There was, quite literally, steam rising from Hill 16, from both the Australia-shaped cluster of Kilkenny folk up top and the Limerick faithful below them, for all the world looking like they were the Indian Ocean lapping Oz’s western and southern shores.
This observation could, of course, have been influenced by heatstroke, Met Éireann having warned us that the sun can drive you doolally. So, when the Hill then began to resemble a cluster of bumble bees hovering over the greenest of meadows, you knew it was time to rehydrate. Even if you hadn’t actually stepped foot outside the door since the Wonder of Wellington on Saturday morning.
Come Monday morning, then, it’ll be easy enough to spot those oddities who didn’t watch any sport at all over the weekend, they’ll be the ones with red pepperish faces, the rest of us looking just as pasty as we did before the temperatures soared to a level the Spanish would regard as a bit chilly.
Marty Morrissey advised everyone to reach for their “factor 75″ in the middle of his now familiar pre-All-Ireland-final soliloquy, this one lasting the entire duration of the pre-match parade and threatening to require the ref to delay the throw-in to allow him complete it.
What followed was a contest that lived up to Marty’s delirious billing, one that left those who can recall the days when Limerick could win nothing wondering how they’ve reached a point where they’ve forgotten how to lose.
It helps, of course, to have a fella like Gearóid Hegarty on board, his thunderous goal a thing of immense beauty, although we needed Google Translate to understand that RTÉ caption of “Hego Says Prego”. Until then, the assumption was that the author was another victim of heatstroke.
While the gap was just four points come half-time, Liam Sheedy still reckoned Limerick were “eating Kilkenny alive” in several departments, so the fear was that the second half would just be a rather uncompetitive procession towards that three-in-a-row.
But. Can we talk here about TJ Reid and his participation in that goal by Martin Keoghan who buried that Eoin Cody flick? Gorgeous.
“The Cats are purring again,” said Marty, no more than ourselves, but it’s a measure of where Limerick are now that every time their opponents purred, they barked just a little louder, upping the gears, never breaking sweat, no steam rising from those lads. Cool out.
The only one sweating, as it proved, was poor auld Hawkeye, it having a reputation to restore. Busy it was, too, but it seemed to come good. “I’m so glad Hawkeye went to the optician,” said Marty, which was a cruel dig – it’s not like machines have no feelings.
“These lads must be wrecked tired,” said Michael Duignan as they battled both each other and global warming, Kilkenny refusing to allow Limerick pull away when they looked like an inevitability most of the time.
That they finished up with 2-26 and still lost an All-Ireland final says something about the force they came up against.
“Dolores, God be good to her, one of their own,” said Donal Óg as Dreams, for the third year running, wafted around the stadium, the steam rising even higher from the green meadows as the bumble bees drifted away.
“How can these not be the best days of your lives,” Hego told RTÉ, and you’d a notion that beating Kilkenny, of all people, made this one of very best days of his sporting life.
Still, did it not feel weird to be watching this on a mid-ish July day? No matter, said Donal Óg. “Play it in July, play it in September, there’s no game like hurling.”
What would, of course, have completed the weekend was if our Rory had left St Andrews with a claret jug in his luggage.
Cameron Smith, though, produced some lovely hurling in his final round of 64, while Rory did nothing wrong but not enough right, in birdie terms. He needed a Limerick-like gear-shift, but it wasn’t to be.
He needed an eagle on the 18th to catch the Cam man, but no joy. With the form he was in on Sunday, Gearóid Hegarty would probably have buried it, but you’d imagine he’s content enough with bringing Liam MacCarthy back to Limerick for the third year running, and leaving the claret jug to Cam.