Above. The crowds continue to build.
Left. 'Johnny B and the Boogie Men' kick off 'The Party for Liam MacCarthy' with a live performance of 'The Premier Rap'
(watch the video here)
The All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Final, played for the Liam MacCarthy Cup, is Ireland's equivalent to the World Series in the USA, The FA cup in the UK and whatever the biggest team-sport event is in all other countries of the world. The numbers involved may be smaller in Ireland but the professionalism, skills and fitness of the players and the fanaticism of the fans are just the same as for 'bigger' sports in 'bigger' countries.
This championship, the highest level at which the game is played, is competed for at the county level. Counties Tipperary and Kilkenny have a long history and rivalry. They are next-door neighbours and matches take on a 'local derby' intensity that is the same as Liverpool and Everton or Tottenham and Arsenal. But Tipperary have other very strong Hurling neighbours also, including Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Clare and Galway and on a good day any of these teams can beat the others - its a highly competitive competition.
Kilkenny have clearly been the dominant team of the past decade with seven wins from 2000 to 2009. The others went to Cork (2004 & 2005) and Tipperary (2001). Going into the 2010 final Kilkenny had won the last four in a row and were clear favourites to make this five and achieve an all time record for consecutive wins. But Tipperary had other ideas. They had just lost out to Kilkenny in 2009 in a match where many, including some of the Kilkenny players, believe they were the best team on the day. Kilkenny were very lucky to get their four in a row.
The 2010 final turned out to be a classic that is already being touted as one of the best of all time. Tipperary won by 4 goals and 17 points to 1 goal and 18 points - a wide margin for a hurling final but one that hides the closeness of the match. Both teams played excellent and skillful Hurling and never lost any of their determination throughout. The last ten minutes were a nail-biting affair for the Tipp fans because Kilkenny are known for their fighting spirit and eleventh-hour turnarounds - but on this day it was Tipp making the last minute scores (including a goal in injury time) and Kilkenny's dream of 'five-in-a-row' was over.
The following day the team brought the Liam McCarthy Cup back to Semple Stadium in Thurles where over 50,000 fans had gathered, despite the rain, to welcome them. After some preliminary announcements the evening was kicked off by Cahir's own 'Johnny B and the Boogie Men' performing their 'Premier Rap' which had been written just a few weeks earlier to support the team, rally the fans, and to raise money for the Chernobyl Children's Fund. The success of the rap on YouTube (over 90,000 views at the time of writing) led to the band being invited to perform on RTE's 'Up For The Match' live broadcast the night before the final.
See the rap on this site here.
Download the rap and raise money for the Chernobyl Childrens's Fund here.
Following the rap the team arrived with the cup and the crowd went wild. The whole stadium just erupted in cheering accompanied by a sea of Tippery blue and gold flags.
Less than a week after the senior team won the Liam MacCarthy cup at Croke Park in Dublin, the under-21 team defeated Galway by 5-22 to 0-12 at Semple Stadium in Thurles. After a devastating start by Tipp the Galway team enjoyed a strong period towards the end of the first half - but the second half was all Tipp. The skills of Tipperary's young players, many of whom played in the senior final, bodes very well for Tipperary hurling for some years to come.
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Above and left. Fans of all ages wait patiently, for the event to get underway.