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GUNS WILL BLAZE IN OUR OK CORRAL

Pics: Donal Foley

SUPERSTAR RICHIE POWER TALKS TO JIMMY RHATIGAN

acknowledges that there are teak tough ones on both sides.

THE All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final will be a shoot-out between two strike forces of sharpshooters. That’s the view of our Observer Sports Team captain Richie Power. He should know. As a member of crack Kilkenny squads he has tormented defences for years and smashed home a schoolbag of scores as he helped our Cats to half a dozen of AllIreland crowns. He is as sharp as a reader of the game of hurling as he was when wearing his native Carrickshock jersey in the local game and proudly sporting the black and amber at minor and senior level. Richie is fascinated at what he predicts will be a shoot-out to beat all shoot-outs, two sets of strikers that would terrorise the tightest of rear guards. The August 18 clash of the ash between noisy neighbours, Richie suggests, could be a torrid afternoon for defenders, and he

Grudge battles Gunfight at the OK Corral could pale into insignificance when compared with the blazing battle that is in prospect for Croker, where the eyeballing afternoon will have much in common with many Wild West confrontations. The common denominator is that OK and Croker grudge battles could be descried as the outcome of long simmering feuds and rivalries. The difference is that contrary cowboys used blazing Colt Revolvers to settle their difference while our hurlers have chosen the magic and at times mighty hurley stick. The only wounds inflicted, and hopefully there will be none, will be accidental but both teams will be ruthless in front of goal and it is the team that does the most damage in that area of the battleground that is Croke Park that will pick up the prize that thousands in Tipp and Kilkenny

crave, as do our Diaspora across the Gaelic Globe. The Liam MacCarthy Cup is the coveted prize and men of courage, skill and determination will not spare themselves, Richie assures.

Richie Power: Always a step ahead of the opposition

High flying Joey Holden curtails the Limerick attack in the semi-final

Richie and his young son Rory who is following in his dad’s footsteps

Revenge mission The war of attrition will be a revenge mission for the Cats who were crushed by Tipp in 2016. It is Brian Cody 21st season as Kilkenny manager and he would dearly love to mark that significant milestone with victory over what Kilkenny supporters would respectfully call the old enemy. The season has been another amazing one in the life of Brian. It started very low key but after a sensational renaissance it could now end in a blaze of glory, something that Brian, his management team members and his brave squad truly deserve. Richie Power says it will be a case of who blinks first. “My belief is that it will be a genuine 50/50 game. Both teams will thunder through a match that certainly won’t be for the fainthearted,” Richie told The Kilkenny Observer. “Both counties have performed heroically in recent weeks, Kilkenny against All-Ireland champions Limerick and Tipperary

who recovered from a wobbly start and then a sending off to defeat Wexford in a storming finish. High scoring “The winner will be the team that clicks on the day. My view is that the final will be a high scoring game and a single point may do the damage at the finish of what should be a Croke Park classic. “I have enjoyed many great matches on Croker where I had the privilege of wearing my county colours and I am looking forward to watching this one. “It will be hectic, it should be wonderful and I am hoping our Cats will escape to victory. “No, it won’t be easy. Tipp boss Liam Sheedy knew he had a good squad to return to as manager. “He has done a great job with his players and even shrewd hurling punters may admit that when placing a bet on this one the best method is to toss a coin and hope for the best. It is that close.”

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MINE’S A DOUBLE SAYS EDDIE

Eddie Keher with Rower Inistioge GAA Club colleague Pat Dunphy Pics: Donal Foley

BY JIMMY RHATIGAN NON drinker Eddie Keher is looking forward to a double on August 18. Our superstar who for a generation was the pride and joy of our hurling supporters and indeed of fans of the game worldwide, is predicting that our senior Cats will beat Tipperary and our rejuvenated minors will do the business against Galway. “Our senior team’s rise from early season transition has been spectacular and our minors, a poor team to watch early on showed great skill and work-rate against Limerick on a day when I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw.

“On their super semi-final showing I give them a great chance to overcome Galway,” Eddie explained. He does not make these predictions lightly and as one of the greatest ever exponents of the camán game, he is fully aware that a rocky road still lies ahead as Kilkenny prepares for what promises to be a fantastic showdown with a Tipp team that Eddie admires and respects. Betting man If he were a betting man, Eddie would put his fiver on Kilkenny as he believes that at the end of a season that is already a tremendous achievement with team building by Brian Cody and

his mentors and a tremendous input by our young guns, we have a 60/40 chance of bringing home the bacon. Our son of Inistioge who won four Leinster Colleges medals with St Kieran’s, four Leinster minor titles with Kilkenny, six senior All-Irelands, 10 Leinster crowns and enough other awards to open his own jewellery shop is a super optimist when it comes to black and amber. Eddie is now well into his senior years but his appetite for the game his loves remains as eager as when he first held a hurley. He speaks about hurling with a passion and when Kilkenny comes into the equation the story is one of true love. His courage in tipping our heroes as All-Ireland champions comes with a health warning.

