Davy Fitz’s small little fishes keep us hooked on a whale of a game
Cyril Farrell was almost horizontal, hitting warp speed with the thrill of it all
Cork manager Jimmy Barry Murphy shakes hands with Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald after the game. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Cork 3-16, Small Little Fishes 0-25, one eventuality Anthony Nash’s Da hadn’t covered when he said on Friday’s Up for the Match: “We know we’ll be able to handle defeat, I’m just wondering will be able to handle victory.”
A draw it was, though, one that would have left even natives of the other 30 counties (plus London) entirely stretched, so exhilarating a final, in fact, Cyril Farrell was prompted to analyse the fare at even warpier speed than usual.
His colleagues in the Croke Park studio – Michael Lyster, Liam Sheedy and Eddie Brennan – were electrified too, but Cyril had almost slid off his chair, a bit like Bill O’Herlihy used to do in the good old days, a sure sign he’d quite enjoyed the tussle.
“Ah go ‘way out of that, for God’s sake,” he said to Eddie when the Kilkenny man reckoned Cork might feel aggrieved by the time added to the added time, during which Clare got their equaliser, Cyril’s feeling being – and we’re only paraphrasing here – that it would have been a crime against humanity if we weren’t treated to 70 (plus added, added) more minutes of this tussle.
And for that he had Clare’s Domhnall O’Donovan to thank. As Michael Duignan had asked when the corner back popped the replay-clinching point over the bar: “What was he doing up there?”
Some, of course, intimated that Cork had made a hames of those closing moments, after they’d taken the lead for the first time with just the 60ish seconds to go, “they had an opportunity to just pop the ball into the corner and start arsing around with it for a while,” said Michael, in an uncharacteristically rude fashion.
But – apart, maybe, from the folk in Cork – who Michael suggested would be “happy enough to nick it out of a shop if they could get it” – no one was complaining too much. True, sequels are rarely better the original - a bit like the difficult second album thing - but another helping of this encounter? Grand job.
“The Shannon will be swelled up this evening,” said Cyril, raising his arms to demonstrate what a swollen Shannon might look like, “and Domhnall O’Donovan nearly lives on top of it. He hardly ever scored in his life, maybe an own goal for Clonlara now and again.”
The mother of all ding-dongs, it was, starting with friendly handshakes between the teams before battle commenced. “Give a lad a squeeze and say ‘I’ll kill you in a minute’,” Cyril chuckled, so, alright then, maybe not that friendly.
Clare on top, but how they were only the two points up at half-time will remain one of the great sporting mysteries of our time, up there with, say, Wes Hoolahan remaining bench-bound in a national time of need.
Some, too, might have added Cork’s Shane O’Neill’s non-sending-off to the mysterious sporting mix, after his hurley’s brush with Darach Honan’s head (random thought: should people who refer to it as a ‘hurl’ be jailed for (a) 5, (b) 10 or (c) 36 years?).
“Same old thing happens every year,” said Cyril at half-time, while resisting the term “handbags”, the panel, though, on the whole, reckoning he’d got out of jail, where those “hurl” people belong.
Second half and every time you said ‘cripes, Cork need a goal’, they got one. All-Ireland title Cork-bound. Until O’Donovan did his thing.
Davy Fitz had the look of a man who’d played 70 minutes plus six weeks added time. Exhausted.
“A lot of things out there I could talk about, but I’m just going to leave it be,” he told Clare McNamara, before not letting it be at all.
“We had it won a few times and they kept being brought back in to it, you know,” he said, a touch conspiratorially.
“That’s the way it goes . . . it’s harder to get the breaks when you’re the smaller fish . . . but even for the small little fishes that we are, we keep fighting.”
When Saturday, September 28 comes, it’ll be Cork against the Small Little Fishes again, and Davy will trust that Clare won’t be gutted come full-time.