To be there the day TJ Reid almost hurled the field on his own
1-2 to 0-0 and Kilkenny are rattled to the core.
You can sense the nerves, all around Croke Park, and no matter where you look, you can see the jitters. Tommy Walsh has slipped into trouble, Conor Browne has fumbled a ball and then, with the red lights flashing like crazy, Cian Kenny has just thrown another one away.
On the sideline, Brian Cody looks surprisingly calm but on the field, and from a Kilkenny perspective, this has been a grand old welcome to shit's creek. Hegarty, Gillane and Byrnes have all scored and you wouldn't have to be a genius to see that, right throughout their team, Limerick are on fire.
So where do Kilkenny go? How do they get out of this one? Well Brendan Cummins said it on The Sunday Game and Eoin Murphy didn't even try to hide it with his puck-outs. Whenever it's going to pot and whenever Kilkenny are up against it - this is the secret - there is only one man they look for and that man is TJ Reid.
And they'll stay looking for him.
TJ failed to win the first two puck-outs that came his way but Murphy and anybody getting short puck-outs seemed to know that, regardless of if he's winning them or if he's not, you just keep on hitting TJ.
TJ won his first puck-out of the day after 11 minutes and seconds later, having been fouled by William O'Donoghue, he scored his second free of the day. From then to half-time, the Ballyhale miracle man put on a proverbial masterclass.
Kilkenny scored eleven points in that 25 minute window of revival and, as he out-smarted the smartest backs in the game, TJ had a hand in eight of them. Three of them were direct assists, perfect passes that he gave to Deegan, Carey and then Mullen having gone through the mill to win the ball himself. Two more of them were frees that, again, he went through the mill to win. The remaining three were frees that he slotted over with the typical and trademarked accuracy of an assasin.
Appreciation post for TJ Reid 🐐 pic.twitter.com/jnlfS5yEhB
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) July 17, 2022
That man deserved a full tray of Jaffa Cakes at half-time but, unbelievably, he had even more to give in the second half.
The magic show restarted five minutes in, when TJ won his fourth puck-out of the day before setting Mullen up again. Mullen finished sublimely and looking back, you couldn't but notice that, from early doors to now, TJ had inspired those around him.
Mikey Carey had one of his best games of the year at half back and in front of him, buoyed by those scores, Mullen became a man on a mission. You could only laugh after about 20 minutes, with Kyle Hayes trying to get the straps right on his helmet, when Mullen just ran through him and smashed his helmet into the ground. John Kiely wasn't happy but Mullen wasn't here to make friends.
Neither was Wally Walsh, and it was a signal of Kilkenny's defence, a few minutes after coming on, when he threw Darragh O'Donovan onto the ground like a rag-doll and then threw the ball over the bar.
Wally gave the Cats a new dimension but TJ just kept on doing what he was doing.
He was at it again - it was the most breath-taking of all his breath-taking moments - after 45 minutes when he beat no lesser than Sean Finn and Declan Hannon in the air before setting up Mossy Keoghan's goal. He then went onto score frees from his own 45 yard line and from everywhere else in a display that, as good as it was, would have beaten most teams single-handedly.
Martin Keoghan narrows the gap to one thanks to a brilliant goal for @KilkennyCLG. pic.twitter.com/yWgk4y5yJF
— The GAA (@officialgaa) July 17, 2022
And that was why Donal Óg Cusack's comment on The Sunday Game hit home.
"When I think of him, I think of all the great Kilkenny players," said the Cork-man.
"I think of the surgeon-like-ability of Shefflin, I think of the wrists of Carey, and I think of the power of Frank Cummins, TJ has everything in one."
And that's why he's one of the greatest ever.
- The brilliance of James McCarthy.
- Why nobody can do what Aaron Gillane can do.
- Playing GAA in America for a summer.
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