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 4, 2010

Dear Peter Rozovsky, It’s That Time Of The Year Again …

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 …


adrian mckinty said...


I'm loathe to correct you but The Boston Red Sox could never stand in the way of the Chicago White Sox for the World Series because they both play in the American League. They could get in the way of the Chicago Cubs who play in the National League.

Declan Burke said...

Mea culpa, squire ... But you get my drift, right? Two basketball teams who hate each other ...

The Sox play basketball, right?

Cheers, Dec

adrian mckinty said...

yeah its like Cliftonville and Linfield or that too parochial a ref for everyone?

Triumphant opening for all the British Isles teams in Euro 2012 except for Wales & Scotland obviously.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

I just go the chills watching this. What a sport. If they had this in the US, I would have been all over this, big time. I still play lacrosse, played American football, and played Cricket for 4 years. Most of my cricket mates, also played Rugby (I value my knees and teeth to much to play that) but after seeing this video, I think think Hurling is the most insane sport I have ever seen.

A girl at my 9 to 5 has her cube papered with poster's of Irish Hurling teams, and I'm certianly going to be talking to her.

One question, what is the ball made of? I have been hit many times by both the LAX and cricket ball, but I can't even fathom getting hit by a hurling ball. I did see them wearing helmet's, but...

Now I have to find an over 40 Hurling club in Boston, that might need a rookie, or some guys that play freindly's on the weekend.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Jugo bonito, me arse, boys; it's hurling that's the beautiful game.

That pedant McKinty is right: The Old Town Team of Boston and the Pale Hose of Chicago play in the same league. He's also right that they could get in the way of the Chicago Cubs' winning the annual Fall Classic. The last time the Cubs won said classic, Fionn MacCumhaill played Diarmaid O'Duibhne in the All-ireland Final.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Peter Rozovsky said...

Though if Henry Shefflin is the Michael Jordan of hurling, they let him carry the ball for way more than just three steps.

Uriah Robinson said...

Hurling looks a little like Aussie Rules played with a large weapon, smaller ball and no rules. Great to watch but clearly you would have to insane to play it for free, or have great health insurance.

Glenna said...

That's a pretty cool looking sport, I'm going to add it to my "If I ever make it to Ireland" list". I don't think I would want to stick my hand out there to catch the ball with all of those sticks swinging though.

seana said...

I'm not much of a sports type, but that's a great game. I don't understand why it hasn't had more universal appeal.

And no, I'm not being sarcastic.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I liked the tack that video took in stressing the features of other sports found in hurling I said after the 2008 All-Ireland final that the game has features that could appeal to Americans: It's fast, it can get rough, and there are any number of ways of advancing the ball -- enough variety to hold impatient fans' attention.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, now, I have just found not one but two bars where I could watch the final. It will mean getting up hellishly early, though.

I shall report back with the results.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Declan Burke said...

Sean - The ball's made of hard cork wrapped in leather. Nowhere as heavy as a cricket ball, although it's heavier on wet days than dry. You'd know all about it if you got hit by it, but you'd live ...

I reckon if Ireland could successfully export hurling, we'd turn the economy around in no time.

Cheers, Dec

Declan Burke said...

Adrian - Good results in Euro 2012 for Ireland and England. Don't know what the Scots were up to against Lithuania, though. And I missed the Norn Iron result. Were they playing?

Ireland have a pretty decent group - not glamorous, but a strong chance of topping it if they get a good result away to Russia. Stranger things have happened.

Peter - the beautiful game, indeed. As for the 'three steps' rule - in last year's final, Kilkenny got a penalty after a Kilkenny guy got dragged down after taking about nine steps. It's a hard rule to police ... generally they don't bother too much.

Henry Shefflin as the equivalent of Michael Jordan. In terms of ability, certainly, although he'd be the first to say that no one man can carry a team in hurling like Jordan could carry a basketball team ...

Uriah - one of the great joys of hurling is that the players, precisely because they're carrying lethal weapons, obey an instinctive code of mutual respect. The 'foul stroke' on another man is the worst thing you can do in hurling. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but it's rare, and it's universally condemned.

Plus, the hurl is as much a defensive tool as it is offensive. As a child you learn to use it to block the other man's stroke, the arc of his hurl, until it's second nature. There are surprisingly few injuries on a hurling pitch resulting from players being struck by hurleys.

Glenna - there's a skill to putting your hand in the air when all the hurls are swinging. Again, you use your own hurl to deflect the swinging hurleys coming your way, or those trying to strike the ball in mid-air. It's a terrific skill, and needs a brave man or woman to try it, but when it's done right it's superb.

Seana - I think there's an intrinsic artistry to the game that makes it watchable, even for people who might not be fans. Plus, it's exciting and fast - there's a score nearly every minute or two. And no, I didn't think you were being sarcastic ...

Peter - I think it might be worth the early rise, even on a Sunday morning. I haven't looked forward to a game of hurling as much in many a long year. It really could be a classic ...

Here's hoping I haven't put the hex on it.

Oh, and don't miss the start. Apart from the traditional flaking going on all over the field, I'd say Henry Shefflin will be taking some serious lumps in the first few minutes, to test his knee. If he does go down, it'll be like Rocky hitting the canvas ... and the whole of Ireland (except maybe Tipperary) willing him to get up again.

Cheers, Dec

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Dec- Thanks. Did a little research and am even more intrigued. I figured the ball had to be somewaht soft to get the bounce off the turf.

Sorry to offend, but to me, soccer is like watching paint dry, and Hurling seems a lot more exciting. The history of the game is impressive as is the "code" of gamesmanship.

There are some clubs around my way, and I'm going to find out more, so hopefully I can catch a match.

Here's a cool vid on u tube of the Wexford Boston Club called "Wexford Dressing Room in Canton after Final" Didn't want to post the link as the camera goes to far South for a second, but the comraderie is awesome.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I did not get up in time to watch the game, alas, but I did watch some highlights. It looks as if Tip's goalkeeper did some astonishing things.

Do you know if the entire match is available for viewing anywhere?

With respect to the lethality of the hurley instilling a code of respect, I was surprised when I attended the 2008 All-Ireland final how little violence there was, nothing more than I bit of jostling between a defender and the player he was guarding. It was nothing you would not see in basketball or ice hockey.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

David Barber said...

Just found this link on Sean P Reardon's blog. It's a great game! Being a lifelong football fan and a Manchester United fan, am I right in thinking tha a past captain of Man U (Kevin Moran) used to play Hurling? He came to United with scars on scars. A real bloke!!

Regards, David.

Declan Burke said...

David - Kevin Moran used to play the other code in the GAA, aka Gaelic football - a gentler (mostly) version of Aussie Rules. He played centre-half back (naturally) on the great Dublin team of the '70s ...

Niall Quinn, incidentally, played hurling at minor level with Dublin, before going on to play with Arsenal.

Cheers, Dec