Fantastic Tipp “We cannot underestimate the battle ahead,” he chastens. “Tipp has a fantastic team and was the team to be beaten early on in the season. Manager Liam Sheedy has fantastic players particularly in the forwards. “If we talk about our mighty work-rate when we beat an outstanding Limerick team, we will still have to up the ante again against Tipp. We will have to contain the Tipperary attack and our forwards will have to battle as they did in our best display of the season against Limerick. “Tipperary will be on a high after their defeat of Wexford, playing much of the game with 14 men. That will have got them over the disappointment of their defeat in the Munster Final and will see then with all guns blazing.” Like a schoolboy looking forward

Eddie with a fellow great of another era Jim Treacy and his wife Marie

to Santa, Eddie talks about the sensational transformation that has seen Kilkenny grow into a mature, hard-working and very talented team from a squad that was in transition in early season. Building process “We knew there was a building process and didn’t know how the shape of the team was going to be. We were without the Ballyhale Shamrocks lads at the beginning of the year and we also had several injured players. “Realistically, we knew it was going to be hard against Limerick, Tipperary, Wexford and Galway. We certainly didn’t know that we would end up where we are now. I cannot praise Brian and our back room team enough, along with our squad that now has all the great traits of Kilkenny hurling. “After early defeats, a lot came into play. Injuries cleared up and things started to fall into place.

Eddie, front, centre celebrates a victory of another time with team mates and members of Kilkenny County Board GAA

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We started filling in spots on the team where there were question marks. Result is that our squad now has the super attitude that is in Kilkenny hurling. “We had our established players, the new lads who came in bought into our do or die attitude. When the chips were down that was what won games. “I wasn’t despondent after the Wexford defeat in the Leinster Final. We could have won that game. But we had made huge steps forward. Great position “I was glad we had the opportunity to play Cork, to further establish our team before we met Limerick or Tipperary. “Victory over Cork put us in a great position to challenge the All-Ireland champs. Limerick was terrific, a super team for which I had huge admiration. The team mirrored Kilkenny at its best, great attitude, modesty, acceptance of what had to be done to be successful. “As well as admiring them, I was also thrilled that Limerick became champions. “Our display against Limerick was magnificent. All our players bought into Kilkenny determination and work-rate, backing each other up. We look forward to more of the same and more again against Tipperary.” The Keher Clan will be in Croker in force on All-Ireland Sunday, Eddie his wife Kay, their children and grandchildren. Like the Manorfarm Chicken the Kilkenny hurlers are back with a dash. Objective now is to pluck the Liam MacCarthy from under the noses of the old enemy Tipperary.


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THE AUSSIE BOYS WILL BE WITH US FOR THE FINAL

Seamus Hayes receives his winner’s medal from All the Presidents’ Men

Lovely hurling, the North Kilkenny lads who conquered Australia

HURLERS who honed their skills on the green fields of Kilkenny have hit the jackpot for the second successive year in Aussie. Sarsfields, Perth beat Western Swans 1-20 to 1-10. In the photo are five of the team who hail from North Kilkenny. All the lads played

with North Kilkenny Clubs before emigrating down under. From left to right, are Paul Guinan, Eoin Guinan, Seamus Hayes (captain), Padraig Harding and Bernard Mullen. A selection of players from the Western Australian senior clubs will now join forces to play for Western Australia in

the prestigious Australasian State Games, the final of which they won in 2017. A pint or two Paul Guinan is a pipe layer and machine operator, Eoin Guinan is a self-employed blocklayer, Seamus Hayes is a civil engineer, Podge Harding is a

fitter welder, Bernard Mullen is a dentist. All will eventually return home when the travelling bug has passed, even though they plan to stay for many years yet. They are enjoying the experience, climate and craic, their work and most of all the hurling and all that brings to

these lively hard working young men. And there are no prizes for guessing where boys will be on August 18. They will settle into an Irish Pub, enjoy the All-Ireland finals on television and maybe sip a pint or two. Or even three!

Best of Luck in the All Ireland hurling finals Sinn Féin spokesperson RQ&KLOGUHQDQG<RXWK$΍DLUV

Kathleen Funchion TD KILKENNY: Desert House, Lower New Street, Kilkenny. ª:056 776 4730 CARLOW: Church Road, Bagnelstown, Co. Carlow. ª:087 328 1568 LEINSTER HOUSE: ª:01 618 3567

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á: kathleen.funchion@oireachtas.ie •: Kathleen Funchion – Sinn Féin ”: Kathleen Funchion SF @kathleensf1


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WILL ANN OR MARTIN HIT THE JACKPOT?

A LOVE DIVIDED AS NEIGHBOURS CLASH Martin Monaghan proudly sports the black and amber jersey he loves Pic: Donal Foley

BY JIMMY RHATIGAN

The pendulum usually swings both ways when Tipp and Kilkenny clash. Will it favour Ann or Martin Monaghan this time? Pic: Donal Foley

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FOR AT least 364 days a year a local husband and wife are the best of friends. Then there is the one day. That does not come every year, only when Kilkenny and Tipperary meet in an All-Ireland Hurling Final. Then, understandably, family love has a rival in love of county and a little bit of hurling banter can lead to, well, a little bit more hurling banter. The Monaghan family home at Shandon Park on the periphery of our city does not become a no-go area but, depending on which county you support, you just might not get the friendly smile you are used to.

Reason is that mother of two Ann Monaghan and father of the same two Martin have much in common except place of birth. Ann proudly reminds that Mullinahone, Tipperary is where she was born.

Different opinion Martin, popularly Mono, flies the flag for Greenshill, Kilkenny where his family roots lie. Both are kind and friendly people but, surprise, surprise, they have different views on what way the cookie will crumble in the Sunday Game of August 18. “I am very confident that Tipp will do it,” Ann told The Kilkenny Observer. “These counties bring out the best in each other and it should be a great game.” Mono has a different opinion. “The Cork and Limerick games brought our lads on a ton and for that reason I am happy that we will finish the championship campaign in style with a glorious win.” He is planning to head to Croker with his friend and fellow hurling aficionado Kevin Gannon.

