In sport, there are certain teams who are simply too good to be defeated in games of the upmost importance.
Throughout the generations there have been very few who reach such a level.
The Kilkenny team of the 2000s and the current Limerick crop spring to mind in hurling, while Mick O’Dwyer’s Kerry side of the 70s and 80s and Jim Gavin’s all-conquering Dublin outfit from 2013 to 2020 are the standard bearers for the ‘big ball’.
The likes of the Chicago Bulls, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Yankees and more have dominated their respective sports across the Atlantic as they eventually aspired to and reached the rank of sporting dynasties.
The All Blacks are the undisputed kings of rugby and Real Madrid are unrivalled when it comes to trophy collecting in soccer.
There have been other dominant forces in various different team and individual sports, but they are so recognisable because they are so rare and unique.
At the risk of delving too deep into the endless pit of sporting clichés, one that comes to mind that perfectly exemplifies how hard it is to sustain success goes along the lines of – “the easiest thing in the world is to climb the mountain, the hardest thing in the world is to stay on top of it.”
No team has been superior at remaining at the peak than Ballyhale Shamrocks.
However, the Kilkenny club’s achievements arguably elevate above the teams already mentioned due to the supremely difficult nature of consistently overpowering the opposition in the club GAA sphere.
Purely looking at the Kilkenny Senior Hurling Championship, only Saturday’s semi-final opponents Tullaroan with 20 titles have more than the Shamrocks who currently stand on 19 championships.
Beyond that, they have 11 Leinster championships, four more than Birr who are the next best, and they’ve won 8 All-Irelands, which is twice as much as Portumna and Birr who are tied in second place.
While they are the largely undisputed kingpins of hurling, their success is also greater than most football teams.
At different times, Crossmaglen Rangers, Nemo Rangers and Corofin have had spells where they were the most feared side on the island, but while they are all looking to rekindle those joyous eras, Pat Hoban’s men are simply continuing to win at ease.
They are two games away from a fifth consecutive county title.
That is not the key point in this tale of the seemingly unstoppable, however.
A fifth title in as many years (yet to be secured it must be stressed) would come under the stewardship of the third manager in the last half a decade.
Going back further, their first four-in-a-row team between 2006 and 2009 was overseen by two different management teams and their 2012 and 2014 successes were under Tommy Shefflin and then Colm Bonnar/Andy Moloney.
Current boss Hoban has used the word “pressure” when describing what it is like to be at the head of the senior outfit, and it’s little wonder he does so considering they have historically won irrespective of who is wearing the ‘Bainisteoir’ bib.
It is hard to acknowledge that you are in the midst of one of the greatest teams of all time without the benefit of hindsight following their reign, but avid and even casual hurling followers would admit that for the last 16 years and prior, the Shamrocks have come as close as anyone to breaking the chain of uncertainty around results at club level on Noreside.
League champions Tullaroan are the next hurdle that they must jump, with the sides’ semi-final taking place at UPMC Nowlan Park on Saturday at 3.30pm.
Most hurling followers near and far believe that only one team will be crowned champions despite two, or possibly only one side, standing in their way.
That is a testament to the work being done in the Shamrocks over the last 50 years.
They are the team in the most competitive club championship in the country.
It increasingly looks like only the Shamrocks themselves can bring their unparalleled reign to an end.