Sunday 18 March 2018

From auld cats to wee kittens, all ready for epic clash

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

HE's only seven months old but this Kilkenny baby might one day replace 'King' Henry Shefflin.

Little Rhys Duggan is the youngest Cats fan in 'The Butts' -- where the staunchest Kilkenny supporters live.

Rhys put his arms in the air yesterday as he chuckled when he was asked if Kilkenny would win the five-in-a-row.

He was more interested in his tiny hurley and the flags flying above his head.

The tot's mother, Tara Duggan, had her son decked out in the black and amber ahead of the Cats' clash with neighbours Tipperary on Sunday.

"He's amazed by all the colours," said Tara.

The Marble City is plastered in flags, bunting and hurling memorabilia.

Even the local hospital -- St Luke's -- got in on the action by holding a 'jersey day' for staff and patients.

The banter in the hospital was "great craic" with one elderly Tipperary woman saying she "didn't mind" her nurse's black and amber shirt.

Director of Nursing and Midwifery at St Luke's, Avilene Casey, said that staff at the hospital were used to dealing with hurlers coming into A&E with minor injuries on Sundays and Mondays. One of the nurses in the emergency department is Kilkenny hurler Jackie Tyrell's sister, Emer.

Ms Casey said the event was held in aid of the Concern Pakistan Flood Appeal. "We have a number of Pakistani doctors working in the hospital and we thought it was a good idea to support them. We checked with infection control and they had no issue with it because the jerseys are short-sleeved," she added.

Pakistani medic Dr Wasim Asif was wearing the Kilkenny colours yesterday. Dr Asif has been living in the city for the past four years and is grateful for the fundraising efforts as he knows many people affected by the disaster.

Tipperary woman Mary Ryan, who was wearing her blue and gold jersey, said she has learned to "rise above" the Kilkenny jibes. Ms Ryan, who has been working in the hospital for the past 10 years, admitted she was "a bit nervous" about Sunday's All-Ireland hurling final. "Let the Cats get carried away," she said, "and hopefully they'll trip up."

On the Tipp-Kilkenny border in Urlingford, three generations of the Holohan family came out to support the Cats. Conor Holohan, his dad, Danny and grandfather, John Holohan, have been busy making displays to support their heroes.

Staff of the Blackberry cafe in Thomastown said a win on Sunday would be the "icing on the cake" for Kilkenny, as owner Jackie Hoyne placed special black and amber cupcakes in the window. The cupcakes, made by award-winning Mary McEvoy, are selling fast. "They have butter-cream icing on top and they're decorated with miniature handmade balls, jerseys and Kilkenny flags."

In Johnstown, butcher Shem Delaney was reluctant to talk up Kilkenny's chances. Shem, himself a retired inter-county hurler, is the proud father of JJ.

Shem said JJ was busy between working for Tegral in Athy and training. "He just gets on with the job, we don't talk a lot about it."

In Dublin, Kilkenny hurler Private Eoin Larkin of the 3rd Infantry Battalion is hoping to clinch the cup. He was joined by the rest of the troops at McKee Barracks yesterday.

Irish Independent

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