Sarsfields and Kilruane remain the last two standing in U21 hurling, which should produce a fitting finale to the season next weekend. The semis were lopsided, Clonoulty and Swans well below requirements in disappointing encounters.
For all their Western dominance Clonoulty remain frustrated by their ongoing failure to impact beyond the divisional boundary. A county U21 title has remained elusive and the most recent of their two minor wins was seventeen years ago when captained by ‘Bonny’ Kennedy.
Playing poor quality opposition in the West is often cited as a reason for their shortcomings when facing the other divisions and there may be an element of that. However, a harsher reality would suggest that they’re simply not good enough to dislodge the likes of Sarsfields.
They were expected to push the Mid champs close on Sunday but in truth came up well short. Particularly disappointing for the West men was the fact that their go-to players were unable to make a significant impact against an opposition that was slicker and speedier all over. The second half particularly tailed off badly with the championship favourites well in control and good value for the margin of victory.
It was tighter in the first half and would have been delicately poised if Aaron Ryan had found the net in the final action of the period. He was set up by Conor Hammersley but rattled the shot off the crossbar with an empty net inviting a lodgement. It left four between them at the break. The forward need not feel too bad about the miss, however – a goal, I suspect, would only have delayed the inevitable a little longer.
A few soft frees then for Sarsfields on resuming and the lead was quickly doubled. Thereafter the tension seemed to drain from the game as Sarsfields stayed well in control. Clonoulty battled away gamely to the end but they never threatened a goal and the margin was always stress-free for the winners.
The stand-out contribution came from Aidan McCormack at centre forward. He landed sixteen of Sarsfields’ twenty-three points, five of them from open play and some of the frees from long distance. He just seemed to fade into space at the most opportune moment and the shooting was economy personified.
Perhaps a worry for Sars’ was their over-reliance on McCormack for scores. Kilruane will have been forewarned: be disciplined and man-mark the centre forward. However, different days can see different players grab the headlines. Ronan Maher was quiet on this occasion for the winners at centre back; Stephen Cahill had spurts of excellence at midfield beside the hard-working David Corbett; and in attack they’ll expect more from Michael O’Brien in the final.
With Kilruane coming through very comfortably against Swans in the other semi the stage looks set for a quality final. It will be a repeat of the 2010 decider which the North club shaded so this is a chance for atonement by the ‘Blues’. Hopefully the present mild weather continues for what should be an end of season highlight.
It may be end of season for one group but elsewhere Eamon O’Shea and colleagues are plotting the start of season for another. The senior hurlers saw action last Saturday with Westmeath visiting the Ragg for a challenge game, Laois having earlier withdrawn.
I read afterwards that ‘Geezer’ was in attendance but he escaped my notice – hopefully he’ll be more recognisable to the players who’ll be the target of his motivational talks.
Tipperary fielded a mix of players, established and aspiring, and the game itself is easily relayed. First half goals from Conor Kenny and ‘Bonner’ Maher set up an interval lead of six, 2-9 to 0-9. ‘Bonner’ added another in the second half and with a free-flow of points it eventually ended 3-20 to 0-12.
It was one of those games that will neither make nor break individuals but people are always interested in any nuggets of potential that are on view. I’d nominate Cappawhite’s Tom Treacy from defence as a player who enhanced his prospects. He played a noted role in the All Ireland intermediate win this year and here he was launching the raid that led to our first goal and then careering up the wing for a useful point later on. He played wing back beside Tossie Hamill and James Barry; Paudie Maher was at full flanked by Cathal Barrett and Paddy Stapleton; James Logue was untested in goal.
Seamus Kennedy partnered Brendan Maher at midfield and the St. Mary’s man had a useful outing. Callanan was our top scorer at centre forward beside David Collins who clipped over a pair of points and Denis Maher who showed up well in the second half. ‘Bonner’ Maher looked strong and beaverish as ever at corner forward, beside Conor Kenny, scorer of 1-2, and the speedy Tadhg Gallagher. Ballina’s Stephen O’Brien also saw action as did Loughmore’s Liam McGrath, both useful recruits from the football world.
Of course it’s the type of game that won’t weight very heavily when the management are nominating a panel in the spring but getting noticed is still part of the game for wannabe players. There’s a second outing this coming Saturday at Clonmel where Wexford will provide more potent opposition; they played and lost to Kilkenny last week.