I was watching the championship hurling match between Kilkenny and Cork a few weeks ago and the true meaning of words and language hit me.
The game was on RTE and, if my memory is accurate, the hurling pundits were Henry Shefflin, Anthony Daly, and Ken McGrath from Waterford. McGrath was a great hurler, one of the best ever never to have won an All-Ireland medal, played for Waterford for at least a decade, and won 3 All Star awards.
What McGrath had to say after the match was won by Kilkenny sent a shiver down my spine.
Kilkenny were not fancied to beat Cork. Cork were knocking on the door to win an All-Ireland for the last few years and many people had a quiet fancy for them to win it this year. Kilkenny, on the other hand, were seen to be in transition and Brian Cody was trying to build a new team that would get them back to the top of the hurling pile.
Kilkenny played well in the first half, but the game was in the balance and it was still all to play for at half time.
But the young Kilkenny team came out in the second half, played with real steel and skill and won easily in the end.
Anyone who loves the GAA and hurling in particular look forward to the banter in the studio between the experts, the hurlers who in the recent past strode the hurling pitch like giants until time came calling.
When Ken McGrath was asked for his comment, he said something like,
‘I grew up in Waterford city and was envious of our neighbours up the road (referring to Kilkenny) but today’, he said with his eyes lit up and bulging and shaking his head in awe, ‘these are men. Real men.’Ken McGrath, ex Waterford hurler
Only a hurling man truly understood how big a compliment this was.
Only a GAA man recognised the real value of what McGrath had said, and knew what McGrath meant, and knew the picture he painted was far larger than the sum of the 5 words he had uttered about the Kilkenny hurlers.
A hurling or GAA fan, steeped in the legend of the games and the hero worship of his own personal heroes down through the years, knew exactly what Ken McGrath was talking about.
No further analysis was needed.