Tipperary and Kilkenny legends clash in Borrisoleigh on Saturday
By Cian O'Connell
Kilkenny's rivalry with Tipperary will always endure, but on Saturday evening in Borrisoleigh the respect which exists between the counties will be underlined when a fundraiser match is played for Amanda Stapleton.
Living in London for the past seven years Amanda Stapleton has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, but her family have organised an event in Tipperary.
Two of Amanda's brothers have won All Ireland medals with Paddy a widely respected corner back during a glittering career in the blue and gold, while Shane contributed handsomely to Cuala's success story.
"The reaction has been incredible locally and even the reaction online," Shane Stapleton says.
"People seem to be buying into it which is great. The thing we thought would be the hardest thing was how would we get the players to buy into this, but straightaway they went for it.
"Paddy obviously played with all the players from 2009 until now and Paul Murphy, who is friends with Amanda, he asked all the Kilkenny players and straightaway to a man they all said absolutely. Once they bought in, and of course we are trying to do a fundraiser, but they saw that there is something pretty cool going on.
"We all enjoyed those matches, 2009 and 2010 are probably among the greatest matches of all time so people are thinking one last chance to see these guys is brilliant. We didn't just want to say our sister is in trouble can everyone help out because we wanted to make sure people got something that was fully worth it. Of course they want to help out a girl, who is going through a tough situation, but it should be a brilliant night."
Amanda, still living in London, mightn't be able to attend the series of events which take place throughout Saturday in Borrisoleigh. "In terms of her form she is quite good, but she may not be able to come back for it because of her platelet count at the moment," Shane Stapleton admits.
"At the moment her count is a little bit low so her doctors may not let her fly back. She has been living in London, she was teaching over there.
"She went all the way over to London to meet another guy from north Tipperary, Cillian Ryan, he is from near Burgess. London is home to her, she has been getting fantastic treatment over there. She may not be able to get back and she would be disappointed with that."
The Stapleton family are delighted and humbled by the response of so many people. "A load of businesses at home have tried to help out in different ways," the Cuala hurler adds.
"People down there are paying for the sound for us, they are organising the jerseys, so many things. We are in harsh economic times, they say the recession is over, but people are still feeling it and the fact that people are willing to help us out so readily. That is the thing making you emotional at times.
"This is such an emotionally loaded thing for all of us because there is so much at stake. At the end of the day you might say it is a game or a day, but for us there is so much wrapped up into it.
"When you get this diagnosis all you feel is useless. There is nothing you can say or do to change what is a terrible diagnosis. When you get an event like this it is something to put our energy into, to feel like we are doing something constructive in a bleak situation."
That sense of respect, though, carries deep importance during this particularly tough time. So many different things have happened, but moments matter.
"I'm sure I'm not speaking for every Irish family, but we all wouldn't be the most open emotionally to each other," Shane Stapelton acknowledges.
"In the last year or two because Amanda is living in London and I'm living in Dublin with work and hurling I probably haven't seen her as many times as I wanted to in the last year or so. When she first got ill when we didn't know what was to come, you go over to see her.
"As there was an element of stroke with what she had her left side was losing mobility you could see she was struggling and I couldn't remember when I was younger or at any stage really saying I love you for example. I remember going to visit her in London for the day, I remember walking out of the ward thinking should I say that.
"It is just the way us Irish are. I was standing outside the room, her ward, and I had to go back in to say it. I saw her, she was crying as I was walking back in. It had been stressful for her, she was sad that I was going, but I said 'I love you', I gave her a hug and left. It makes you open up a bit and realise that all these things holding you back from being more open letting your family know what they mean to you.
"It allows you to do that because it blows away all the restraints we have somehow built up. It allows you say 'I love you, we want to do this for you to show you what you mean to us'."
For parents John and Patricia, and siblings Tim, Paddy, Shane, and Paul they merely want to assist Amanda in any way at all possible.
"A friend of mine lost an uncle last year and I remember her being inconsolable because you don't even get a chance to tell them that you love them again so as horrible as this is for us at least we have some time to show Amanda what she means to us," Shane remarks honestly.
Paul Murphy's role and influence in organising a Kilkenny panel for the game and goalkeeper Eoin Murphy travelling to launch the event illustrates the decency and value of friendship.
"Amanda is going out with a guy called Cillian Ryan and Killian's sister, Aideen, is going out with Paul Murphy," Shane states.
"So they would have met each other at a load of functions and events, they would get on great. When we contacted Paul he said absolutely no problem. He went on to the Six O'Clock show with Paddy, he has been fantastic. Eoin Murphy made it to the launch, he was just so sound."
There was a bit of fun and mayhem too which brought a few smiles. "The photo shoot was very funny, Piaras O'Midheach came down from Sportsfile, I went down to the Park early just to see was he alright," he explains.
"We were chatting outside the pavillion and he pointed to a tractor lawnmower sitting outside the field. He asked could we get that out on the field, so I tried ringing the club secretary, but couldn't get through to him. I asked the caretaker and he said let us ask Trevor. So Trevor, who I didn't cop was up on a cherry picker painting the posts.
"Trevor then asked did we want the cherry picker as well so eventually we had Eoin Murphy driving around the tractor lawnmower with Paddy, Lar Corbett, and Brendan Cummins chasing him around with the hurleys and Piaras up on the cherry picker taking the photos from up above the crossbar. It was great fun.
"That part of it means there has been a lot of good fun stuff happening around in between the serious fundraiser. It has been an enjoyable, if testing experience."
For the effort and enthusiasm throughout an exacting spell the Stapletons deserve the utmost credit. It is why next Saturday will always be remembered and cherished in Borrisoleigh.