Saturday 20 January 2018

We must never allow St Petersburg to win All-Ireland

Henry Shefflin has nine All-Irelands, better than nine Lottos if you ask me
Henry Shefflin has nine All-Irelands, better than nine Lottos if you ask me
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

One-hundred-year-old Mary Catherine Buckley from Chancellorsland, near Emly in Tipperary, couldn't stick it any more.

She jumped up from her chair and hit full belt for the toilet. Mary Catherine is well able. She could beat the best croupier in Las Vegas nine times out of ten at 45 but the Kilkenny-Tipp drawn All-Ireland final was too much for her. I'm sure there were thousands more in Kilkenny and Tipperary who couldn't stick it. Even neutrals couldn't stick it

There in the solitude of that most solitary of rooms, with only the trickle of the water from a slow ball cock to break the pristine silence of a country toilet, did she find relief from the eruption on the television.

There was only five minutes left to play in the greatest game ever played and Mary Catherine only emerged when she was certain the ref had taken the pea out of whistle and the players had left the field.

Her beloved Tipp were two points down when she took refuge and the news of the draw came as a great relief. But then when it dawned on the delightful Mary Catherine that the prime consequence of a draw meant she would have to go through the tension and excitement all over again, and for the second time in the one day she uttered the words 'we'll never stick it.'

Such is the power of hurling that we never tire of it, not if we were to live to be a thousand.

There's no way this evening's replay can be half as good, but then if it is only half as good, the verdict will be that it was better most games ever played. You see when hurling is played right there is no better game.

Now that Sky are broadcasting Gaelic games all over the world, the danger is the hurling will spread and that some day St Petersburg Gaels will be crowned All-Ireland champions thanks to the munificence of an oil or gas baron who has fallen hopelessly in love with hurling.

It's a bit like the lad with the good-looking wife - he doesn't mind other lads looking at her provided they don't have her playing away from home. We don't want to share. The GAA had best see to it that the inevitable spread of the games is confined to areas of Irish influence.

Gaelic games are uniquely Irish and designed to suit our wild side, alongside our creative side with the unique rivalry of skirting counties keeping the passion flowing. Where else would you get a 100-year-old woman bolting away from the television?

I have never witnessed such an outpouring of emotion at the final whistle as when Kerry won last Sunday. The winning of an All-Ireland is the finest feeling in the world.

There was speculation all week long as to who had won the Euro Million Lotto of ¤85m. My friend couldn't find his ticket. He put it somewhere safe, which is the most dangerous place of all. Then one night the word came through that the prize had been claimed in Dublin. He was philosophical: "I'd nearly rather have Sam."

Henry Shefflin has nine All-Irelands, better than nine Lottos if you ask me, but this evening at tea time he will be on the bench. There was speculation The King would be starting. Our spies in Kilkenny tell us that the extra three weeks' training have seen a great improvement in Henry's form.

Funny, isn't it, how in sporting terms we see 35 as old. Aidan O'Mahony has been outstanding for Kerry all year and he's around the same age as Henry. Expect Henry to be introduced a lot earlier this week.

Pardon

And as we're on the subject of spies, I think it is high time that the Donegal man living in Kerry, who climbed a tree to get a look at Kerry in training should be given a full pardon. Sure wouldn't you do the same yourself if you were in Donegal? I'd climb Mount Errigal if I thought it would help Kerry. Be nice to him and his family.

Neither Tipp or Kilkenny have much to learn about each other. The teams have met more often than many couples who are working shift just to keep the roof over their heads. The glory of our games is that it takes our minds off our troubles. There is way out of most problems if take your lead from our sporting heroes who perform extraordinary deeds under extremes of pressure.

The three-week wait is over. Mary Catherine will be watching the game in the house where she was born. Never in her 100 years had she seen anything to compare with the drawn game. We are lucky to be living in such times. We could be in for another thriller. Maybe even another draw, with extra-time. We'll never stick it.

Irish Independent

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