All-Ireland SHC final: The great game on the greatest stage

Kilkenny against Limerick, Leinster v Munster, and sparks will fly.
Kilkenny against Limerick, Leinster v Munster, and sparks will fly.

The Irish weather is up to its usual tricks. Holiday season, and as the sun unleashes a merciless wrath on the rest of Europe, here the rain falls just as wet. Summertime blues.

Come this evening, the self-pity will dissipate. Sunday is the day of days. Hurling, the most skilled game in all the land, taking its rightful place at centre stage. We don’t want your Canaries. Keep your Lanzarote. Majorca is overrated anyway.

This is All-Ireland final day in Croke Park. The Artane Boys Band begin to play, a subtle reminder that today, for this moment, your coordinates are fixed on the greatest place on Earth. This is history unfolding before your eyes. Drink it in.

Limerick are a win away from the drive-for-five talk. Kilkenny aren’t exactly impartial to it themselves, but the cats of old used up their ninth life. The new batch of kittens have been adopted by Derek Lyng. In Croke Park, you grow up fast, or you get found out.

The Treaty, to their credit, have continued to support in their droves. But they too have seen the type of famine that would drive a Kilkenny die-hard to the big ball. Their 2018 Liam under John Kiely was their first since Ireland joined the EU.

Even among the thousands of green flags that will transform the faded blue of HQ, there is only one that counts. Eoin Murphy will make the man in possession of it a little less occupied if his display against Clare is anything to go by. The greatest save of all time bar none perhaps.

Hurler of the Year in waiting Aaron Gillane will relish the challenge. A rejigged Galway defence was shuffled to curtail him. He scored 2-6. Game over, ball burst.

Declan Hannon will be forced to watch his troops from the stand, however. The Munster final victory over the Banner proved to be his last appearance of the year. Cian Lynch takes the armband and a likely spot at midfield, Will O’Donoghue shifting back to fill the enormous void at 6.

For Kilkenny, it is 11 of the XV that started under Brian Cody last year, as David Blanchfield appears to have won his fitness battle. Cillian Buckley is a believer in idle hands making the devil’s work, with the small matter of getting married on Saturday. The mood at the afterparty is in his teammates’ hands.

The Treaty make history, or the Cats come crawling back. It’s all on the line, and there’s nowhere you’d rather be.