With due respect to many other events, sporting, artistic and cultural, and including its football counterpart, there is no other day in the Irish social calendar that reaches into the soul of the Gael and exposes the ancient traits of Irishness as does All-Ireland Hurling Final Day.
For millennia the Irish have wielded the camán and whizzed the sliotar amongst themselves, sometimes with warlike ferocity, sometimes for gentle amusement. The gentle play can still be seen on Ireland’s sandy beaches, country fields, suburban parks and city streets, as parents and children, or groups of friends, poc the ball amongst themselves to pass an hour and feel the tingle in the arms as ash strikes leather.
There will, however, be nothing gentle about the All-Ireland Hurling Final on Sunday!
In recent years the Hurling Finals have taken on a life of their own. They have started at a blistering pace, then boiled and bubbled with intense ferocity until reaching crescendos of almost unbearable excitement, unbelievable skill and unimaginable daring. This year’s edition promises to be no exception.
Kilkenny. Magnificent Kilkenny, led by the irrepressible Brian Cody, go in search of their 37th title, their twelfth since Cody took over in 1998, and their third title in succession. Each year the whispers start early that they won’t be the force they were. The doubters mutter that this is the year when retirements and injuries will take their toll. “Galway and Clare have great young lads, Tipp and Cork are on the rise, and Kilkenny don’t have the players coming through”, they opine on a February barstool.
And each year Brian Cody and Kilkenny prove them wrong.
But it is true that Tipperary is on the rise. And there is a hurt in the group that only an All-Ireland title will ease. In 2015 they fell to Galway at the penultimate hurdle in a game that will take its place amongst the greatest ever played. The previous year it was Kilkenny who were victorious when it could so easily have been Tipp. Two penalties saved and a Bubbles Dwyer free that drifted inches wide at the death saw the game end in a draw, before Kilkenny did what Kilkenny do and won the replay by three points.
That 2014 drawn final has been touted by many as one of the greatest, if not the best, All-Ireland Hurling Finals of all time. Galway spoiled the 2015 party as many yearned for a repeat. Now the day is upon us, and it promises to live up to all expectations.
The warriors are ready. The battle-lines drawn. The ancient game at its modern best.
Watch the All-Ireland Hurling Final between Tipperary and Kilkenny on GAAGO. Throw-in on Sunday is at 10:30AM (Eastern Time) with coverage from RTÉ starting at 09:00AM (Eastern Time). Visit www.gaago.ie for details.
If you don’t want to be like our pal Rory Stories struggling to explain GAA when abroad and find a place that’s showing the match, make sure to catch all the action on www.GAAGO.ie.