Ann has yet to make up her mind about her intentions. She may go to the match with pals or watch the game in Mullinahone.

No prizes To be fair there is not a mumble or a grumble between the pair. But both are quick to stand by county of origin when any question about who will win is asked. Kilkenny, no Tipperary. There are no prizes for guessing who said what. We had hoped to photograph the happy couple in their respective county colours. Martin was togged out as quickly as you would say Up Kilkenny. Ann’s beloved jersey is in her family home in Mullinahone, washed and ironed for the showdown. Or maybe she didn’t want to upset hubby by parading her proud blue and gold at the heart of Kilkenny hurling? Certainly a considerate woman. It remains to be seen if the Tipp hurlers will be so thoughtful in a week’s time.


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BONNY BABY: NOWLAN PARK FAMILY IS HAPPY IN ITS NAPPY

Pics: Donal Foley

BY JIMMY RHATIGAN EDITOR JOHN COOGAN’S nearest and dearest live with him in a cosy nest in Jenkinstown, County Kilkenny,. His beloved wife Naoise and loving children, Siofra, aged 11 and Fíadh, aged 7 are the loves of his life. Then there is his baby. The latter lives at Pennefatherslot on the periphery of our city. Or rather the latter is the fulcrum of a thriving giant that is the heartland of local sport. It is his pride and joy, a runnerup to the comfortable family nest

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in what we might call former GAA President Nickey Brennan country. In colloquial lingo he loves his wife and daughters to bits. But he also cuts the toenails, trims the hair and washes between the ears of the babe that he cuddles, feeds and tends to when mother mature gets contrary. Nowlan Park GAA pitch is John Coogan’s pet, a treasure that he protects and never leads astray, aided and abetted by his buddy Kevin McGarry, an O’Loughlin Gaels aficionado who lives in Callan with those he loves, his partner Niamh McCormack and their dearest Ogie. Mammies and daddies John is head groundsman at GAA HQ that seems to have been the

The mighty men who make it all happen, John Coogan behind the wheel and his colleague in horticulture Kevin McGarry

Keeping one eye on the pitch dubbed his baby, Nowlan Park head groundsman, John Coogan chats with Observer Editor Jimmy Rhatigan


Our proud hurling history in pictures

“In short we rally whenever we are needed. The job must be done and there are high standards to maintain. There is no room for fire brigade stuff. We never fail to prepare,” John told The Kilkenny Observer. He knows that back to back wins will have turned up the heat. The hurlers give the lead, the groundsmen are now eyeing a hat-trick. The top six after early pitch inspections were Ruislip, London, Hyde Park, Roscommon, along with Pairc Tailteann, Meath, grounds in Galway and Donegal and the the holders of the title. Judge was Stewart Wilson, head groundsman in Croker, in conjunction with match officials.

GAA centre of excellence since Cú Chulainn was a boy or perhaps back to days when Adam and Eve were playing mammies and daddies in the Garden of Eden. Kevin is his able assistant and up to recent times the head honchos had a wonderful team member in the late Mick O’Neill, described by John as a fantastic person who made him so welcome when he signed for Team Nowlan Park. There wasn’t a hint of celebrations when we arrived in The Park. It was go-Johnny-go as machinery was set to roll to ensure that the pitch of the year continues to be good to go for club or country matches or training at all times. There was reason to shout from the roof tops. Nowlan Park was voted Pitch of

the Year for the second successive year. John brings his multiplicity of years in Callan and Castlecomer Golf Clubs and his season at the K Club to comb the green sward into a billiard table-like surface. Never lost game Proof that John and Kevin can do the business is that The Park has never lost a game to rain, hail, snow or frost while others have had the ‘postponed’ signs up. In July John was five years with Kilkenny GAA, two in its Dunmore Complex and three more looking after the health of all pitches. “We are on call seven days a week, very early some mornings and into the night on occasions too.

Russia With Love Checked out during the National League were pitch presentation, markings and goalmouths. The bar was raised when Dr Stephen Baker moved in. His credentials meant that the forensics had arrived as he had done a brilliant job with pitches for the Soccer World Cup in Russia. Things like type of grass, ball

A reminder of great days on the Wall of Fame in Nowlan Park

bounce, grip on pitch, lines on pitch, weeds and disease were all under a microscope. After god only knows how many hours of intricate examination word finally came through that the Cats were again doing a purrfect job. Liaison with Kilkenny GAA management Pat Henderson, Ned Quinn, Conor Denieffe, Barry

Hickey and Jimmy Walsh ensured that a united front again did the business. The baby that is the Nowlan Park pitch is still bouncing gleefully. And all is happy and healthy in the nests of The Park staff in Jenkinstown and Callan. In a nutshell, the extended Nowlan Park family is happy in its nappy.

