BY: Padraig O’Náraigh
Time was, in years gone by, the All Ireland hurling final was played on the first Sunday in September and it signalled the end of the summer holidays and a return to school on the Monday after the big match. Those of us lucky enough to be from the County that won the final had the added bonus of being off school on the Monday, so we could celebrate All-Ireland success with the players at the home coming
As with lots of traditions, change comes to all of us including the scheduling of the All Ireland Hurling Final, which for the first time will take place in mid-July.
At the start of the year, I like many others hoped, but I didn’t see Kilkenny being in this year’s final. Looking back at some of the league matches we didn’t seem to have a settled team, players were tried in different positions but the team was always competitive – something that Brian Cody instils in his players and expects from them every time they cross the white line. In this shorter season, Brian has not only improved the players but he has brought in new players and gelled them together into what is a formidable team which no opposition will look forward playing against.
My one claim to fame is that I hurled alongside Brian Cody. Back then, he always had a never say die attitude in every game he played (hurling or football). Brian believes that every match is winnable. When he picks his team for a match, he does so with the belief that the team he selects can win. He instils this belief in his players, so that going into every game his team believe they can win the match and that is a great starting point. He has brought this Kilkenny team to the All-Ireland while managing to stay under the radar. In this season his teams went into big games as underdogs – what a great position to be in!
There was more written and talked about the handshake with Henry Shefflin, than about the hurling matches and the performance of the team. This I think suited Brian, as he likes to take all the pressure off the players and his team and I think this has worked out well for him.
And so Kilkenny are into an All-Ireland final with some fancied teams left in their wake. The opposition is formidable. Limerick go into this final as firm favourites and rightly so. They are after all the reigning All Ireland champions and are going for three in a row.
Brian now seems to have a settled team. However, he likes things competitive and the competition for places is fierce. Every player on the panel knows that there is always a chance up to the last training session and this year is no exception.
In years gone by, anyone could get into Nowlan Park and see the players training. All the talk would be about who was going well in training and you would have a good idea of what the team was going to be from seeing the positions the players were training in. Alas not anymore. No one is allowed into the training sessions and nothing leaks out so we have to wait and see! However, there is still time for Brian to pull a rabbit out of the hat and spring a surprise player or players for the final – we will just have to wait until the team lines out on the field.
In a short space of time Brian has put together a formidable team with speed, strength, skill, style and a never say die attitude. A team that never gives up will always be hard to beat.
In my opinion Clare had enough changes to beat Limerick in the Munster final, Galway had their chances to beat them in the semi-final.
I think Limerick have come back to the pack a little – they may even be getting a bit mentally tired after years at the top and that gives me great hope for a win in the final.
I would like to wish Brian and the players the best of luck in the final and I hope everything goes to plan on the day and we can relive school days and celebrate with the home coming.
Cill Chainnigh abú – we’re back.
Padraig O’Náraigh is currently Cathaoirleach, Séamus Stiofán GAA club