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Saturday 16 December 2017

Times change but GAA fans still relish passion of match day

The picture in Delaney's pub in Kilkenny that shows Michael Collins meeting the Kilkenny team in 1921
The picture in Delaney's pub in Kilkenny that shows Michael Collins meeting the Kilkenny team in 1921
Seamus Delaney

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

ONE of the pictures hanging on the wall in Seamus Delaney's pub in Kilkenny proves that some things never change.

It captures the fervour of the Tipperary and Kilkenny sides during the 1968 National Hurling League final. Kilkenny all-star Ollie Walsh is flat out on his back -- and the hurlers are fired up to his left and right.

But Mr Delaney's memories go even further than that, and passion is written all over the 73-year-old's face as he recalls his first trek to Croke Park for a football league final in 1950.

Now he is preparing to make the pilgrimage to Dublin once more to catch the rival teams again clashing for the top prize in hurling.

Some things do change, though, including the way Croke Park has adapted to become a modern stadium capable of holding 82,000 fans.

"There were two stands where the Hogan stand is now. I thought they'd drive the ball the full length of the field when I looked at it from the stand because it looked so small," said Mr Delaney.

As a 12-year-old, he accompanied his father on the drive from Kilkenny to Dublin, a journey that used to take "all day".

"We'd go with six or seven lads together in cars and we'd have a picnic on the road in Kilcullen. We'd stop and run in and someone would boil a kettle for us."

He also remembers how customers would come into the pub first thing in the morning on match days .

"Lads would get up at 6.30am to go to early Mass and they'd come into the pub at 8am for a drink before getting the train to Dublin."

Punters will shell out €80 for the privilege of attending the All-Ireland final on Sunday, but Mr Delaney recalls "going to the 1959 replay and the ticket costing less than a pound. And you'd be able to pass the children over the turnstiles, too".

His reminiscing yesterday was interrupted, though, when Tipp man and Guinness rep Declan Collier walked into the pub.

Mr Delaney was describing his relief at how Kilkenny were "underdogs" this time round, in contrast to last year when Tipperary won the day.

Mr Collier agreed that the five-in-a-row fever may have affected the Cats last year.

"This time it's like they're waiting in the long grass. It certainly feels like that but Tipp are ready for them," he said.

"They know it'll be tough and they know what's ahead of them. It'll be a good game but Tipp will win by a point."

Fans and players alike will be fired up and flat out by the end of it.

Irish Independent

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