|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.
The Kilkenny-Tipp game promises to be a cracker, with the absence of a second chance for the loser only adding to the weight of expectation on both sides. And don’t be surprised if Kilkenny lose for the second weekend in a row, another first of late if you know what I mean.
Dublin won’t get long to rest on their laurels. Their reward for beating the strongest team in the land is a Leinster final date with Galway at Croke Park this Sunday.
They deserve a huge support network to join them in headquarters for the match, but once again they will don the role of underdogs against the reigning Leinster champions.
Like every other side left in the championship, Galway know that Dublin did them a huge favor by knocking Kilkenny down a peg or two on Saturday night.
But their gratitude will be short lived once the whistle sounds on Sunday and the game is on. Saturday’s heroes can quickly become Sunday’s villains, such is the great game of hurling.
And that’s exactly why we love it here in Ireland. Someday soon, the world will love it as well.
(Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun newspaper in Dublin)
GAA: What a weekend for the London footballers as their win over Leitrim in the Connacht semifinal replay made headlines on both sides of the Irish Sea. It also caught the attentions of some very famous people. The Queen apparently has yet to react to an invitation to the Connacht final against mayo in Castlebar later this month, but London’s Lord Mayor Boris Johnson has responded. He can’t make the game but he did wish his fellow Londoners the very best of luck in their big match. As a mover and shaker at the London Olympics last summer, Boris might even have a word about getting Gaelic football onto the Olympic calendar in the future! . . .
SOCCER: Rod Stewart made a surprise visit to Cliftonville’s Solitude ground in Belfast during his Northern Ireland tour last week. A keen Celtic fan, Rod was delighted to see the venue where his heroes will soon play in the Champions League. Rumor has it he was presented with a Cliftonville jersey. I’d say he wears it well. Boom, boom.
RUGBY: If you have any interest in rugby stay up late on Friday night and catch the third test between the Lions and Australia live from Sydney. With the series tied at 1-1, it promises to be a cracker. It’s also the last time that Brian O’Driscoll will play for the Lions. And what a way to go!
SOCCER: Sad to report that Paul McGrath is in the wars again. He was arrested in Tullamore last weekend and now faces a court appearance. Paul’s problems with alcohol are well documented, and we can only hope and pray that he comes through his latest battle with his demons unscathed.
TENNIS: Roger Federer and Serena Williams have exited Wimbledon, but the hype lives on with Britain’s Andy Murray still in contention for the men’s title. As soon as he loses it, he will become Scotland’s Andy Murray once again.
HEROES OF THE WEEK
APOLOGIES to the London footballers, but the story of the week has to center on the Dublin hurlers and their Leinster SHC semifinal replay win over Kilkenny on Saturday night. It was the first time since 1942 that the Cats were beaten by the Blues in championship hurling which tells its own story. It’s also proof positive that good things come to those who wait. Those who invested so much in hurling in the capital in recent years got their reward last weekend, and richly deserved it was too.
IDIOT OF THE WEEK
FORMER county star Eamonn O’Hara made a big name for himself when he slaughtered Sligo boss Kevin Walsh on RTE in the wake of his team’s Connacht SFC defeat to London last month. Walsh finally did what O’Hara told him to do and resigned on Sunday, hours after the qualifier defeat to Derry. And O’Hara was very quick to rule himself out of the running for the job. He’s prepared to talk the talk, but he has no interest in walking the walk. Like all good telly pundits.
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