Presentation of Pitch of the Year award in Croke Park

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BRAVE AND BOLD: THESE WARRIORS WILL GIVE EVERYTHING FOR OUR SUPPORTERS

JOEY HOLDEN

PADRAIG WALSH

PAUL MURPHY

CONOR FOGARTY

T J REID

COLIN FENNELY

LIAM BLANCHFIELD

RICHIE HOGAN

RICHIE REID

ROBERT LENNON

PADDYDEEGAN

RICHIE LEAHY

WALTER WALSH

ALAN MURPHY

KEVIN KELLY

GER AYLWARD

DARREN BRENNAN

CONOR BROWNE

JASON CLEERE

JOHN DONNELLY

MARTIN KEOGHAN

HUW LAWLOR

JAMES MAHER

ENDA MORRISSEY

BILLY RYAN

LUKE SCANLON

BILL SHEEHAN

CONOR DELANEY

THOMAS AYLWARD

STEPHEN STAUNTON

GER MALONE

MICHAEL CAREY

TOMMY WALSH

EVAN SHEFFLIN

DARREN MULLEN

NIALL BRASSIL

MICHAEL CODY

ADRIAN MULLEN

AIDAN NOLAN

ROBBIE FITZPATRICK

TOM KENNY

CIARÁN WALLACE

CILLIAN BUCKLEY

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EOIN MURPHY

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WE LOVED OUR NEIGHBOUR

OLLIE

BY JIMMY RHATIGAN

THERE was much to admire about Fatima Place at the heart of our city. Those of us who will always treasure our street football, imaginary horse-racing grand nationals and road tennis will forever cherish our years there as the ‘key in the door’ era that shaped our young lives. It was a time when we played cards for beer bottle labels on local footpaths or lying on grass that was green stuff that cows ate as opposed to the illicit drug that perhaps none of us had ever even heard of. It was an estate of great neighbours, the families that lived right beside you and those who lived at the other end of the street. God’s children, the salt of the earth. That there was so much trusting that a latch key would be left in a front door day and night said everything about the camaraderie, love thy neighbour and friendship

Our Ollie, one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time Pic: Donal Walsh

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of a place we were so proud to call home. We lived through many significant eras, frugal times. Innocence Yet they super days when an apple and a colouring book from Santa were the forerunners of the present day X-Box or Y-Box or whatever. Innocence abounded, life was simple. There was a time when Fatima Place, a next door neighbour of the famous Daly’s Hill was saturated in soccer. We can certainly never deny that we are keen exponents of follow the leader as it was in 1966 that somebody lit a fuse in England and the result was an instant revolution in Fatima and many other bailiwicks across our country. Night, noon and morning, the long and winding sloped green area in front of local homes, a pitch of sorts that sometimes masqueraded as a World Cup venue and also hosted All-Ireland Hurling Finals, was flooded with young guns, some hell bent on Manchester United, others eyeing the Liverpool Kop. A generation was dreaming the impossible dream, enjoying wonderful post classroom games where school bags and jumpers were goalposts and an invisible end line came into play when someone shouted ‘wide ball’. Stadium of Light Anfield and Old Trafford were a lot more than a stone’s throw or a hop, skip and jump from our little stadium, or at least a green belt that became our city’s first Stadium of Light, a thorn in my late mother’s side when the ESB bill arrived! England’s World Cup Final win in 1966 was the catalyst that sent our youth soccer mad. Then, in 1988, as if to copperfasten our belief in our new found love, the Republic of Ireland beat England with a Ray Houghton goal in Euro ’88 at the Neckarstadion, Stuttgart, West

Ollie Walsh with his son Michael and neighbour Jimmy Rhatigan, now Kikenny Observer Editor

Germany. That match at which many of us were present, including Liam Brennan from what we called the top of our Square, was the catalyst that launched a new sea of young soccer stars, all wanting to play for the Republic of Ireland. Soccer got a grip among younger boys and girls thanks to the encouragement of the late Peadar Blanchfield, the late Mick Fahy, Damien Dowling and the late Paddy Cummins et al.

The Pied Piper Then there was young Michael Walsh, fondly known as the pied piper of Fatima who often led an under 9, 10,11, 12 or 13 squad in single file across our city to play Ben Hayes’s troops in Newpark. We had our own little World Cup but All-Irelands were not forgotten either among the older lads. Teams arrived in Fatima by coach from Graignamanagh, Castlecomer and Thomastown as soccer games became mini festivals with great entertainers like Graig’s Danny Grace and friends serenading supporters. Fatima was a cool place to live, local derbies in hurling between Emmett Street and Fatima were akin to Sunday’s final between Kilkenny and Tipperary. Losing was a mortal sin when such sins were in vogue.

With players like Tommy McGrath, Paddy Phelan and Michael Henebry on one side and the likes of Pat Beale, Hughie Brett, Tommy Neary and yours truly on the other, local pride was precious. In soccer we looked across The Pond for our heroes and did our utmost to imitate the silky skills of Bobby Moore, Peter Bonetti and Jimmy Greaves. The High Priest When our heroes won the World Cup we were beside ourselves with delight. But we were even more thrilled to be friends with one of the greatest sportsmen of all time in the late Ollie Walsh, our hero, our pal, our neighbour. It was as if the gods of sport had sent a marvellous hurling goalkeeper to the heartland of local soccer, a sport that a witty Christian Brother christened long, long ago when he referred to the late Moc Lawlor, later a marvellous Kilkenny City supporter, as the high priest of the new religion. It was a case of live and let live. Ollie, along with the late Bill Brennan, then chairman of James Stephens GAA Club, was so kind to the then little soccer club called Emfa, founded, surprise, surprise in the World Cup year of ’66 and later to be re-born as Kilkenny City. Both neighbours often loaned equipment to help with soccer projects and both had trucks that were regularly on the road transporting goalposts or lime to mark pitches.

