Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Correct Definition of Hurling

TSA is currently engaged in the shameful business of trying to get a ticket for the Munster hurling final, despite being from neither Waterford nor Limerick, nor Munster, and being from a part of the country where usage of the verb 'to hurl' is only necessary at 4am on a Sunday morning following the consumption of twelve pints of lager, six Fat Frogs and a curried chip.

Fortunately, however, TSA's better half, as well as being an infinitely patient and tolerant soul, hails from Limerick, so, should a ticket come my way, by pretending to have been "dragged along" I can offset the guilt of prising a brief from the hands of some doe-eyed 7-year-old in Newcastlewest.

So why the big interest in going to the Munster hurling final, the unschooled in sliothar-related matters may ask, from one who, if handed a hurley in his youth, might have used it to mix a tin of paint with?

Well, maybe some of it is the fact that no Irish sporting competition receives quite as much mythological-sounding prose as the Munster hurling championship (Vincent Hogan in the Indo on Limerick's victory over Tipp on Sunday: "In the end, it became a battle against gravity almost. Limerick and Tipperary just slugging it out on a dark, impostor of a summer's day. Biblical rain."). It's almost as if Irish sportswriters enter their own temporary Celtic Twilight period after stepping off the train in Thurles.

But even those who prefer their daily newspaper to be less Naom Chomsky and more "Naomi, 21, from Leeds" can appreciate the perennially epic nature of Munster hurling matches, and, by extension, the special status of the final in and of itself.

If this year's final channels half the eye-rubbing astonishment of the matches that preceded it then it won't be far off that classic status of many of its forebears. Only Cork v Clare disappointed, especially by providing several weeks-worth of the tiresome Semplegate saga (that -gate suffix shows no sign of well-earned obsolescene, by the way; is it Woodward and Bernstein's most enduring legacy?).

Limerick are the cult heroes of this year's Championship as a whole so far, their improbable comebacks and the passion of their play deserving of a Hollywood treatment of some sort. By virtue of the exposure provided by three gripping matches, names like Andrew O'Shaughnessy, Ollie and Niall Moran and Mark Foley have reached the household status usually reserved for the stars of the traditional powers.

Despite starting Sunday's match brilliantly, and playing some genuinely sweet hurling in the first twenty minutes, Limerick seemed to have become so addicted to coronary-inducing drama that they weren't happy to win it without drawing another hefty measure from the thrill tank. But their superior physical strength was eventually replicated by their will, and from the moment that Mark Foley howled like a prairie dog after flattening an unfortunate opponent, you sensed they wouldn't be denied.

I took in this game in a central Dublin hostelry noted as a watering place on the tourist trail between Temple Bar and Grafton Street. The elderly American couple nearby cooed their appreciation at the action on the telly, each "gahlly" or "jiminy" followed by a "they'd love this in the States". It was easy to see the attraction. Aside from the obvious authenticity of watching two teams with such quintessentially Irish names as 'Limerick' and 'Tipperary' playing this indigenous game, the nature of the play sold itself, making it one of the few games to do that without requiring a prior knowledge of the rules or a 'feel' for its nuances.

For all that, a Waterford fan (voicing his opinion in the toilets at half time) was sanguine about the threat posed by either side come that final a week on Sunday. "Wouldn't be worried about whichever one gets through," said he, the demeanour of the complacent unmistakeable.

Let's hope the fantastic series of games just past gets a better elegy than that, and either or both of the teams can figure later on in the Championship.

Oh yeah, and Up Limerick! (Can I have a ticket now please?)

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5 Comments:

Blogger Pierce said...

Fecks sake Tom, I watched the game at home. Where was my invite to "a watering place on the tourist trail between Temple Bar and Grafton Street". Cheers!

7:16 p.m.  
Anonymous Killeedy Man said...

i'll get you a ticket if you get me a ticket for ireland v scotland in croke park

10:16 a.m.  
Blogger Tommy77 said...

grand, guaranteed - you can have Hogan lower, between Bertie and Mary McAleese, two seats over from Princess Anne

4:50 p.m.  
Anonymous top-teenager said...

go www.top-teenager.blogspot.com

4:51 p.m.  
Blogger Tommy77 said...

I haven't looked, but I'm presuming that top teenager spam comment is not a link to a Theo Walcott tribute site.

9:40 a.m.  

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