Tuesday 10 December 2019

No need for border control among rival fans

Thomas Broderick (Kilkenny Fan) and his son Conor (Tipp Fan) pictured at the Urlingford Arms in Urlingford County Kilkenny
Thomas Broderick (Kilkenny Fan) and his son Conor (Tipp Fan) pictured at the Urlingford Arms in Urlingford County Kilkenny

Conor Kane

HAWK-EYE burst the Tipperary bubble, leaving the Cats to fight another day. The neutrals may welcome another shot at an All-Ireland hurling final but can the locals in Kilkenny and Tipperary bear it? Will their hearts be able for that sort of tension again?

As John "Bubbles" O'Dwyer lined up to take that 90m-plus free in injury-time, hearts were in mouths, hands were over eyes, silent prayers were being offered up across the two counties.

The atmosphere was especially electric along the "interface" areas, with Kilkenny fans afraid that Bubbles' free had been nailed and Tipp fans scattered among them in these mixed zones celebrating before Hawk-Eye was called into action.

In places like Mullinahone, Ballingarry and Carrick on the Tipp side and Urlingford, Johnstown and the Graigue-Ballycallan club in Kilkenny, there was a healthy mix of supporters.

"It's not good for the heart," as Breda Hickey working in the Urlingford Arms put it, while jersey-wearing supporters hugged each other and exhaled, all in very civilised fashion.

"I thought Tipp had it," Jason Scully said. "I don't like that eagle-eye."

Kilkenny fan John Ryan reckoned "a draw was probably a fair result". John O'Connell from The Commons, near Ballingarry, described it as "the best hurling game I've ever seen".

Behind the bar in the Urlingford Arms, just a few hundred metres from the Tipperary border, personnel was a mixed affair, with owner Nicholas Healy wearing Kilkenny colours, his partner Margaret McCarthy staying neutral given she's from Rathcormac in Cork and some of the staff members being of a blue and gold persuasion.

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Such as Margaret Fennessy from Holycross, whose nephew is international soccer ace, and former Tipp minor hurler, Shane Long.

"He's over in Tblisi for the Georgia match but he's gutted he couldn't be at the hurling.

"He comes over for it when he can."

For some families, the conflict came even closer to home In the Broderick household, father and son Thomas (Urlingford, Kilkenny) and Conor (Gortnahoe, Tipperary) managed to watch the final side-by-side without coming to blows.

"We'd be slagging one another all right," confessed Thomas, "but it's all good banter."

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