Kilkenny and Wexford are meeting tonight in the Leinster Under-21 hurling final at Nowlan Park, before a pretty healthy crowd of almost 7,000. It continues the trend of remarkable hurling attendances we've seen over the last week: a record 60,000-plus at Croke Park for the Leinster final, and a staggering 8,000 at Munster minor hurling semi-final replay in Pairc Ui Rinn on Monday night.
Tommy Walsh was at the game for Off the Ball, and ahead of the game, he gave a stirring oration on the importance of underage hurling, and the continuing of a famous tradition in Kilkenny hurling, for which his grandfather is responsible.
When asked by Joe Molloy as to how important tonight's game is, Walsh began by remembering a defeat to tonight's opponents the year before Walsh won his first Leinster under-21 in 2003.
Our underage careers didn't start until that first under-21 win. If you rewind to the year before that, fifteen years ago. The year was 2002. David Herity was on the goal, I was corner back, Jackie Tyrell was full-back, Brian Hogan was centre-back, JJ was at midfield would you believe, Taggy was at wing-forward.
It was all going to plan, until the last puck of the game, until Rory Jacob - that great Oulart man, son of Mick - got the ball, turned the full-back, and buried it. Bang. Game over. Year over.
So when we won a Leinster semi-final against Offaly the following year - this Offaly team had beaten us at minor, and we were the first Kilkenny team to get beaten at minor in ten years, so you can imagine how that went down at home - so when we won that first Leinster Under-21 title, it was our first proper taste of success. Naturally, there's an unbelievable bond from that team.
There's five of us still in a WhatsApp group, and I texted the boys today just to find out what was the team that day. So that shows how close we've been, and how important underage success is.
I remember stories of my own grandfather, Paddy Grace. He was secretary here for over 20 years, and when he was secretary, the hurling field at Nowlan Park - before a game and at half-time - was filled with hundreds of young lads. He was asked, 'why are you letting them onto the field', and he said 'because they are the future. They are the lads we'll be watching in Nowlan Park and in Croke Park in 20 years. They are what our game is all about'.
That's why tonight is so important.
That tradition continues, by the way. Walsh attests that there were 40 or 50 kids hurling on the field before tonight's game, including his own son.
Ah, it's brilliant. What's the GAA, but the community? Most events in parishes and towns revolve around the GAA. When you see young lads from your own parish doing things, and grow, learn skills and do special things, it brings joy to the whole parish.
Listen to it on the Newstalk website. It's well worth your time.
Kilkenny were winners, by the way, beating 14-man Wexford 0-30 to 1-14.