Sport Gaelic Football

Saturday 25 November 2017

Food for thought on winners and losers

The sign on the door of the Yangtze River takeaway in Cork city read 'NO DOGS'. Disappointed, I ordered the sweet and sour chicken instead.

While we waited, Spring Rolls gave out about the state of hurling. Kilkenny, he propounded, would go on to win 10 in a row, and as he asked for a cold drink we thought of Henry Shefflin, who was in a freezer in Wexford.

Alas even the restorative powers of cryotherapy could not save Henry's season. He did his second cruciate and hurling's finest player will miss the All-Ireland final. So sad for Henry and the game.

"Shefflin is up there with Ringy," observed Duck Pancakes With Hoi Sin Sauce, a name even longer than Jimmy Barry-Murphy. He was about 35 years old, in the shade, and could not have seen Christy play. On top of that there's only a few seconds of sudsy TV coverage of Ringy in his heyday.

Fried Rice Special, 38, (his age, not the number of the dish) disagreed vehemently. "There will never be another Ringy."


I suppose the lore was something to cling to in the wreckage that is Cork hurling. Defeat is hard to take but here in Kerry there is a sense of acceptance that hasn't been seen since the time of Peig Sayers. I haven't met one person who has said Down didn't deserve to win.

Louth will never get over their Leinster final loss but when you look at it a month later the defeat is really a win. They are the people's champions and if some of their players did lose the head after the final whistle, these men will join Blessed Oliver Plunkett as the county's most revered martyrs. You lose, but you win. Like in 1916.

And so we ask the question. Will the losers of tomorrow's semi-final between Tipperary and Waterford actually win, in that they will not have to face the Cats?

The hurling experts all agree on one thing and that is Kilkenny are the best we have seen in our time. Video evidence suggests otherwise. Kilkenny would not have kept the sliotar pucked out to the mighty All-Ireland winning Kerry (Ballyduff) team of 1891.

Just down the coast from Ballyduff there was a bed-push in aid of The Saoirse Foundation, the Batten disease charity. I was in the bed when we started out from John Dee's honeypot Railway Bar in beautiful Ballybunion, and finished in Jesse James' hospitable tavern in Asdee. Jesse, whose dad came from the village, never plundered as much. The Asdee gang collected five grand. People were coming out from their houses on the sea road overlooking the sun-washed Shannon Estuary with food and drinks.

Rangy women and deliciously plump ones too jumped into the speeding bed in the fashion of cowgirls mounting a horse on the go. The victorious Beale GAA ladies' team turned the bed into a scrum machine. There was music and singing. Tyres bust. Springs collapsed. Menage-a-cinq. It was like the wrenboys.

If this was the Leaving Cert, I would be docked marks for writing off the point. And good luck to all of ye who are waiting for results next Wednesday. We know many of you are unsure of your career choices. Sometimes you might lose out on your first pick and the second round might suit you so much better. You lose but you win.

I doubt if Liam Sheedy is in a defeatist frame of mind. He was still grieving at Listowel Races, a few weeks after last year's defeat to Kilkenny. Sheedy is quietly spoken yet he reminded me of Mick O'Dwyer in that he was prepared to chat about the game to anyone and everyone. He's a special one, for sure, and he knows the hurt will not leave Tipp until they avenge last year.

The danger is Tipp will be thinking of Kilkenny but they haven't beaten Waterford yet. You can't take the by-pass. There's only one route to the final and that's straight through. Tipp must stay in the here and now or out they will go.

Waterford have guts. Ken McGrath is my player of the year and John Mullane is as good as ever. They showed great resolve in the last two years to get over that heavy All-Ireland final defeat to Kilkenny.

Back in 2008 the hype probably got the better of them. It reminded me of the day Munster met Northampton in the Heineken Cup final 10 years ago. The Munster players were overwhelmed by the extent of their own support. Waterford crave one last crack at the Cats to make up for the annihilation of two years ago. Tipp should win but the Deise came back from the dead twice against Cork. Such resurrections are the sign of a team that refuses to die.

The Cats are ready to pounce on the winners. Or is it the losers?

We will leave the final line to Beef Satay With Fried Rice And Pink Sauce -- I swear that was his order. Some chefs would call it fusion. Satay swirled his Coke around in his mouth as is the custom at the confluence of the Yangtze and the Lee when there's something important to be said. Sated, Satay quoted an old Cody proverb -- "let's take it one match at a time".

Confucius couldn't have put it better.

Irish Independent

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