The ‘incredible’ Cork and Kilkenny hurling geniuses poised to break 700-point mark – Football News

The ‘incredible’ Cork and Kilkenny hurling geniuses poised to break 700-point mark

AS YOUNG PUNKS, THEY made their senior intercounty debut within a week of each other.

For Patrick Horgan, it couldn’t have been any more dramatic. Cork and Tipp in De Pairc, a sell-out crowd and supporters having to be filtered out of the Blackrock End because of overcrowding.

By the time he ran onto the field for Niall McCarthy the game was gone from Cork, with just two minutes left. Tipp had laid the 85-year Páirc Uí Chaoimh ghosts to rest.

A week later, on the clammy day of 15 June, the GAA world was agog at Paul Galvin having slapped a notebook out of referee Paddy Russell’s hand.

Meanwhile in Portlaoise, Kilkenny slipped on a gangly young fella by the name of TJ Reid on for the last ten minutes of a routine stuffing against Offaly, replacing Richie Hogan.

By 12 July, Horgan got eight minutes against Dublin and grabbed a point.

The following month, 10 August, they faced each other in the All Ireland semi final. Horgan started and got a point. TJ Reid came in after the hour mark and grabbed a point.

16 seasons later and they are still locked into a battle that neither of them would consider, but comes as a fascination to hurling fans. As of now, they are joint holders of the championship top scorer crown, on 699 points each.

Reid will surely break the record on Saturday against Clare in the semi final. Horgan will then crest that 700 points mark in Cork’s semi final against Limerick.

TJ has taken 88 games to get this far. Hoggie has played 81. Both had to bide their time before they became their teams’ main freetaker.

In order to achieve these numbers, both men have shown their appetite for hurling to be bottomless. There was no year spent travelling Micronesia, finding themselves. No summer spent working on their drum ‘n’ bass tracks. It’s been hurling, hurling, hurling.

When injury did strike for Reid, it was a horrible one when he cracked his kneecap, but it came in the All-Ireland final replay of 2012 against Galway. He was back at it in time for the following year’s championship.

Both men started hurling at a time when half a dozen players on any team would have gone without a helmet. In training, they would have been marked by two men from the old school; Noel Hickey put Reid through his paces in Nowlan Park, while Horgan was exposed to the dark arts by Diarmuid O’Sullivan.

Both men will have their partisan supporters. Nowhere does the scrutiny burn brightest than in your own club.

“You’re going to ask me about the 699 points, and it’s an incredible achievement, isn’t it?” asks Tomás Mulcahy, Horgan’s Glen Rovers clubmate and, as of last winter, now his club manager.

Mulcahy knows that there is nothing but upside to having someone like Horgan around the place. All you have to do is to point to the lad in the white helmet. Follow his lead, lads. Stick with the winners.

Tomás Mulcahy. Cathal Noonan / INPHO

Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

“Patrick is part and parcel of Glen Rovers. In terms of his dedication to the game, his discipline, but most importantly the time he puts into his game. The practice,” he explains.

“You never see Patrick without a hurley and a ball. He is always on the go with a hurl and a sliotar.

“In his early days taking the frees, people wouldn’t believe that he was getting up at six, half six in the morning, Patrick arrives to the ground in summer time, taking frees and practicing.

“It has taken him to this stage, to near perfection and the trust he has within the team mates to know that he is a big game player, he loves the big occasion and he will get you the score. Which is so important for any player.”

This is not about establishing similarities and differences between two players, though there is one obvious and baffling element. Horgan has come along at a time when Cork hurling have never experienced a Liam MacCarthy famine like it.

He has four All-Stars and three Munster titles.

Reid… It’s different.

“To be fair to TJ as well, he has the All Ireland medals in the back pocket to back it up, his performance levels. And frees from impossible angles, he has been there and done it at club level at Ballyhale, he has done it with Kilkenny over so many years, so it is incredible,” says Mulcahy.

