Paudie Palmer: Green wave leaves Cork hurling on the margins

Paudie Palmer: Green wave leaves Cork hurling on the margins

Limerick and Waterford was the last hurling game in Croke Park for 2020. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

SITTING down on Sunday last to watch the final act of the most unique hurling championship in our lifetime, there was a body of work going on somewhere in the subconscious.

How could you want a team that just won two All-Irelands in 80 years to lose?

Maybe it has something to do with being reared in one jurisdiction and being domiciled in another, and in both landmasses, All-Ireland homecomings weren’t once in a lifetime experience!

In case further clarification is needed, I am talking about Sam Maguire in the Kingdom and Liam MacCarthy in the Rebel territories.

OK, maybe, I should begin again, because I can almost here you scream 'once in a lifetime would be an achievement in both counties right now...'

Of course, the Déise factor was real. They are overdue a victory on the big day. For their supporters, 2020 had them believing again but I would think that the last climb is a little way off.

Waterford’s Dessie Hutchinson battles Sean Finn. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson
Waterford’s Dessie Hutchinson battles Sean Finn. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Put another way, if the present management team can finally end the historical references to the 1959 edition, it would be a mammoth achievement. When they enter the 2021 arena, they will have to cope with among other constraints, the second season syndrome.

The case, for wishing that a Limerick captain would be using the hand-sanitiser at the base of the Hogan heavenly steps is probably based on a number of factors.

The size of the county in terms of geographical boundaries has to pose a challenge.

A few years ago the Limerick won a number of All-Ireland U21 titles but unfortunately, the success that should have followed at senior level didn’t materialise.

As most of you will be well aware, the rise of 'Club Munster' ensured that oval ball made rapid inroads, with a sizeable number of the population favouring rugby over hurling. Yes of course, there is no shortage of Rebel inhabitants who are of a similar disposition.

If you remember back to when other counties such as Clare and Offaly ended their great hunger, they both added at least one other title for good measure. This Limerick side needed to do that as well.

At the conclusion of the 2018 championship, we knew Limerick were the champions but how many of the team had taken up residence in the recognition lounge. I bet after Sunday last you would now select a shot of them in an identity parade!

When it was all over and captain Declan Hannon, had sanitised, raised Liam and delivered a speech if not for the ages, one certainly for these times, the pundits were singing in unison that the John Kiely lead battalion had delivered the perfect performance.

Most would agree, but did anyone dare to mention that it was contest that, will have difficulty remaining in the memory bank for any period of time. It was poor fare to be honest.

Wait until Saturday night next when Dubs make it six in a row. They will, won’t they?

And while there will be some effort to suggest that we should sit back and admire what Dublin bring to the party, most will be singing from the doomsday hymn sheet.

Hurling folk are slower to criticise.

SHARPSHOOTERS:

There are many occasions, where I wish I was in possession of statistical intelligence and right now I would like a list of the Man of the Match recipients from the All-Ireland hurling finals over the past 20 years. I would think that few enough of them were wing-forwards.

Then on Sunday, the adjudicators had to make a decision on which of the two Treaty wingmen, should collect that particular glass sculpture. In the end, they settled for the 6’ 5” Gearoid Hegarty who landed 0-7 from play, while Tom Morrissey chipped in with five.

Tom Morrissey and Gearóid Hegarty. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Tom Morrissey and Gearóid Hegarty. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Additional evidence of the dominance of the two is demonstrated by the fact the each provided assistance to the white flag activity of the other, with Morrissey the more prolific in this department.

Another unusual feature of the chosen Man of the Match is that five frees were given against him, with many Waterford supporters questioning as to why that number wasn’t higher. When referee Fergal Horgan sits down with the assessors, he might need to explain why Hegarty did have a yellow flashed in his direction.

I doubt, if you check out the previous recipients of the accolade for this century, none of them will have the statistical attachments of the Limerick one and certainly none of them were as tall.

Next question on the honours paper, have Limerick the ability to become the Dubs of hurling and lead to suggestions that the small county may have to be split?

After all, splitting appears to be the new simplistic solution to all GAA domination. Yes, they have had the hurlers, the team management and the finance.

The one difference when comparing them to the Blue Wave is that it does appear that the other top hurling counties are a tad nearer than Dublin’s opponents are.

For the moment, we will live with the maxim that champions are there to be beaten.

No, we couldn’t take our leave without mentioning the two games last Saturday that that had all sorts of potential to lift or sink the damaged county hurling vessel.

Favourites to defeat Limerick in both Munster minor and U20 hurling semi-finals meant the stakes were rather high.

The loss of the minor hurlers in the early afternoon throw-in at Semple stadium was akin to a submarine hit.

They say when you are explaining, you are losing, but the concession of two quickfire goals, where an injured Cork player played a role was a decisive and fatal blow. Look, I take your point of view, they were beaten and well-beaten.

For the majority of the U20 game, you wouldn’t need to in possession of a hurling CV to figure out that this Limerick team weren’t going to provide John Kiely with many replacements.

However, they could have caught Cork coming down the straight but thankfully in extra time Cork and you might think that I am exaggerating, made it look like, men against boys.

Did it ever happen previously, that a team scored more in extra time than it did in normal time?

We don't know where the hurling journey of Colin O’Brien, from the Churchtown/Liscarroll club, will take him in the future. Surely he will never tire of relaying the story of his magical four minutes in the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday, December 12, 2020, when he pointed three sideline cuts and ended up with a tally of five points after coming on as sub.

I would think his exploits were unique. What was also unique about this contest was that replacements from the bench landed 1-12.

Come to think of it, there were quite a few happenings from the world of hurling this past weekend that were of the most unique variety.

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