It was may have been asking too much to expect Saturday’s All-Ireland hurling final replay to be as good as the drawn game, or, indeed, the second of the two matches needed to decide last year’s title-winners. But there was still lots to be taken from it, not least the ferocity of the exchanges.
This was a day on which fire was met with fire, and at the end of it all, Kilkenny were champions once again, three points too good for a Tipperary team that chased the game right to the very end.
Having closed a two-goal gap to just a couple of points as the game reached a last ten-minute crescendo, Tipp had the look of a team that might do enough to keep us in our seats for about another half-hour. But Kilkenny, with the record-breaking Henry Shefflin only recently introduced to lead the attack, remained cool, and a late Colin Fennelly point left Tipp looking for a third goal.
Kilkenny now has 35 All-Irelands, ten of which have come under the guidance of Brian Cody. All the old faces are still there, the likes of Shefflin, Aidan Fogarty, Jackie Tyrrell, Brian Hogan, Tommy Walsh and JJ Delaney, but this year’s team is one that had to be reinvented, or rejuvenated, if you like.
Sandwiched between the All-Ireland win of 2012 and this one was a season in which performances were only slightly better than mediocre, and there was just a hint Cody, having overcome an illness, might hand over the reins. Some chance.
Cody, just turned 60 and an All-Ireland winner and All-Star in his playing days, loves a challenge more than anything. While it’s possible Shefflin and maybe some of the others on the plus side of 30 will quit, the county minors’ win in this year’s All-Ireland would leave the Alex Ferguson of hurling (or is it, Ferguson, the Brian Cody of soccer?) having no searching to do for young blood.