Castleblayney Hurling v Tullogher-Rosbercon
Sunday 1:30pm (The Downs, Westmeath)
Tullogher-Rosbercon aren’t exactly a household name when it comes to hurling, but there’s always some form of prejudice that takes a hold of you when Kilkenny and hurling compliment each other in a single sentence.
Castleblayney have been conquered by this level of impossible before. Their journey to the All-Ireland JHC final in 2019 saw them come up against a side from the Marble County.
Malachy Clerkin summated the ultimate juxtaposition, Dunnamaggin, a place where “hurling is life” versus some lads from south County Monaghan, on an “oddball pursuit that might mark a fella out as an attention-seeker”.
Any way you look at it, they were the final two. There’s no lucky dip for a day out in Croke Park. As a footballer in Monaghan, it’s magic. As a hurler, it’s almost mythical.
And here ‘Blayney stand five years on with a shot at making it a second trip to Jones’ Road. How wonderfully fanciful.
There’s two words that have to be addressed before the fairytale takes flight. Walter Walsh is the elephant in the room, with the power to do that metaphor justice and flamingo-like finesse to match.
To Castleblayney, he’s little other than the man off the TV. On Sunday, he’ll hit them in a way 4K never could.
But everyone starts somewhere. This is the man that started an All-Ireland final out of absolutely nowhere back in 2012.
Speaking to The Irish Mirror a few years ago, Walsh reflected on his drastic ascent as the team sheet was unveiled:
“Playing in an All-Ireland final replay we probably knew there would be changes but I was just delighted to be on the panel.
“I was in shock, I was actually embarrassed, I probably went red. I looked at the thing and I looked twice and didn’t know where to look, actually.”
Back then, the boy was shy and timid. Now the boy is a man and the man is a star. At Christmas time the star tends to go top of the tree.
But ‘Blayney have their own aspirations. The Treanor brothers possess the power to ruffle him, while young Thomas Hughes has the tease and touch and the undefined boundaries of youth that Walsh showed us himself 11 years ago.
Sometimes you have to meet your heroes. Sometimes you have to crush them.
Some day The Cats are bound to run out of lives….