UPDATE: All-Ireland Hurling Final 2010 - result
Tipperary 4:17 - 1:18 Kilkenny
Kilkenny’s Henry Shefflin (right) may or may not be the greatest hurler this country has ever seen, but bracketing him in the same company with Ring and Doyle and Mackey and the Rackards makes him one of the greatest sportsmen on the planet, and arguably the greatest.
Tomorrow Tipperary take on neighbouring county Kilkenny in the All-Ireland Hurling Final. A big day, given that Kilkenny are going for an unprecedented five-in-a-row All-Ireland hurling titles. For American readers, that’s the equivalent of the White Sox winning five World Series in a row, with the Red Sox standing in their way. For UK readers, it’s Man Utd on the verge of five league titles on the trot, and Liverpool out to take them down.
It’s a great team, this Kilkenny team, which isn’t an easy thing to say when you’re half-Wexford, as your humble host is. Tomorrow they could prove themselves the greatest team of all time. Terrific hurlers to a man, with the likes of JJ Delaney, Tommy Walsh, Eddie Brennan and Noel Hickey outstanding. But towering above them all is Henry Shefflin, aka King Henry.
He has it all, has Shefflin. Tall, strong, fast. Brilliant wrists, brave with it, and no one works harder for his side. He’s the all-time top scorer in Championship hurling, the go-to man when games are on the line, such as last year, when he struck home the late penalty that wrested the final away from Tipp when it looked like they were home and hosed. He’s painfully modest, too. Oh, and for all those ice hockey fans yelling ‘Wayne Gretzky’ at the screen, Henry does it all with only a helmet for protection, and he does it all - hurling being an amateur code - for free.
It looked for a while like Henry was going to miss this year’s All-Ireland final, having done his cruciate ligament during the semi-final against Cork. Miracles do happen, though, especially when Henry Shefflin is around, and apparently he’ll be fit to play tomorrow, even if he’s unlikely to be functioning at 100%. It would have been a crying shame had Kilkenny won five-in-a-row without Henry on the pitch, though, given all that he’s given to the team over the last decade or so.
Having said all that, I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised were Tipperary to put a halt to Kilkenny’s gallop tomorrow. Tipp should have won last year, being undone in the last ten minutes by a double-blow of Benny Dunne getting himself sent off for a stupid foul, and the award of a debatable penalty against them. So it should be a tight one, and could well be one of the classic games of all time.
Not that losing would take the sheen off Henry Shefflin. I was reared, given that my father hails from Wexford, and played for Wexford as a young man, to hate Kilkenny, as all right-thinking people do, and I’ve always believed that such instinctive hatred would carry me along nicely until I shuffle off this mortal coil or Wexford bag another Liam McCarthy Cup, the former being far more likely in the next fifty years than the latter, unfortunately.
It’s impossible to hate Henry Shefflin, though. The man is an artist. Much as I hope to see him disappointed come 5pm tomorrow, I wouldn’t begrudge him his five-in-a-row for a second. If there’s one man who deserves immortality, it’s King Henry.
Finally, and for those of you wondering what all the fuss is about hurling, here’s a vid to put you straight. Roll it there, Collette …
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