GIVEN that much of the focus on last Sunday’s All-Ireland SHC final revolved around Richie Hogan’s sending off, arguably the most important moment of the match has almost gone underappreciated.
Niall O’Meara’s goal turned this final upside down and was magnificent in both its creation and execution.
The cleverly-placed handpass from Jason Forde, the ducking and swivelling from O’Meara and the intelligently-driven shot from the latter has to be considered the most vital play of the whole contest.
The green flag injected vigour into Tipperary’s approach and from that moment, you fancied them to get over the line in front, even if the remainder of the game was a 15-v-15 encounter.
If Séamus Callanan or John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer, who, of course, later combined to score another wonderful goal for the Premier, had engineered the first major Liam Sheedy’s side plundered, it probably would have gotten more attention.
Yet, because it was Forde and O’Meara, two of the unsung heroes of the team, there was a little less made of its brilliance than there should have been since.
O’Meara knew exactly where to aim that attempt and to also power the ball towards the ground appreciating the wet surface would make it much more difficult a shot for Eoin Murphy to save.
It was a sublime piece of skill from the wing-forward and it changed the course of the decider.
And yet, the majority of the half-time chit-chat was spent on Hogan’s dismissal.
Frankly, I’m not even sure why there was any sort of debate on the issue, referee James Owens was correct in sending the Kilkenny attacker off. The rules are the rules, it shouldn’t matter whether such an incident occurs in a Junior C league game or an All-Ireland final, it was a red card offence.
And this idea of people saying he should have gotten only a yellow card because of the occasion that was in it, is absolutely bonkers.
Current players, ex-players, commentators and supporters alike can’t moan about referees and their inconsistencies and then also complain when a referee gets a decision spot on. I’m afraid, lads, ye can’t have it every way. Ye can’t expect the rules to be applied in a certain way on some occasions, and then want them to be bent to suit on other occasions.
Hogan, of course, took Cathal Barrett out with his trailing arm.
However, the Tipp corner-back had sympathy for Hogan when recalling the incident on Monday.
“First and foremost, any man who steps on to the field deserves massive credit because the effort that lads put in, from Tipp, Kilkenny and every other county is unbelievable,” Barrett stated.
“It’s a full-time job playing hurling. It’s heartbreaking for someone to get sent off. It’s not something I’d like to see myself. It’s hard to know. I don’t know the rule, like if it’s a head-high tackle so it must be a red.
“Personally, I wouldn’t have liked to see him go myself. It’s the biggest day of the year. You’re training nine months for it and it’s kind of taken from you. It’s not nice. It’s a bit disappointing for him.”
Call me cynical, but I think most people would agree it is much easier to be sympathetic to another player when that player’s dismissal has contributed to you winning an All-Ireland final.
Would Barrett have been so understanding if Owens decided Hogan didn’t deserve to be red-carded and the Danesfort man later scored an added-time match-winner for Kilkenny?
Returning to a positive element of the final, though, and the Sheedy factor.
His man-management skills are exceptional and have been influential again with the Premier this year.
Barrett offered some further insight into Sheedy’s managerial qualities.
“He’s the engine room of our dressing room, really,” Barrett mused. “He just drives perfection. Liam will go to the ends of the earth to get the best out of you because he knows for him to be the best at what he does, he needs us to be the best at what we do. He’s an all-rounder.
“There’s no great recipe or anything; he just drives the standards. He’s an unbelievable man.
“It’s surreal. I don’t think it’s even hit home yet. Yesterday, I didn’t have any emotion. I don’t know what happened, it was just very surreal.”
Sticking with the theme of leadership, and even though many people feel Noel McGrath should be GAA/GPA Hurler of the Year now, I think it would be a shame if Callanan misses out on the award.
He is essentially guaranteed to be shortlisted for the award this year and were he to lose out again it would mean the full-forward was shortlisted four times without collecting the accolade.
It would be cruel for Callanan not to win it this year, but I suspect his fellow players will vote to ensure he doesn’t miss out, especially as they will be aware of the fact he has been shortlisted three times previously.
Besides that, though, Callanan’s marvellous record of scoring a goal in every match is nearly deserving of the award in itself.