Kilkenny counts down to yet another All-Ireland final

Mannequins, shrines and an Elvis impersonator help Cats prepare for big game

 

Some people keep their Christmas decorations up all year to save the hassle of taking them down.

In Kilkenny, they may as well leave their black-and-amber on the streets, windows and telegraph poles on a continuous basis, because come September (Septamber?), it’s likely they’ll be needed again.

This year is no different. The cats are counting down to their 15th All-Ireland final in 17 seasons – not counting two replays, when they face Galway in the senior hurling final this Sunday.

Not since the BC era (Before Cody) have Kilkenny missed out on the treasured September Sunday two years in a row, and it’s not happening in 2015 either.

They may be used to success, thanks to an unprecedented period at the top, but the fans’ appetite for the big day shows no sign of being sated.

In Thomastown, for example, Séamus Quigley has been gathering mannequins and dressing them in the Kilkenny colours for several years now, positioning them at various points around the streets to ensure plenty of colour.

Great buzz

John Power

“I know John well and in the local pub I would have had a figure of John. From there it grew and grew and Kilkenny grew so successful in the last decade and even before that . . . It creates a great buzz and people stand in and take selfies, it goes all over the world. Thomastown is on the map.”

Out the road towards Bennetsbridge, in the townland of Legan, woodworker Paul Stapleton has created a shrine of his own.

A wooden birthday cake, a replica of the Liam McCarthy Cup and a big sign with the messages: “It’s a cakewalk for the cats, happy 36th birthday,” and, “Galway won’t have any tricks to stop the cats get 36,” in reference to Kilkenny’s quest for a 36th senior All-Ireland.

“I put it up about a fortnight ago,” he says, adding that his handiwork gets quite a reaction from locals and passing motorists.

“I had a fella from Galway, his wife was with him and he left the car down the road. I was going to get my dinner and I saw him running up with a Galway flag.

“I looked out the window and he had the flag there. I came out the door but he was a gas man after. It was all a bit of crack.”

On St Thomas’s Square, veteran Elvis impersonator Myles Kavanagh has a new addition to his Kilkenny-loving family this year, grandson Preslie Kavanagh, son of Myles Jnr and Amanda.

Justin Bieber

“It’s all a bit of fun,” Myles says, standing in front of the signs for Graceland, Lonely Street and the Heartbreak Hotel.

Nearby, in the area known as The Butts, Anne Duggan also has a new member of her clan to cheer for the cats on Sunday, 11-week-old grandson Charlie Duggan-Kerwick, dressed in the county colours.

“The screaming and shouting will be unbelievable up here on Sunday,” says Anne. “Win lose or draw, we’ll party.”

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