Kilkenny fans just happy to be given another shot

Tensions on the ‘interface’ as neighbouring counties play to a draw

At the Urlingford Arms in Urlingford, Co  Kilkenny, yesterday, from left:  Shauna Cleere, Thomas Broderick (Kilkenny fan) and his son Conor (Tipp fan)  watch  the game. Photograph:  Dylan Vaughan

At the Urlingford Arms in Urlingford, Co Kilkenny, yesterday, from left: Shauna Cleere, Thomas Broderick (Kilkenny fan) and his son Conor (Tipp fan) watch the game. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan

 

And. . . breathe.

The neutrals may welcome another shot at an All-Ireland hurling final but can the locals in Kilkenny and Tipperary bear it? Will their hearts be able for that sort of tension again?

As John “Bubbles” O’Dwyer lined up to take that 90m-plus free in injury time, hearts were in mouths, hands were over eyes, silent prayers were being offered, up not just among the ticketed in Croke Park but also across the two counties and anywhere else where Tipp and Kilkenny fans had gathered to watch the match.

The atmosphere was especially electric along the “interface” areas, with Kilkenny fans afraid Bubbles’s free had been nailed and Tipp fans scattered among them in these mixed zones celebrating before Hawk Eye burst their bubble.

All along the border, in places such as Mullinahone, Ballingarry and Carrick on the Tipp side and Urlingford, Johnstown and the Graigue-Ballycallan club in Kilkenny, there was a healthy mixture from both sets of supporters who ended up having the breath sucked out of them as that tension-laden finale played itself out before the referee’s final whistle.

“It’s not good for the heart,” said Breda Hickey in the Urlingford Arms as jersey-wearing supporters hugged each other and exhaled, all in very civilised fashion. “I thought Tipp had it,” said Jason Scully. “I don’t like that eagle eye!”

Kilkenny fan John Ryan reckoned “a draw was probably a fair result” and the replay – the third in a row needed to decide the destination of the Liam MacCarthy Cup – was hard to call. “The referee gave us nothing. I thought it was gone so at least we’re still there, it would be hard to lose to the auld enemy,” he said.

Behind the bar in the Urlingford Arms, just a few hundred metres from the Tipperary border, the personnel were mixed, with owner Nicholas Healy wearing Kilkenny colours – “what a fantastic atmosphere” – his partner, Margaret McCarthy, from Rathcormac, Co Cork, staying neutral, while some of the staff were of a blue-and-gold persuasion, such as Margaret Fennessy from Holycross, whose nephew is soccer international Shane Long. “He’s over in Tbilisi for the Georgia match but he’s gutted he couldn’t be at the hurling. He comes over for it when he can,” she said.

For some families, the conflict came even closer to home last night. Such as in the Broderick household, where father and son Thomas (Urlingford, Kilkenny) and Conor (Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary) managed to watch the final side by side without coming to blows.

“We’d be slagging one another all right but it’s all good banter.” said Thomas. “We’re used to these occasions in Kilkenny but Tipp mightn’t be that used to it. They only get there the odd time.”

Well, they’re there again in three weeks’ time, when the players from both counties, and their supporters’ tickers, have to do it all again.

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