'There will never be anyone like them again'


IN THE end, they could even afford to cheer the Galway scores.

As the realisation sank in that they’d won yet another All-Ireland and the famous old trophy would be returning to the Marble City once more, Kilkenny fans watching on the big screens applauded as Joe Canning fired over a couple of late points, which were nothing more than consolation efforts.

“Well done, Joe,” said one victorious supporter with a laugh in Kyteler’s Inn in the heart of Kilkenny city, no doubt remembering the controversy a couple of weeks ago when the Galway full-forward was deemed to have been disparaging to “king” Henry Shefflin.

It was Joe who ended up looking disconsolate, Kilkenny with the spoils.

During a dramatic few minutes that started with Galway having a goal disallowed, continued with them hitting the post and having a man sent off, and then Walter Walsh burying western hopes with Kilkenny’s second of three goals, all Geraldine Russell and Georgina Culleton could do was look at each other with smiles of resignation and give each other a hug of solidarity.

Two Galway women living in Kilkenny for several years and, on this day of days, proudly sporting their “Gaillimh Abú” jerseys in a sea of black and amber, were accepting of their fate.

Both settled in the historic city after marrying local men – Paul and James, respectively – and were ready for a bit of slagging within their mixed marriages.

“We were still talking after the Leinster final [won by Galway] and we’ll still be talking tonight,” Georgina assured us.

“I came down here eight years ago for an All-Ireland final and we went to Tynan’s pub to watch it and I met him [Paul] that night,” she said, by way of a back story. By then, Geraldine was with James and living locally for a dozen years.

“Now they’re married with four children and we’re married with one child,” Georgina added.

Over in Langton’s Hotel, Conor Langton looked forward to a famous night of celebration but pointed out that his father – proprietor Eamonn Langton – wouldn’t be on hand just yet. “He’s gone to the match; it couldn’t happen without him.”

Inside the Set Theatre at Langton’s, packed rows of Cats supporters watched in the darkness as a well-told story played out yet again in front of their eyes.

On the streets early in the game, silence and a few “here we go again” groans greeted Galway’s early goals, before normal service was resumed with Kilkenny’s first. As one spectator helpfully put it: “Kilkenny went to get a goal and then they missed it and then they got it.” The match wore on: “Horse into him, Henry”; “That’s it, Tommy”; and “Go on, Hogie” were common comments.

Followed, at the end, by that familiar but (for those who get to sing it) never-old chant, “champio-nays, champio-nays”.

Former camogie star Geraldine Hayes put it nicely: “There will never be anyone like them again.”