Badge of honour Bill was a quiet, caring and generous gentleman, a family man with a sensible approach to all sports. Exactly the same could be said of the bold Ollie whose sons Michael, Billy and Ollie Jnr went on to play at every level of soccer from tots to League of Ireland. When Ollie Snr would venture out to what we called our Green for a few pucks in the evening an avalanche of young fellows would follow. That was our signal to join in a mini game with a man we idolised as a swashbuckling goalkeeper, our hurling version of super goalkeeper Peter Shilton of Chelsea and England fame. Ollie was a supporters’ man, a great entertainer and a star net minder. To have the son of Thomastown as a neighbour was a badge of honour, not only because he was great at the game of hurling but because he was one of the soundest human beings of our young days. Ollie helped Kilkenny to five All-Ireland senior crowns and 10 Leinster titles. ‘For you Jimmy’ His son, the aforementioned Michael of Emfa fame was a star too in his dad’s goalkeeping position and he added two senior medals to the family collection. To have been a friend and neighbour of Ollie and Olive Walsh, their sons and daughter Ann was one of the great privileges of life. I remember well calling to the Walsh family home when I was a nipper to wish my hero success in an All-Ireland final. Ollie was cool, calm and collected. I wasn’t. My fear was that my friend might lose out. Not a hope. He went on to keep his promise in Croker. “We will win this one for you Jimmy” are words I will never forget. My contibution when Ollie was training was to roll young Michael down our city in what was called a go-car, just like I am now doing with the apple of my eye, my beautiful grandson MJ. I had planned to save Michael’s blushes by not mentioning this but I simply couldn’t resist. But I won’t mention what the then little said to a priest who praised him as a great young boy. Not at this juncture anyway!

Fatima today, its field of dreams so quiet after years of activity


GENIE IN BOTTLE: CORK WAS KEY

opportunity against Tipp who, I believe, will be slight favourites in the winner take all All-Ireland Final. That will be a massive help to us. I expected it to be a Limerick/ Tipp final after two provincial deciders. I am delighted I was wrong. Go through the Kilkenny squad and you will find a good scattering of All-Ireland medals. The big thing was to find new players, to get them settled in. Huw Lawlor at full back freed up Padraig Walsh for the half back line. Both are great players. Conor Brown came out of nowhere in the last two games and did the business very well as he did a fantastic job on hurler of the year Cian Lynch. Up front John Donnelly stepped up to the plate, Adrian Mullen was a revelation and should get an All Star. Brian Cody and his men found the gems and mixed them in so well with the tried and very trusted TJ Reid, Colin Fennelly, Paul Murphy, Walter Walsh, Conor Fogarty, Padraig Walsh and Eoin Murphy.

BY RICHIE POWER

Powerful stuff: Superstar Richie Powers tells Observer readers he believes Kilkenny can win a minor/senior double

I REMEMER I had a hurley from the time I learned to walk. My brothers Jamie and John were the same. Along with my father Richie Snr we love the game of hurling, playing it for our club and county and, in my case, now writing about it in the Kilkenny Observer. Looking back on my life I think of the great school years with teachers Conor Roche in Stoneyford and then Tom Duggan who was a big influence on my early hurling. From 3rd or 4th class I played with Carrickshock and that was a big deal, playing for the club that your dad played for, a club that is loved and cherished by an entire local population. I went on to win two intermediate titles and an intermediate Club AllIreland with Carrickshock. We got to two county senior hurling finals and lost both. Firstly we fell to O’Loughlin Gaels and then to Clara in a game that we should have won but threw away in the dying seconds. All that is history now. Winning dreams It is beautiful to reminisce but it is truly exciting to be part of today’s hurling action, a game that has speeded up and got even more skilful, if that was possible, as the years went by. We all dream about winning things for our parish and county. My great joy that still brings happy dreams was when along with my younger brother John I was on the Kilkenny team that beat Tipperary in the 2014 senior All-Ireland replay. That was super for club, county and indeed for my hurling-mad family as John and I both scored goals. There will be lots of dreaming as our D-Day, August 18 eases closer. I know there will, I’ve been there done that and I know the pride and passion that is so deeply rooted. At the start of this season there was more hope than expectation when our senior squad started its campaign.

We hunted in packs, battling with passion, pride and skill and had Cork under lock and key Pics: Donal Foley

Getting close to Limerick last year had left us wondering how far away we were from where we were used to being. Up throttle Our team from 2016 had been depleted. No one expected us to win the league, but we did. The aim this year had to be to get out of Leinster, a far harder task nowadays than it used to be. The Leinster Final against Wexford swung precariously both ways but finally rested in favour of Davy Fitz’s battlers. Cork came next. Not many gave us a chance. I was so happy that Kilkenny played so well in that game. We started slowly but then it was up throttle. After struggling in the first half, the second was more settled for Kilkenny and we went on to do the business in style. The match brought out the Genie in our bottle and highlighted the fact that experience and youth had now gelled beautifully. We had no one to fear. That was a great result against Cork and whipped us back to the semi-finals for the first time since ’16, a comparatively long time for supporters to wait after all the brilliant success of recent times. It was bring on Limerick. Despite their great prowess, wonderful skills and real passion I was quietly

