Even injury couldn't hold Richie Power's genius back
The hardest thing to believe, is that Richie Power wasn't even expecting to start the game.
Injuries. Jesus, Richie Power must have, at different stages throughout his career, wondered what on earth it was that he had done to suffer so much. But strap him like a mummy, tell him his chances were slim, reduce him for crying out loud, to just the one functioning leg, and the Carrickshock maestro would still defy you and he'd defy his marker too.
With pure and utter grace.
From the first dose as a 16-year-old, when returning miles too soon for an All-Ireland College's final from a knee injury, Power often had to be mindful like only a battered body knows, but for a man who knew all too well what it was like to be hampered, his was one hell of a show.
There is no skill in hurling, that Richie Power did not have.
So whenever there's a debate about Shefflin, Tommy Walsh, JJ and other Kilkenny greats, Richie Power should be in there too, with an asterisk perhaps, but in there all the same.
*If it wasn't for injuries, could have been the best of the lot.
Even with injuries, it was still a breath-taking innings.
2005 and Kilkenny were stunned by underdogs Galway but it wasn't all doom and gloom. 18-year-old Richie Power had come on for John Hoyne in the second half, and all youthful exuberance and exciting mystery, had dazzled Croke Park with touch, striking, pace and vision; a taste of things to come.
Two fine points and a stand-full of enquirers, in Kilkenny this was a well known sensation though, three years a county minor.
For the next few, Power would light up summer Sundays, playing a starting role in all bar one of Kilkenny's four-in-a-row All-Ireland final triumphs. In 2010, he'd hit 1-9 in the final against Tipp on his way to a first All-Star but 2014 is the year Power will forever be remembered for, and the final he'll never forget.
"Days like that, they're special," he says now, six years on.
His road to September glory was so winding you see, that most players would have gotten lost on their way. The Leinster semi-final against Galway should have been the end, when Power left Tullamore on crutches and with a busted knee, but he had tunnel vision, and an extraordinary natural talent.
"It was a really, really warm hot summer's day, the ground in Tullamore was literally like the road and I took an awful fall and done the posterior cruciate in my left knee..."
They feared he'd miss the entire season.
"I trained hard, put the head down, there was a lot of rehab and I'd have to play with a heavy strapping, but there was a chance"
Power made it back to the field for twenty minutes on semi-final day, and scored a late goal to rescue Kilkenny against Limerick. Brian Cody had his mind made up and back from doubt and despair, Power made his comeback start, on All-Ireland final day.
"The big thing for me for that game was that I was very, very fresh. I'd gotten that 15/20 minutes in the semi-final, that was very big to get that in. I got a good run of it then with the three weeks leading up to the final, got a good bit of training in and I had no niggles going into it..."
"I felt very strong, very fresh, very fit. I was glad to get back on the field.
"I just went out to enjoy it - I suppose I was after being through so much hardship in the build up to it so I just said that when I got the call to play, I was just going to express myself and let loose..."
Let loose he did. There was 4-50 scored that first day, in a game many deem to have been one of the best All-Ireland finals ever, but Power's 2-1 springs to mind first. Each score so measured, this forward in control.
"Every time Kilkenny attacked we scored, every time Tipperary attacked, they scored," he says.
"It was probably one of those games that you'd never get to see again...Those games, Kilkenny and Tipperary, between '09, 2010, 2011, 2014, without doubt, they were some of the best games I would have been involved in. There was just a mutual respect there, there was never any bad blood, we both went 15 on 15, we just brought the best out of each other and it was very enjoyable to be a part of that..."
"On that day (2014 drawn final), we were maybe lucky with the whole hawk-eye situation, that we left Croke Park with the draw as the happier team.."
150 minutes of pulsating hurling. All it needed in the end, was a few moments of magic from the magician.
4-50 scored 🏑
Hawk-eye drama for the game's last puck ✖️
One man operating on a different level, in Kilkenny's Richie Power 🔥
The 2014 drawn All-Ireland final, live on @SportTG4 today at 2.45 👌pic.twitter.com/6jtC02BHrd
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) March 22, 2020
Kilkenny won the replay by 2-17 to 2-14, with Richie scoring one of the best ever All-Ireland final goals but what made it even more special for Power and the family, was the fact that his brother John played and starred alongside him.
"That was John's first real start, he'd shown up a lot in training between the drawn game and the replay and Brian showed faith in him. It was such a special day for me and him, and for mam and dad as well and all the family. To cap it off with the goals in the final was huge, days like that, you'll never forget...You ask Michael and Colin Fennelly, the Mahers in Tipperary, you just can't beat winning it with your own and that was definitely a special day..."
Two and a half years later and Power, summoning those Lazarus-like survival instincts, was back again. The same knee injury that forced him to call time on his Kilkenny career at 29 after the 2015 All-Ireland triumph, reduced his role to a bit part one for Carrickshock's 2016 Kilkenny intermediate win, but he made it back for All-Ireland final day February 2017, and scored 0-5 from play and won man-of-the-match.
"I was just very smart in what I was doing. I didn't play any League championship games with Carrickshock, I only played 20/25 minutes in the semi-final against Tullaroan and the same in the final - I was very careful with what I was doing and it was kind of more to be involved. I was used as an impact sub early on and then when we got to the All-Ireland stages, got to start, that was huge for me personally, it was amazing..."
Since, he's coached the Offaly camogie team and now he's back as the Carrickshock intermediate manager.
Still only 34, he could well be still playing if luck was on side but Power made the most of it and we were the lucky ones.