“I suppose next weekend, from what I know of the two players, I’d say it’s the furthest thing from their minds. For Patrick, it’s about beating Limerick and getting to an All-Ireland final and having the chance of winning an All-Ireland medal. For TJ, it’s exactly the same.

“I never heard Patrick talking about scoring rates. That’s not in his make-up. The practice that he puts in, he knows he has to be close to perfect on every occasion. Because it’s high pressure, high stakes at this stage of the season. It’s not about winning pretty, it’s about winning.”

The full-forward jersey in Kilkenny comes under the iconic classification. One that filled it before Reid was his clubmate, Liam Fennelly, who was voted in that position for the Kilkenny team of the previous 125 years in a poll organised by The Kilkenny People newspaper.

Quite often though, he was further out the field. That’s something that Reid has done for long stretches. Compare Horgan and Reid all you like, but Reid has been out around the middle and had to do his share of graft.

“Patrick Horgan is more of an old-time full-forward where he spends most of his time closer to goal, where TJ has probably done most of his hurling in the half-forward line,” says Fennelly.

“So he has played in both and I suppose any conversation about him would have to preface how good he really is. And it’s not just the scores he has got over the years, it’s also the scores he has made over the years too.

Liam Fennelly in 1991. Billy Stickland / INPHO

Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“He’s generally very involved in the play as well as scoring. He’s involved in making scores. He’s an unbelievable forward. Probably the greatest forward of all time.”

High praise. But Reid’s body of work has been stunning. Seven All-Ireland titles for his county. Six All-Ireland titles for his club. It’s been relentless.

Many years ago, football fans from the counties surrounding Tyrone would head for Ardboe games, just to catch a glimpse of Frank McGuigan playing. David Clifford has created a similar mania in Fossa.

Reid has a bit of that too. And happily, he plays each game for the club like it is his last.

“They realise how good this guy is. His ability to perform all the skills is unbelievable and he is a pleasure to watch,” says Fennelly.

“He just comes straight back into it. When they are finished with county it is recognised that they come straight back in. The quality of training obviously then increases.

“There is no such thing as a break. He cannot wait to get back into the field and take it from there and drive it on.

“The guys that have been playing county and club, they have never had a break because the Shamrocks have been involved in club championship more often than not.”

He continues, “It’s been 12 months solid, all year, for the last I don’t know how many years now. You just wonder how he keeps going and keeps that form. As well as the physical side of things, it’s the mental resolve, the desire to keep playing at such a high level all the time.

“It’s hard to believe, when you think of it. He has been wing forward and centre forward, so in the thick of things from beginning to end. To survive with breaking fingers and so on over the years, because he’s probably one of the best catchers of the ball in the air as a forward.”

More so than DJ Carey, even more than Henry Shefflin, Reid’s career has been played out in the digital age. We are able to access more footage of him. His feats then are part of the collective hurling memory.

But it would all be for nothing if he wasn’t stupendous. A personal favourite would have to be the late goal against St Thomas’ in January 2022. A 20-yard free that had to be given welly in the 64th minute to snatch a place in the final.

“He is the best freetaker of all time. The trajectory he hits the ball at is amazing,” Fennelly says.

“You don’t get too many frees now either. Most of the frees you get are from 80, 90 and 100 metres. He seldom misses one. The trajectory he has, the technique, it’s just total instinct. And the fact he does it in rain, hail and snow is amazing.”

As for Mulcahy, he wouldn’t swap Hoggie for anything.

“We are lucky enough in the club. The Glen is the history of so many great players who played, and represented Cork afterwards,” Mulcahy says.

“There are so many players who put on that Cork jersey, John Fitzgibbon, go back to Jack Lynch and Christy Ring.

“I didn’t see Christy Ring playing, but Patrick is the best Glen player that we have seen in my time.” 

All-Ireland hurling semi-final weekend, two attacking greats step forward once more.

Source link: The ‘incredible’ Cork and Kilkenny hurling geniuses poised to break 700-point mark