Against Cork we dominated in the air

confident. I felt if we could start well that would give us a chance. Running on empty If we were still in the game with 20 minutes to go I believed we would finish the stronger team. But we were running on empty in the last 10 to 15 minutes and Limerick tacked on the points. It was edge of seat stuff as we defended a point lead. Then in a controversial finish a Limerick side-line ball, according to the world and its mother ricocheted off a defender’s hurley and wide. A puck out was the award. Had Limerick been able to grab

an equaliser the fear was that they would go on to boss the game in extra time. The match reminded me of the 2006 final against Cork when the Rebels were going for three in a row. Kilkenny won and that was the start of our four in a row. The message after the Limerick win was that the old Kilkenny was back with panache and true grit. Did I think the lads had it in them? Yes I did. It was over 20 years since Kilkenny went into a game as such underdogs. We revelled in being underdogs. Slight favourites And we will have the same

Anyone’s game I am glad we are playing Tipp in the final. Our record against sweepers is not good. It was hard to break down Wexford. The final is a once-off and so is anyone’s game. We remember 2016 and now we have a great chance of revenge. I have been impressed too with the minors. They have lost some, won a lot more and in the semifinal against Limerick the team was outstanding. I believe the U17s can beat the Tribes. A double would be fantastic. Like good wine our senior and minor teams have improved with time. Now come their hours of reckoning. I will raise a glass to wish them well. Both teams deserve the support they continue to get from our wonderful Kilkenny supporters. I will celebrate Kilkenny victories in style, just like I partied with family, neighbours and friends when Carrickshock won the Intermediate Club All-Ireland title in 2006 and when my brother Jamie won an All-Ireland U21 medal against Cork in 1999 when my father Richie was manager. The greater Kilkenny hurling family is well and truly alive. In an interview with Jimmy Rhatigan

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DOYLE’S CORNER: THE WEXFORD VIEW

WEXFORD EAMON FOR KILKENNY WIN BY EAMON DOYLE

I’M delighted to give my views to The Kilkenny Observer on the All Ireland Final between Kilkenny and Tipperary. My brief was to chat ‘from a Wexfordman’s point of view’. Perhaps the intention is that these views would be neutral or unbiased? Or maybe they might contain something of a Wexfordman’s elation at having already beaten Kilkenny and his heartbreak of having lost to Tipperary? Isn’t it both strange and lovely that no matter how long one has left his native place, in the extraordinary world of the GAA you are never allowed to lose that county identity. I, of course, had visions and

hopes that this final would be a repeat of the Leinster Final. Kilkenny, in fairness, kept my vision alive with a superb display against champions Limerick, but regrettably a tiring Wexford got caught with an equally superb display by Tipperary. Alas, that vision was not to be and so the scene is set. Given that two of my O’Loughlin Gaels clubmen Huw Lawlor and Paddy Deegan are directly involved it’s not easy to be neutral. Feelings and emotions And here, I must also understand the feelings and emotions of the good Tipperary men who are our colleague club members and who contribute so much to hurling here. During Munster and Leinster Championships and throughout the qualifiers, we saw games decided on tight margins, almost half decided by ‘a puck of a ball’.

Many victories were achieved not only by heroic endeavour or by a single moment of genius but some as a result of small and seemingly insignificant incidents. A Nicky Quaid spontaneous foot stop of a Seamie Callanan shot in the Munster Final was far more significant than it might have looked at the time. A win for Wexford or Kilkenny in the final qualifier game in Wexford Park would have put the other out of the championship. A draw was the only result to keep both counties ‘alive’ and just think for a moment on what scores were missed by both sides. One could analyse the coming final forever and a day in order to make a prediction. Evenly matched The teams are evenly matched. Kilkenny has shown maturity thought which many thought earlier might not have been there. Tipperary showed extraordinary promise early on and then seemed to waver, but has now re-energised.

Both teams have the capacity to win. Both can handle adversity. There are no apparent weaknesses on either team – nor should there be at All Ireland time - but both still have the frailty to lose. On scoring differences, Tipperary hold the advantage. The qualifiers’ path has been that bit more difficult for Kilkenny and may stand to them now. I’m back to tight margins.

‘TIS A GRAND TIME OF YEAR BY LIAM BURKE

AH SURE isn’t it a grand time of the year. The weather is not too bad and most of us will be travelling to Croke Park to support our beloved Kilkenny in the All-Ireland against Tipp. We will give the odd shout too for our great minor hurlers who like the seniors surprised us all with their tremendous hurling in the semi-final. I will just have to return to that wonderful senior semi -final victory. What a win, and what a surprise for most of us, with all the so-called experts telling us that Kilkenny would not be able for the power of Limerick. The latter were odds on favourites to not alone beat Kilkenny but to retain the AllIreland.

Huw Lawlor and Paddy Deegan

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A moment of brilliance, a slip at the wrong time, a pass going marginally astray, a ball dropped, a foul committed or missed by the referee. So many variables are so much part and parcel of these games that I imagine one such incident will again decide the winner. It will be as close as that. I have no fence on which to sit. I have family on both sides of it. But for Huw and Paddy, it has to be Kilkenny.

Happiest day For me at least, and I know likewise for thousands more Kilkenny supporters, the recent semi-final victory was one of the happiest hurling days of my life. It was up there with 1967 and 2011 against Tipperary,1972 and 2006 against Cork and

2007 against Limerick. I am well aware of the tremendous determination of Kilkenny against Limerick, but at the end of the day, it was the superior hurling skills of our lads that won the semi-final. This great skill was clearly evident as a large number of the Kilkenny scores were converted in very tight situations. The Limerick hurlers have by now probably realised that it is not that simple to retain the AllIreland, even though they were reckoned to be better than most of the other hurling teams. Dust down They will just have to dust themselves down, and hope that 2020 will bring a better result. Only time will tell. It is indeed difficult to predict the winners of the final. However, I do know one thing, Kilkenny on their semi-final performance will be very difficult to overcome, and they have a great chance of winning. What can I say about Tipperary except that they will keep going until the final whistle, as they proved conclusively against Wexford in the semi-final and they too will not be easily beaten. It should be a great game which will be played at a hundred miles an hour from the minute the ball will be thrown in.


