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This current generation of Kilkenny hurlers is stacking up All-Ireland medals like Jimmy Magee does memories.
Led by a conductor possessing gold-laced sheet music only men from within their county line can read, they’re playing a game that the rest of Ireland can only aspire, at best, to imitate.
Captain James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick and Eddie Brennan breezed into the Croke Park press room the pictures of sporting contentment. But possibly not fulfilment.
It’s difficult to know what fulfils a team with no discernible weakness and demonstrates no sign of losing its appetite for the McCarthy Cup, now almost as permanent a presence in Kilkenny as its famed castle.
“I suppose I’ve been saying this a long time but competition really breeds success,” said the Ballyhale man.
“There’s players fighting to get on that team the whole time and they’re always trying to take your place…
“Today, we totally ignored the scoreboard. We knew it was important to get a good start and we got it. Eddie chipped in with a couple of ould goals there. We were relentless, to be honest. The lads never let up and that’s why that margin was so big at the end.
That the game became so one-sided from so early a juncture surprised Fitzpatrick, who shared five points with midfield partner Derek Lyng.
“If you think like that, you lose your focus and you’ll get caught,” he added. “We were expecting a really close game. We knew it was important to get a good start and I suppose it was tunnel vision really that did it for us.
“It was a great feeling. It just seemed like a perfect display today. The lads gave an exhibition of hurling. I suppose it’s been like that all year for us; no-one really came too close to us so I have to say that this has been the best year by far for the Kilkenny hurling team. To achieve the three-in-a-row is fantastic.”
Scorer of 2-4 on Sunday and surely now worthy of being tagged as this decade’s greatest finisher, Eddie Brennan assessed the past 10 months in 90 seconds flat. “That display today came from the nights of training that we put in,” said Brennan.
“We were back there at the start of December again, we got a few kicks as the year went on [the Walsh Cup loss to Antrim and NHL defeat to Tipp their only ’08 defeats] and that kicked us into gear.
“We’re just in a great position at the moment. We have a great team and a great panel and I can’t overstate the emphasis of the panel. Without that panel we wouldn’t be where we are.”
Added Brennan: “There’s lads on the line there, probably more entitled to play than a lot of today and it’s fair hard for them to sit there and watch that. We’re so caught up in it at the moment, we’re just enjoying every minute of it.”
Watching James McGarry entering the fray had the Croke Park masses on the feet, a moment of significance lost on no-one watching the game, including Brennan.
“It was brilliant for James, an absolutely massive servant and a huge inspiration behind the scenes,” he said.
“A quiet man, a man of few words but whenever he does talk, you listen to what he has to say. He may have considered going a couple of years ago but thank God he stayed on because he’s just an inspirational man.”
Centre-back Brian Hogan, part of a defensive sextet that limited Waterford to just three points from play, was understandably pleased with Sunday’s outcome and the manner of the performance.
“For some guys [the three-in-a-row] was a motivation,” he said. “For other guys, just the fact that you were in an All-Ireland and the chance to win an All-Ireland was enough motivation.
“We never expected to win by what we won by. We went in expecting this to be a monumental match.
“Waterford were flying in the last couple of games and against Tipp they really showed great character, even when Tipp got the goal, they came back. We expected a really tight game but we’ll take it.”
Hogan offered a tempered response to GAA President Nickey Brennan’s Hogan Stand declaration that the current generation of ash-wielding Cats were the greatest ever.
“We’re just going to enjoy today,” he replied. “All that kind of talk is for the fans the likes of yourselves and that. To be honest, we’re just delighted to win and get another All-Ireland medal. Three-in-a-row is a great achievement and we’ll enjoy that for the next couple of months.”
After that, they’ll turn to minds to 2009. And four-in-row. Crikey.