Tuesday 17 September 2019

Billy Keane: 'Liam the man was the key to winning Liam the trophy'

'Sheedy is doused and marinated in Tipperary hurling'. Photo: Sportsfile
'Sheedy is doused and marinated in Tipperary hurling'. Photo: Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Tipperary's 2019 All-Ireland triumph is a tale of two cards.

Kilkenny's Richie Hogan walked to the stands when he was sent off. In other sports Richie would have been shepherded to the dressing room. You would wonder which is the more humane. There was nowhere to hide. He was wet and forlorn with a boxer's cut nose. Richie was heartbroken.

Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.

Log In

Sorry to say, but I thought Richie's red card was a fair call. Hurling has to be hard on shots to the head. Possibly Richie meant to land the blow on the upper chest, but he was going too fast on a wet day when the braking distance was zero.

Richie's cuts on his nose were the result of a reckless blow to the face from a Tipp hurl earlier in that first half. There was no card, not even a yellow. We have seen this happen at every level. The ref lets a bad tackle go unpunished, and the victim gets sent off for taking the law into his own hands.

Most of the analysts will agree the dismissal was the big turning point. Tipperary won by 14 points. Surely the sending off wasn't worth 14 points? Tipperary still had to win the game.

Strength

They were the better team and it was their strength of will, the twists of their wrists, the hurling intelligence and the fire in their hearts that won a 28th Liam MacCarthy Cup for Tipperary. There was the weather factor. A big cloud burst in the first half and the rains seemed to halt Kilkenny's momentum at a time when they were well on top.

We gulped down the dinner at half-time. The All-Ireland hurling final is a family day. And the definition of the family includes all of us. There was a time in this country, during the reign of men, when dinner time was set in stone for 1pm. There was no such thing back then as a lunch or brunch.

GAA Newsletter

Expert GAA analysis straight to your inbox.

But on All-Ireland hurling final day the dinner gong sounded at 12.30 so the family could all be ready for the throw in at 3.30. The dinners may have changed. Hardly anyone knows how to make gravy from scratch, but the tribe of the Gael all sit down together even though we may be continents away. It matters not where we are on the map, once we are all together in the map of the human heart.

There is no day like it in our Irish year or anywhere else either. Croke Park should be declared a Unesco World Heritage site. And it is ours, our very own, from time immemorial.

Tipp's John McGrath got the road in the semi against Wexford. Tipp went five down after John was sent to the line. Gallant Wexford looked past the post.

John's brother Noel kept his head when all seemed lost and picked off the first vital point of the fightback. He was involved in several more plays and Tipperary barely won.

Noel was not only playing for his beloved Tipperary, but he was also playing for his beloved brother John. Noel was as good as two men. He had to be.

Noel was also outstanding yesterday. He picked out his own men from among the throng with long-distance pucks when the flak was flying all around him.

Yes, this year's championship really was a tale of two sending-offs. Tipp so nearly might not have been here. John and Noel walked up the steps to collect Liam.

Brendan Maher came back from a cruciate injury. I saw his swollen knee. It was a turnip... His girlfriend, Aoife Hannon, is a physiotherapist and she helped greatly with the rehab. Aoife specialises in pilates.

Brendan did as he was told and made a full recovery. Brendan helped keep TJ Reid down to just having a decent match. He sacrificed his own game for the good of Tipperary.

Captain Seamus Callanan scored a goal in every game. Ronan Maher won the aerial duels in front of goal. Tipp were better under the high ball throughout and this domination had nothing to do with the numbers game. Barry Heffernan was best of all in the sky.

Kilkenny brought in some young players. Conor Browne played very well at times. Huw Lawlor did fairly well on Callanan. He is one for the present and so too is young John Donnelly from Thomastown, who scored three from play on a bad day.

Brian Cody can be proud of Kilkenny and Kilkenny can be proud of Cody. He had little luck with injuries this year.

But yesterday was Liam Sheedy's day. He is a planner with heart. Sheedy is doused and marinated in Tipperary hurling. He is sociable and approachable - a communicator. Sheedy will give it socks for the next few weeks and we will keep a seat for him at Listowel Races. The Tipp fans will not begrudge their manager's break away.

For they know, for sure, Tipperary would never have won Liam the trophy, but for Liam the man.

Irish Independent

The Throw-In: 'Jim Gavin has achieved what Mick O'Dwyer and Brian Cody couldn't do'

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Also in Sport