year, if they keep the hunger. And keep D Jmotivated.
The pressure is on the Munster teams now. It was an all-Leinster All-Irelandfinal for the second time in three years and that won't go down well inthe so-called top province of hurling.
What can the likes of Cork, Tipp or Clare do in 2001?
Stars of the week: The sublime D J Carey, man-of-the-matchin the All-Ireland senior hurling final; Michael Owen, whose scoringspree has taken him to a total of seven goals in his last four matches;Ronan O'Gara, who gave another display of brilliant kicking for Munsteragainst Leinster on Friday night; Giant's Causeway, who recorded his fifthconsecutive Group One victory in the Esat Digifone Champion Stakes atLeopardstown on Saturday; Venus Williams and Marat Safin, US Open tennischampions and Eduardo Romero, ten shot winner of the Canon European Mastersin Switzerland.
Teams of the week: Kilkenny, superb winners of theAll-Ireland senior hurling final; Galway, All-Ireland minor hurlingchampions andCeltic, who got their ninth successivewin on Saturday against Hibernian to go top of the Scottish Premier League.
Wallies of the week: Kilkenny's Stephen Grehan, who tookthe risk of playing soccer a week before the All-Ireland hurling final andwas then relegated to the role of unused sub; Referee Mike Riley for failingto send off Graham Le Saux for a vicious tackle on Lee Dixon during theChelseav Arsenal clash; a tenth of the Chinese Olympic team who have been senthome from Sydney after testing positive for EPO; Richie Foran of Shelbourne,sent off for the second successive home game and David Ginola whose attitudeto his secret love child is `why do I have to pay for an error of my youth?'
Hard luck stories of the week: Huddersfield's Clyde Wijnhardalmost losing an arm in a horror car crash that will keep him out of actionfor a year; Darren Anderton injuring himself (yet again) and he will nowmiss next month's England v Germany clash; Harry Kewell of Leeds beingforced to undergo an achilles tendon operation that will keep him out forthree months; Andre Agassi having to withdraw from the Olympics to be closeto his ill sister and mother; Luc Nilis, breaking his leg in two placesfor Aston Villa against Ipswich on Saturday and Lixnaw's Trevor McKenna,who also broke his leg against Crotta on Saturday.
Ones to watch: Ashley Cole, who notched his first goal forArsenal at Bradford on Saturday and Garry Farragher, Galway's outstandingmidfielder in the All-Ireland minor hurling final.
Surprise of the week: Pete Sampras, beaten in straight setsby Marat Safin in the US Open men's singles tennis final.
Sad news of the week: The death of Paolo Ghislimberti,33-year-old fire marshal after a big pile-up during the Italian Grand Prixat Monza on Sunday and the disgraceful scenes of violence that marred theLixnaw v Crotta hurling game on Saturday.