Cows run for cover as the men from Clare milk all the praise
Shrieks of despair as the hooter goes. Missed free. Cue mayhem
Monaghan’s Cathriona McConnell, Therese McNally, Grainne McNally and Ciara McAnespie after loosing by a point to Cork in the All-Ireland women’s football final at Croke Park. Photograph: Alan Betson
When the hooter sounded in yesterday’s All-Ireland final, we were treated to what’s possibly the loveliest noise in Irish sport, one that annually tests the mettle of TG4 sound engineers: the exceedingly high-pitched screeches of several thousand young girls echoing around Croke Park.
But then the realisation that Monaghan could take their free after the hooter, and if it went over it’d be a draw.
Cue shrieks of despair.
And then it went wide.
Mind you, these young Cork wans should be accustomed to glory, having witnessed their warriors win eight All-Ireland football titles in just the nine seasons. Although, some of them – the supporters, not the players – might not have been born for the first, in the dim and distant past of – God – 2005.
“They don’t do extraordinary things, they just do the ordinary things very, very well,” manager Eamonn Ryan said to TG4’s Grainne McElwain. “I think that’s all there is to it. Really.”
A year ago: “There’s no secret really, they just love what they’re doing,” said the very same Ryan to the very same McElwain. “They come back in January as if they’d never won anything and they work away mad for the next nine months – and usually it works out.”
It does too, there are few – any? – teams like them in the country, written off when their streak was broken in 2010, returning with the ultimate ‘we haven’t gone away, you know’ in Irish sport.
But. “Your heart would go out to Monaghan,” Ryan added, and if there was a dry eye in your house as you watched the defeated inconsolably drop to the pitch once it was all over, your house is a frosty one.
2008: Lost to Cork. 2011: Lost to Cork. 2013: Lost to Cork. Your eyes would be red, too.
So, consolation on the weekend that was in it for our southern cousins after Saturday’s events at Croke Park, Cyril Farrell very memorably declaring after the hurling replay: “There’ll be no winter in Clare, Marty says they won’t milk cows – whatever about milking, they’ll drink the cows.”
“I’d say the cows will be hiding in hedges for a few days, just to be on the safe side,” said Michael Lyster, speaking for a perturbed nation.
Just the one change to the Clare team, Shane O’Donnell in. Ger Canning: “Would you like to let us know why you’ve decided on that?”
Davy Fitzgerald: “No.”
Lyster: “I’m not sure sometimes if it’s Davy or Mario Rosentock we’re watching.” True, that. Did you see that sketch last week of Davy walking along a country road, on his way to a Celebrity Bainisteoir contest with Jose Mourinho? And every step of the way he was whacking the ditch with his hurley? You had the sense it was actual Davy footage.
But the answer soon became apparent enough, O’Donnell was brought in to score 3-3, like you do. And Cyril couldn’t say enough about Davy’s tactical genius after the game: “He loves kinda methodology plans” - nor his passion: “This group of players would die for him . . . he wears his heart on his shoulder.”
Jimmy Barry-Murphy? Gracious, as usual. “What more could you have done,” asked Clare McNamara. “We could have won,” he replied, which was fair enough.
Later in the evening, the Saturday Game, Marty Morrissey (and the victors) warbling My Lovely Rose of Clare in the victors’ dressingroom, almost leaving Ger Loughnane speechless. Almost. He was a bit chuffed, to put it very mildly.
Donal Og Cusack, meanwhile, waxed lyrical. “This was the greatest game on earth, at its glorious best – we talk about poets, our artists, our musicians, that to us hurling people, was poetry.”
He wasn’t wrong, really. You just wished the whole planet would have seen it. Mind you, it’s already a global-ish affair, as the GAA president proved with his speech when he thanked the sponsors, listing a few “agus Etihad”. You had to smile.