Offaly legend Brian Whelahan came down with a dose of the flu the night before the All-Ireland final in 1998, and his early switch from wing-back to full-forward may well have altered the flow of hurling history.
The Offaly Express left their readers in no doubt of his display with the following match rating for the number five:
“Hit by a bout of the flu 24 hours before the match it seemed as though Brian Whelahan wasn’t going to play a part in the final.
“However, it takes a lot to keep Sid down and he played a starring role especially after he moved to full forward. Didn’t look himself in defence and was given a horrid time by Brian McEvoy.
“Still he cleared a ball off the line during his so called bad spell. Whelahan’s deft skills, intelligent thinking, quick wrists and distribution left Kilkenny in turmoil.
“He finished the final with 1-6 to his credit, 1-3 from play, and that is a great return. Where will Whelahan get his All Star this year? At number 5 or 14? Or maybe as a goalie?
“Remember his penalty save from David Fitzgerald! A superb all rounder. The most complete player in hurling. Forget the first twenty minutes.
“This was an awesome display from a special player. The best of our generation, if not the greatest of all time. Rating – 10.”
Shane Stapleton, Michael Verney and Fintan O’Toole cast their minds back to that fabled clash in 1998, and consider the butterfly effects of Brian Whelahan getting the flu and subsequently leading Offaly to glory.
Did the defeat for the Cats signal the end of Kevin Fennelly’s reign, and in turn pave the way for Brian Cody to be appointed just a few months later?
The latter dominated the hurling landscape for a decade and a half, and perhaps it may never have come without Offaly manager Michael Bond making this crucial switch.
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