Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The All-Ireland Hurling Final: A Special Post For Peter Rozovsky

RESULT: Kilkenny 2-22 : 0-23 Tipperary

This time last year, I was playing a very poor host to crime fiction’s very own Uncle Travelling Matt Fraggle, aka Peter Rozovsky (right), who was in town for the Books 2008 Festival. As part of his weekend, Peter wandered into town on the Sunday afternoon and discovered that there was some kind of match being played at Croke Park. He bought himself a ticket and toddled along, watched Kilkenny demolish Waterford in the All-Ireland hurling final, and pronounced himself fairly impressed with the experience.
  Now, the thing about last year’s hurling final is that Kilkenny put in a performance that was nigh-on pitch perfect, a display of total hurling that was unexpected even for a team that is regarded as one of the finest hurling outfits of all time, and akin, in football terms, to watching Real Madrid (Di Stefano, Eusebio, et al) beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in the 1960 European Cup Final. So Peter got very lucky, and shouldn’t ever expect to see as fine a display again.
  Peter was also lucky to see Henry Shefflin in his prime. I’m too young to have seen the likes of greats such as Nicky Rackard, Christy Ring, John Doyle or Eddie Keher play, but Henry Shefflin belongs in the pantheon. Certainly he has the gifts, in hurling terms, of a Magic Johnson or a Maradona. Big and strong, brave and honest, he blends brute strength with the delicate touch of a brain surgeon, and has the work ethic of a red ant to boot. He is the complete hurler, and – though it breaks my heart to say it, given that I’m a Wexford man when it comes to hurling – it’s unlikely we’ll see his quality again. Mind you, Joe Canning might have something to say about that …
  Anyway, the pairing for tomorrow’s final – Kilkenny again, vs Tipperary – should make for a much better game, given that Tipp are unlikely to collapse the way Waterford did last year, and in fact should have beaten an admittedly under-strength Kilkenny in the League Final earlier this year. Two good, strong, tough, brave and very skilful teams – I’m already salivating at the prospect. As far as I can make out, the game will be webcast here, although I’m not sure if it’s going to be available worldwide – Peter, you may want to fiddle about with IP addresses and whatnot if you want to see it live.
  For those of you who know nothing about hurling, let me say that it’s similar to ice hockey in speed, skill and aggression, although hurlers play the game in the air as well as on the ground – they lift the ball, catch it in mid-flight, etc. It’s played on grass, on a pitch roughly the size of a gridiron, and it’s not unusual for a man to score from sixty, seventy or even eighty yards out the field. Other than helmets (which not everyone wears), the players wear no protection or armour; and they are amateur players who play the game to a professional standard with no other reward than pride in the jersey. There is for only very rare exceptions a system of transfer. You play for the county where you were born.
  We were watching some golf major on TV a few years ago, and Tiger Woods hit a three-iron to within three feet of the pin, stopping it dead bar the tiniest of back-spins. The crowd went ape. My father, an ex-hurler, said, ‘Aye, now let’s see him do it at full sprint, with some hairy redneck trying to take his head off.’ Which is, in essence, the appeal of hurling in a nutshell.
  In my never-humble opinion, hurling is the greatest game ever played. There is hurling, and there is everything else. The vid below is a decent introduction …


Dana King said...

I'm assuming that's a hard rubber ball, similar to a lacrosse ball. If so, those goalkeepers are some daft bastards.

I'd love to watch a game of this. Years ago, before cable and when there were only three television networks in the States, there was a show called WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS. I think it showed the hurling final several times. Now we have 1,298,276 cable sports channels, and, as I type this, 1,372,974 are showing American college football. Progress is a mixed blessing.

On a completely unrelated note, what's up with the strip club/porn flick soundtrack?

bookwitch said...

I like ice hockey. But I do tend to put the sports pages straight into the recycling bin.

Any difference between hurling and vomiting?

Corey Wilde said...

This I've got to see.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Many thanks for the link that may lead me to this year's final. I should add for the benefit of viewers from my continent that hurling is a fine game for viewers with the notoriously limited American attention span. It's fast, and there are any number of ways to advance the ball, which limits the possibility of boredom. It's also, as I discovered when watching clips after the splendid final, a graceful game.

In the meantime, here is my favorite quote, overheard on O'Connell Street after the match:

"The first two minutes were excitin'. Then it got a bit shite, didn't it?"

But you mislead your readers gravely when you say you played a poor host. Your baby daughter was quiet and delightful company, the shower was hot, and Aileen served a breakfast that struck a perfect balance between traditional greasy gorging and concern for coronary health.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Peter Rozovsky said...

Loos as if this will be available in Ireland only, and I lack the technical savvy to get around the restriction. Advice on how to get the broadcast on my computer is welcome.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Dana King said...

I'm a little confused. Is the final score displayed as "balls in the goal-balls through the posts?" If so, does this mean Kilkenny got 28 ((2x3)+22=28) points, as opposed to Tipperary getting 23?

Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, that’s exactly what it means. Last year, Kilkenny scored three goals (at three points each) and 30 points for a total of 39. Waterford scored one goal and 13 points for a total of 16. I posted the score as 39-16, but the more precise way, and the way Irish newspapers reported it, was Kilkenny 3-30, Waterford 1-13.

I believe Kilkenny is the second team to win four all-Ireland titles in a row. Either that, or the first. I don't think any team has won five straight.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Declan Burke said...

Dana, you've got it in one.

Peter - Cork won a four-in-a-row back in the 1940s; Kilkenny are the only other team to have achieved it. They were lucky today; Tipperary should have won it, and probably would have if one of their men hadn't been sent off, and Kilkenny been gifted a penalty by the referee. But that's not to take away from their superb standards over the last four years.

No team has ever won five in a row, by the way.

Cheers, Dec

Peter Rozovsky said...

Declan, my bit of knowledge of hurling is an indication of how overwhelming Kilkenny's performance was last year. The newspapers were straining for superlatives and invoking great teams and achievements of the past as a measuring stick against which to set Kilkenny.

In any case, I wrote last year that Kilkenny looked set to keep on doing well because its under-18 team also won an all-Ireland title.

I could not watch the match this year, as you know, but I will look for reports on it.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

"Cycle into them Tipp" said...

This final is now regarded as one of the very best. Coming from a Tipp man this is small consolation!
Well done to all. It looked like Tipp were going to sneak it but as usual KK are not beat till you are on the bus home ... with the cup under your jumper. Up Chip

Fogra fogra Plan B indeed