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WHEN CHANGE REMAINS THE SAME!

THE TIPPERARY VIEW

SEAMUS CALLANAN IS TIPP TOP BY JIM FOGARTY

Kilkenny hurling boss Brian Cody

BY NICKEY BRENNAN

AFTER TWO superb Provincial Hurling Championships which ended with Wexford (Leinster) and Limerick (Munster) as worthy winners, the concluding stages saw old foes Kilkenny and Tipperary emerging to contest their 19th All-Ireland Hurling Final. Add in the 2014 replay and that makes it 20. Neither county inspired confidence in their supporters during this year’s Allianz National Hurling League. Eventual winners, Limerick, were hugely impressive making them clear championship favourites. The disappointment of losing the Leinster Final to Wexford was quickly forgotten as Kilkenny saw off Cork and Limerick to reach the final. Those victories were achieved with a ferocity and intensity which Kilkenny’s opponents could not match. Tipperary also had to recover from a disappointing loss to Limerick in the Munster Final. A comfortable win over Laois and an epic victory over Wexford

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saw the Premier boys reach the All-Ireland Final against their arch rivals. Create history Not too many saw this pair challenging for the ultimate hurling prize in 2019, but history would have told us not to dismiss either county as it will be their seventh time to meet in a final since 2009, including the 2014 replay. The counties will create history on All-Ireland Sunday as it will be the first time for the same two counties to meet five times in the same decade in a final. Add in the 2014 replay and that makes it six. The statistics do not end there. The Tipperary centre half back Padraic Maher will be playing in his seventh All-Ireland Final (that includes the 2014 replay). Remarkably, all those have been against Kilkenny. Tipperary’s Brendan Maher and Seamus Callanan plus the Kilkenny duo of T.J. Reid and Richie Hogan also played in those finals, but they came on as subs in 2010 (Richie Hogan), 2009 and 2011 (T.J. Reid), 2011 (Brendan Maher) and 2010 (Seamus Callanan). Obvious statistic The most obvious statistic of all (and it goes all the way back

to 1999) is that Brian Cody continues to patrol the Kilkenny side-line. The team may have evolved over the years, but the players continue to mirror it’s manager’s appetite and desire to reach new heights. Tipperary’s Manager, Liam Sheedy, returned this year, no doubt hoping that he can repeat the 2010 success. Whenever Kilkenny and Tipperary meet, especially in an All-Ireland Final, expect fireworks from the throw-in. Both teams have the game’s finest hurlers of this or any generation. In their six All-Ireland Final meetings since 2009 (that includes the 2014 replay), the overall score is Tipperary 10-127 Kilkenny 12-116 – a five point margin in favour of Tipperary after seven hours of hurling. Tight? You bet! Brian Cody’s ability to have his players mentally right for the big day will be key. It will be another almighty contest between the two heavyweights of hurling, but Kilkenny have built momentum which may well see them ahead at the final whistle by the narrowest of margins.

SEAMUS Callanan got nine scores from play in the 2016 AllIreland senior hurling final. Was this ever achieved previously? This was by no means a onceoff performance. He scored 3-4 from play in the 2015 All-Ireland semi-final. A look back through his championship career shows 1-5 from play against Clare in 2011; 3-1 from play against Galway in 2014; 2-3 from play against Offaly in 2014; 2-3 from play against Cork in the same year. Then we come to the All-Ireland final draw and replay in 2014. He scored 0-5 from play in the drawn game against one of Kilkenny’s greatest ever defenders, JJ Delaney. In the replay he scored 2-0 from play against Delaney. In 2015, he scored 2-2 from play against Limerick. These are all totals from play in hotly contested championship games that Ring, Doyle, Keher, Carey and Shefflin would be proud of. I first saw Seamus Callanan hurl in August, 2006. He went on as a sub in the minor All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny in the 47th minute. Young Hurler He scored two points, including crucially an injury time winner. He made his senior inter-county championship debut against Cork in June of 2008, scoring three points from play. In his next five championship games he goaled on each occasion. He was nominated for an All-Star in 2008 and 2009. He was also nominated as Young Hurler of the Year in 2008. A glance back through the Irish Independent files show Seamus being nominated as man-of-thematch on numerous occasions.

Seamus Callanan: Picture of happiness Pic: Enda O’Sullivan

When the Tipp selectors moved Seamus to full forward, he found his ideal position. He scored 9-50 in championship hurling in 2014. This is the highest total achieved in the period 1974 to 2014. To put his achievement in context, Henry Shefflin’s highest total was 6-45 in 2004. Seamus is third in the top scorers in championship hurling. To date, he has scored 34 goals and 110 points, from play. Two former greats, DJ Carey and Christy Ring scored 33 goals each in the championship. Callanan’s 1-2 against Wexford places him seven points ahead of Henry Shefflin. Matching Keher Henry finished up on 24-133 from play. Callanan has played 16 less championship games than Shefflin. Another goal and Seamus will match Eddie Keher’s total of 35. On the list of top 10 highest scorers from play in history only Nicky Rackard has a higher average than Callanan. Seamus was nominated as Hurler of the Year in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Seamus has won two All-Ireland SHC medals; six Munster SHC medals, one NHL medal, one AllIreland MHC medal. With his club Drom&Inch he has won five Mid SHC medals. He captained his club when they won the Tipperary SHC for the first time in 2011. He scored 0-6 in the county final, 0-3 from play. Seamus scored a total of 5-68 in the 2011 county senior championship. As a Tipp native, I hope to see Seamie lift the MacCarthy Cup on August 18. Jim Fogarty is author of The Cross of Cashel Alljimkfog1@ gmail.com-Ireland u-21 Hurling finals 1964 to 2014. The Dan Breen Cup, Tipperary County SH Finals, 1931 to 2011. 086-1512946.


