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Dublin victory over Kilkenny reminds us how beautiful and vital hurling is

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Kieran Joyce and Richie Hogan of Kilkenny attempt to tackle Dublin’s Conal Keaney during the replay on Saturday night.
Kieran Joyce and Richie Hogan of Kilkenny attempt to tackle Dublin’s Conal Keaney during the replay on Saturday night.

One of the few benefits of advancing age is perspective. Another is a memory more advanced than younger colleagues and the ability to recall great sporting achievements of the past.

But even that failed me on Saturday night as the Dublin hurlers pulled off the shock result of the summer and finally beat All-Ireland kingpins Kilkenny in the championship.

They’ve been waiting quite a while for this win. They did come close a week ago when a late TJ Reid point earned the Cats a reprieve in the original game down in Portlaoise.

But Dublin were not to be denied last weekend as boss Anthony Daly, a man who knows a thing or two about winning All-Irelands with his native Clare, masterminded the victory that shook every back page in Sunday’s papers.

It was an historic win for the hurlers who have spent so long in the shadows of their more illustrious footballers in our capital city.

You have to go back to 1942 to find the last time Dublin won a Championship game against Kilkenny, and that’s a 71 year journey before you start to do the math.

Now, I might well be approaching a half century on this earth, but even I wasn’t around the last time the Dubs beat the Cats, 71 years and a day to be precise since the last time it happened.

Back then the world was at war, Anne Frank had started to write her diaries and Humphrey Bogart was putting the finishing touches to Casablanca.

That’s how long ago it was!

And that partly explains why the men and women and children who support Dublin hurling through thick and then are cock-a-hoop at present.

They know their heroes have just pulled off one of the greatest upsets in the history of our national sport.

Like the London footballers, victorious against Leitrim in the Connacht semifinal replay on Sunday, they have taken a stand against the hierarchy.  They have shaken the aristocrats of their sport.

And they have proven, once again, that hurling is a beautiful game, perhaps the most beautiful and the most vital of all in this ever changing world of ours.

A simple story from Saturday night suggests why hurling is now moving way beyond Gaelic football – and others – as a spectator sport.

Thanks to scheduling, our national broadcaster RTE couldn’t transmit the Dublin-Kilkenny clash onto our television screens.

They were already committed to the Ulster football semifinal between Monaghan and Cavan, but did make a late decision to broadcast the hurling match live on their website.

So instead of a wonderful clash of the ash from Portlaoise, those of us in TV land were treated to a putrid football match from Clones, a real life version of the puke football coined by RTE pundit Pat Spillane some years ago.

It was a quite dreadful match in what has been a dreadful season at times this summer for Gaelic football, and did little to entice the television viewer back again.

Over on the Internet, the RTE site had problems of its own with the pictures from Portlaoise and at one stage, so only the old fashioned radio – the wireless as we called it in my youth – kept us in touch with the Dublin-Kilkenny action.

Even the radio portrayed the drama on offer in O’Moore Park as we listened intently to the description of a Dublin performance that saw them lead from start to finish, a performance that saw them finally close the deal on a win against the Cats.

By Sunday night, when RTE broadcast the game’s highlights, we were all given full access to the shock of the season. And, judging by the pictures, a deserved shock it was too.
Kilkenny aren’t finished however, despite all the doom and gloom in their black and amber quarters since the semifinal replay.

They play Tipperary in the qualifiers at Nolan Park on Saturday night when one of the big guns of hurling will exit the championship on the first weekend in July.

That’s not a scenario their fans are used to, and they will be worried about the prospects of a game against their fiercest rivals without the injured Henry Shefflin and Michael Fennelly.

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