The outsider’s view
As an ambassador for the All-Ireland Under-20 hurling championship, former Cork All-Ireland winning goalkeeper Ger Cunningham spends much of time looking at emerging talent. Only in looking ahead to Sunday's final, Cunningham, who also served as a Cork selector and later Dublin manager, could only bow to the longevity of Brian Cody, 21 seasons as Kilkenny manager, Sunday his 18th All-Ireland hurling final.
“Where Kilkenny are now, in the context that they could have gone out of the competition in Wexford Park, then to turn around, and come back to give two phenomenal performances, against Cork and Limerick, is phenomenal,” he said.
“But we shouldn’t be surprised either. They’ve been doing it for years, and now that Brian Cody is beginning to get all his injured players back, he has a very strong starting 15, and some serious subs to come on. So while we shouldn’t be surprised, we probably didn’t expect them to be there.”
Part of the magic with Cody, says Cunningham, is his ability to keep generating that emerging hurling talent at a winning level: “It is incredible, if you stand back and look at it, to be preparing for your 18th All-Ireland final, and he’s only lost two semi-finals. It’s crazy stuff, and it’s fantastic what he’s able to do. But I suppose lads in the Kilkenny dressing room know there is a basic requirement to how you play the game, what he looks for, and if you don’t have that, that’s the starting point.
“He’s also had or developed great players in his team and still has great players in his team, and sometimes we question how does he keep it going. It’s just a huge intensity, and that’s the magic formula I suppose that all managers would like. If they get a sniff, or any sense of weakness, they will go for the jugular. The sight of the jersey is motivation enough for them.”
By the numbers
3 - The number of All-Ireland hurling finals that Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy has so far contested, losing in 2009 against Kilkenny, winning in 2010 against Kilkenny, and . . .
TJ Reid tops the charts
Unless TJ Reid completely misfires in the final, he will finish the 2019 championship as top scorer, his 5-72 tally four points more than Cork's Patrick Horgan, with Tipperary's Jason Forde a long way back in third with his 2-59.
Horgan does still hold the honour of scoring the highest in one match, the 3-10 he hit in the quarter-final defeat to Kilkenny.
Cork also produced the widest winning margin, 23 points, in their 1-40 - 0-20 win over Westmeath in preliminary quarter-final, that also being the most points scored in a match (60), and also the highest score (63).
The lowest scoring match was Galway’s 0-16 to Wexford’s 0-16 in the round robin of the Leinster championship, which produced just 32 points between them, and no goals.
Word of mouth
"Not at all, no. No impact and no regrets about anything we did. We gave the lads a week off. We trained hard. We were ready for tonight; we were absolutely ready. Kilkenny brought a ferocious intensity to the first 15 minutes but we responded to that in kind in the second quarter. We dominated it" – Limerick manager John Kiely after the semi-final defeat to Kilkenny, after his side followed in the footsteps of all Munster champions – except Tipperary in 2016 – for the past eight years in failing to reach a final.
Managerial merry go round
He came to promote the haircuts and left with the question: would Derek McGrath be interested in returning as Waterford senior hurling manager, one year after vacating the position?
McGrath, it seems, hasn’t yet ruled himself in or out of the running, only he admitted that he was leaning towards staying away from the sideline for another season.
Páraic Fanning took over from McGrath this season, but stepped down after a disappointing campaign, where despite making the league final, Waterford failed to progress out of the round robin stage of the Munster championship, losing all four games. McGrath held the position for five seasons, from 2014 and 2018, and guided Waterford to an Allianz League title in 2015, as well as the 2017 final against Galway.
McGrath was speaking at an Electric Ireland GAA All-Ireland minor hurling event, where Galway and Kilkenny will contest the final. Electric Ireland has collaborated with a team of expert barbers and hairdressers to offer free haircuts or styles to fans in Croke Park between 11.30am and 1pm on the Cusack Stand side before the minor final.