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ENGLISH LANDLORDS PATRONIZED HURLING Kilkenny, hurling champs of 2008

THE history of hurling is not free from irony: for generations the ancient game was patronised by the landlords. They kept teams of hurlers just as their counterparts in England kept teams of cricketers. These men were not professionals: they were drawn from the legion of farm workers who were then needed to cultivate the vast estates. The Act of Union did great damage to hurling. Dublin was no longer the capital city. Many of the landlords went to England. The ancient game declined. This tendency was not entirely true: there were some few who remained behind but the Famine further weakened the game. There were two kinds of hurling. One was called ‘mountain hurling’; the other was called ‘lowland hurling’. The former was played by men in the ‘idol times’, meaning between the end of October and the end of February. In those months there was not much work done on the land. Spade and shovel This kind of hurling was very like hockey: there was little or no lifting. Most of the time the ball was on the ground. It is easy to understand why: men needed their hands for working with the spade and the shovel and the scythe and the flail. Lowland hurling was significantly different. Mountain hurling was played with a kind of stick you would see in hockey

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now; lowland hurling was played with a broad-bladed camán. This factor naturally made lifting a major part of the game. When Michael Cusack sat down to formulate the rules for the new game, he deliberated for a very long time. When at last he made his choice, he came out in favour of the lowland game. It was clear that he himself favoured mountain hurling on account of his background in Clare. But he knew that lowland hurling would prove far more popular. And so, sometime in the late 1880s, he wrote down the rules that gave us the game that we have today. Ground hurling Mountain hurling did not disappear completely: some counties, even though the new form was taking over, still preferred to keep an element of ground hurling in their game. Almost inevitably, this form of hurling became less and less popular. Cork was the last county to employ the old game. Indeed there was a time in the 1930s when only one player in the Cork team was allowed to pick up the ball. That was Seán Óg Murphy. We see occasional flashes of ground hurling from Offaly today. But the ball in the hand is favoured almost everywhere now. The reason is simple. Ball in hand, you have several choices: you can run with it; you can pass it; you can strike it. The choices are many. If you drew a map of hurling

in relation to the counties, you would see that it corresponded with a map showing the good land. Athletics in chaos Thus you will see that hurling dominates the eastern half of Cork while Gaelic Football dominates the western half. The same is true of Limerick and of almost every county. I will say a last few words about mountain hurling. When Cusack used to play with his students in the Phoenix Park, his favourite advice was: ‘Tarraing é.’ When he set out from Kingsbridge on that fateful

The brilliant Lory Meagher

morning in 1884, he had two ambitions: he hoped to re-organize athletics and to revive hurling. Athletics was then in chaos; things have not improved much in the meantime. Hurling hardly existed at all. Did he succeed in reviving it? He did but only to a certain extent. We are back to our old friend irony. When Cusack took what he deemed the better elements of soccer and rugby, unknowingly he frustrated his plan to revive hurling. He called the new game ‘Gaelic football’. It could not be called an ancient game because it could not be played until the invention of the pneumatic bladder. Pneumatic bladder The new game proliferated and sprang up in every nook and cranny of the country. It was not too difficult to play and it was a far safer game than hurling. And it militated against the revival of hurling. It almost wiped out mountain hurling and it also weakened the other form. Incidentally, it almost wiped out cricket, a game then played in a great many parts of the country. It was logical that hurling would become a great part of Kilkenny’s culture. It is a county where nature has been bountiful. Almost all its land is fertile. The game never really died out there, having been so well fostered by the landlords. The early All-Irelands were really inter-club championships. Kilkenny was prominent then but became even more so when

the competition was based on counties. It had a great run in the early century, winning the All-Ireland seven times between 1904 and 1913. It is not true every boy in Kilkenny is born with a little camán in one hand and a sliotar in the other. Great tradition But they grow up with a knowledge that they are in a great tradition. Success breeds success. The young lads never lack for role models. Noel Skehan succeeded Ollie Walsh; Henry Shefflin succeeded DJ Carey. I first saw Kilkenny play in the All-Ireland Final of 1937. To be honest I did not see them play. It was a very sad day for the Black & Amber. Tipperary overwhelmed them but at least I could say that I saw the immortal Lory Meagher. He was brought on late in the game when he could do little to salvage something. I last saw Kilkenny play in the All-Ireland Final of 2008. On that day, under Brian Cody, the Cats gave a display as near to perfection as is possible in human endeavour. Flow on, lovely river. Con Houlihan was an Irish sportswriter. Despite only progressing to national journalism at the age of 46, he became ‘the greatest and the best-loved Irish sports journalist of all’. He died on August 4 2012. (This article was penned by Con for the publication The Stripy Men, and is reproduced here by kind permission of the publishers).


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