Chips are down: Salthill to Vinegar Hill

TJ, our hero, has much responsibility on his young shoulders

By Jimmy Rhatigan

THE FINER points we will leave to the ‘experts’.

We will take a look at the bigger picture.

Sunday is Leinster Hurling Final Day in Croker, a repeat of Salthill, a revenge mission for wounded Cats.

When the chips are down, it could well be Kilkenny’s Vinegar Hill, an opportunity to put a recently wide awake west to sleep perhaps, or at least to catch them napping.

The confined pitch in the Galway seaside resort suited the home team for the league decider which they eventually won, albeit in a somewhat nervous fashion.

It was what we might aptly term a real bucket and shovel performance. They threw everything at Kilkenny, defended tightly, snapped up their scores and got over the line in the face of a Kilkenny renaissance which the Tribesmen just about survived.

Sunday will be different, or so we heard the lads at the bar proffer, perhaps with more hope than certainty.

The wide open spaces of Croke Park, they opined, could be exploited by our Cats, who, they reminded, love to make use of every millimetre of any green sward.

One lad, who normally wears a blue and gold jersey, was singing the praises of Joe Canning. TJ Reid was immediately brought into the equation.

The game could so easily be packaged as a TJ v Joe confrontation.

But that would be an over simplification.

Wouldn’t it?

Much could certainly depend on who gets more opportunities to do the business from placed ball in what could well be a point to point race to the top.

The rather worn cliche of which Galway will turn up is perhaps a non-runner as a conversation piece.

Galway has chalked up an All-Ireland and their form so far this season suggests they could do the same again.

But it is worth reminding too that at the start of the league campaign, the suggestions, some of them from our own, were that team building could rule the Cats out of the winners’ enclosure for a time to come.

Our hurlers then proved to be in a league of their own.

In record time a mix of old hands and rookies was back on the glory road. Okay, there were hiccups and while they were throwing good darts, they were not always hitting the bullseye.

The Kilkenny scoring machine of late is in need of oil. TJ apart, sharpshooters were at siesta which resulted in a paucity of points, goals too.

So what will happen at the weekend?

If we knew that we would probably in the bookies instead of perspiring in front of a computer.

The game will be a make or break affair.

Galway will start firm favourites.

That could be the red rag that will drive the Kilkenny bull forward.

But nothing is ever that straight forward.

Yes there will be tactics, movement of players maybe, and, who knows, changes in personnel?

The knowledgeable will have their views.

Meanwhile we will sit back and enjoy the game.