By Jimmy Rhatigan
IT WAS World Cup Soccer Sunday and
with five minutes only remaining in a vital All-Ireland
hurling quarter-final it looked as if pocket rocket Richie Hogan, back from injury to ecstasy, had won himself the crown of Roy of the Rovers Part 2.
Those who remember soccer’s mythical hero of another time will recall that it was the bold Roy who so often scored
miracle-like late, late winners for his beloved Melchester Rovers in the pages of pages of The Tiger comic.
Had Richie’s goal proved a winner he would surely have grabbed national headlines, World Cup or no World Cup.
If the golden goal had had kept Liam MacCarthy’s door ajar than it would have been move Pogba, out of the way Mbappe.
A deft pass from super sub John Donnelly found Hogan on the edge of the small square and he delivered.
Cats aficionados, outnumbered by supporters in green may have believed, and indeed hoped, that Richie had done a Roy.
The clock appeared to struggle as the fat lady cleared her throat.
In contrast, Limerick supporters must have been rattled, wrecked even as they had already given Kilkenny the fright of their lives and would not have been flattered had they scored a few goals into the bargain.
That they could have a significant victory snatched from them must have been haunting.
A ghost of 45 years was still at large.
Their victory over the Cats in the All-Ireland Final of 1973 was the last time they had beaten Kilkenny in the senior hurling championship.
It was edge of seat stuff now, nail-gnawing, squeaky bum time.
The final minutes, like most that had gone before, were pulsating, throbbing, heart-thumping.
With four to go, it was Kilkenny 1-21 to 0-24
There wasn’t even a hair’s breadth between them.
Limerick sneaked a point ahead. Young star Richie Leahy levelled from a pass posted by another talented young gun John Donnelly.
Well into the three minutes added for injury time, Limerick led again and as Kilkenny pushed for an equalizer, with huge clearances by goalkeeper Eoin Murphy as possible lethal weapons.
Inexperienced but hugely committed Limerick were now playing like men possessed and when they were awarded a close range free after 72 minutes and a bit, it was curtains for the Cats.
And in hindsight, the aforementioned ‘keeper Murphy should not have been allowed home without the any Roy of the Rovers award.
He was dynamite, so good that that he deprived the Munster county of four goals from close range as he somehow deflected
goal-bound shots over his crossbar.
Conditions in Semple Stadium played tricks on both teams. A week earlier at the same venue, the players could not get enough water on board as the sun blazed down.
On Sunday incessant rain mean that a hard but neatly manicured surface was soon drenched and became quite slippery.
But, what was good for the goose and all that.
Limerick was a lovely side to watch, well drilled, very courageous and amazingly cool.
But that they created so many scoring chances and ended up converting none of them may warrant a discussion on their killer instincts.
Kilkenny were off colour, uncharacteristically hitting a series of wides and those who suggested that tough games on successive Sundays would take their toll were right on the button.
Those who may have recorded the game for an enjoyable evening with a beer or two during the week will note that at the finish the spring in Limerick’s step was that bit livelier than in many Kilkenny legs.
Our Cats, young and young at heart, fought the good fight. They did us proud once more, fighting like tigers, always wearing their hearts on their sleeves.
Brian Cody teams don’t do slack and to expect a squad in
team-building mode to deliver yet another an All-Ireland was, with respect, perhaps asking too much.
Even the great Roy of the Rovers would probably have admitted that such a feat in cup soccer would not have been in the wherewithal of his talented Melchester Rovers.