‘We’ll beat Tipp by 9 points – but it’s not just about winning, it’s about being the best’

Cats quietly confident as they get ready to cheer on the man known simply as Henry

Pupils at Bunscoil McAuley Rice in Callan, Co Kilkenny, near the Tipperary border. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Pupils at Bunscoil McAuley Rice in Callan, Co Kilkenny, near the Tipperary border. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Black and amber has taken over every shop and pub in the city of Kilkenny, as its quietly confident citizens ready themselves for what they hope will be a historic 10th senior All-Ireland hurling medal for the man everyone refers to simply as Henry.

The busiest shop on High Street yesterday morning was a small pop-up selling nothing but hats, flags, T-shirts and tracksuits in the county colours to people keen to wear their support on their sleeves.

And on their their legs and heads.

“Yesterday was mad busy because today is Colours Day in all the schools so the kids get to wear their gear instead of their uniform,” says Dave O’Callaghan who opened the pop-up shop just two weeks ago.

“Business is good for sure, but never mind that, the most important thing is winning,” he says. “The hunger is there every year, that never changes.”

Helen Doheny has just finished a morning run along the banks of the Nore and is conflicted. She’s a Tipperary woman living in Kilkenny with a son on the minor panel.

Switching allegiances

Anne-Marie Rowe has no such divided loyalties. “We kind of expect them to do well, and we all book time off in the second week in September in case they do get to the final.”

For 13 of the last 16 hurling seasons, the advanced planning has worked out. “It’s a great week to be here, and no, we never get tired of winning. There are always new fellas on the team and Kilkenny is so small that everyone knows someone on the team.”

While the Cats are the bookies’ favourites, neither Doheny nor Rowe are wildly confident there will be wild celebrations in the town on Monday night.

Tonnie Moore opened the Hurley Depot four years ago. “Every child here plays hurling. They live for it. In my house the hurl goes into the car before the schoolbag.”

He points to a rack of hurleys. “We sell the hurls Henry will be using on Sunday. Mind you, Lar Corbett buys the same ones.”

Davy Cashin sings with the Kilkennys – a popular folk act. Failure is not something he is prepared to countenance. “We’ll beat them by nine points,” he says. “But it’s not just about winning, it’s about being the best. We have to be the best.”