One of the greatest days in the modern era for Tipperary GAA was witnessed in Croke Park on Sunday last as both the senior and minor hurling teams led the county to respective All-Ireland success on a scale so unimaginable that it took more than a pinch to realise that it was in fact a magnificent reality.
The Tipperary Senior Hurling Team led by Captain Brendan Maher (Borris Ileigh) and the management of manager Michael Ryan (Upperchurch-Drombane), coach – Declan Fanning (Killenaule), selectors – John Madden (Lorrha-Dorrha) and Conor Stakelum (Borris-Ileigh) are All-Ireland Champions for the 27th time following their 2-29 to 2-20 defeat of Kilkenny in the final in Croke Park last Sunday before an attendance of 82,016.
Cue scenes of mass celebration as six years of hurt and hunger were buried in the Croke Park sod when Brendan Maher hoisted aloft the Liam McCarthy Cup to rapturous cheering and applause as golden tape descended from above to confirm a royal status on the kings of hurling for 2016. Not a Tipp soul departed the arena as each and every one stood to salute and greet the men on hurling’s throne who delivered on the greatest stage of all, creating a carnival atmosphere which scorched its way rapidly down to the Premier County as the festivities kicked off in earnest.
This win was no accident it was borne out of selfless belief and desire from a fantastic group of players, all thirty four of them who applied themselves to the task with ruthless determination and attitude. Preparations for the day couldn’t have been better and while nervousness was palpable around the county in the week leading into the final there was also a sense that maybe something special might unfold too and that was it. Nobody dared speak to out of turn for fear of jinxing what was hoped for. For that Tipperary Supporters take a bow, when asked for restraint you delivered too as the team was allowed prepare without any interruption to their training, a foundation surely set for the challenges that lie ahead when this year is done.
What a team performance on Sunday, it was magical and at times sublime as the Kilkenny team, worthy champions, yielded to the greater Tipperary force on the day. Tipperary players hunted in packs particularly the complete back unit and put body and limb on the line in pursuit of achieving their end goal. In doing so the forward line were in devastating form and apart from a small bit of errant shooting nailed scores to the board as they pushed on and on. With the half forwards dominating too the profit from the inside trio was stunningly spectacular as their yield for the day delivered 2-21 of Tipp’s 2-29, the goals coming courtesy of John O’Dwyer and John McGrath.
That inside line also delivered a Man of the Match performance by Seamus Callanan whose nine points from play out a thirteen point tally was testament to a worthy winner of the accolade. Though Seamie walked away with the award he had at least four more breathing down his neck for it that his hair must have been singed such was Tipp’s domination on the day.
Congratulations to all the players, management and backroom personnel on the All-Ireland victory, it was certainly a whole team performance and everyone is thanked enormously for the efforts in ensuring Tipperary is back on top of the hurling ladder for 2016 at least.
Finally for now, a special word of praise and enormous thanks to Mick Ryan, Declan Fanning, John Madden and Conor Stakelum for your guiding and preparation of the team this year, all the hard work of you and the players on often long and cold miserable nights has been converted into the greatest prize of all and for that we thank you. Time to rest, reflect and above all else enjoy this moment in time, you certainly deserve it.
Thanks to An Garda Síochána for providing escorts to our senior and minor teams on Sunday as they made the journey to Croke Park, as always it is very much appreciated and of huge valuable assistance in getting teams to the venue on time, míle buíochas.