Westside Column 13 July 2018

WESTSIDE

 

Hopes that the U21s would put a sunnier complexion to our hurling season proved forlorn. In fact the mood has darkened even further following a thorough pasting down Leeside.

Victory was always going to be a tough challenge, especially in the wake of Cork’s senior success – a rising tide and so forth. However, the nature of this defeat will have stung Tipperary folk. This was a clean-out.

It’s been a strange old U21 series in Munster. Cork came from behind to edge out Waterford in a semi-final but that was the only genuine contest. On the other side Limerick thrashed Clare and then Tipperary did likewise to the Treaty men before last week’s one-sided let-down of a final.

Coming from our next generation of hopefuls this was worrying viewing. From start to finish we were behind in all the essentials of the game and Cork could have prevailed by an even more embarrassing total.

For whatever reason, it was an utterly anemic display from Tipperary. There was no edge to our game whatsoever, Cork easily out-paced and out-fought us, our touch was fumbly, decision making poor, striking was weak. Could you pick future seniors from this game? Ger Browne apart, you’d be struggling to nominate another.

Ironically it might have got off to a promising start if Darragh Woods’ penalty had hit the target in the third minute. In fairness it was an impressive save by the Cork custodian but it did offer a glimpse of what the night had in store for us. The free taker faltered on a few subsequent frees and was later replaced.

All the bounce and energy was with Cork early on. Their touch was surer, their running a problem and their hurling overall so much crisper than Tipperary. It wasn’t long before that lead was stretching out, Robbie O’Flynn’s goal a supplementary lodgment as our defence was caught flat-footed and ball watching.

For whatever reason we simply weren’t tuned in, something which is untypical of Liam Cahill sides. At ten points adrift at the interval it all looked depressing unless we could manufacture an unlikely turnaround.

The early minutes of the restart dashed all such hopes. The defence was again in disarray as Jack O’Connor hit Cork’s second major and it was game, set and match at this early stage. The rest was pretty humdrum. We could be grateful for a string of Cork wides and a consolation goal at the end from substitute, Shane Neville. Replacement Cian Darcy did make an impact and did well to set up Paudie Feehan for another goal chance which was quickly smothered. Lyndon Fairbrother took over the free-taking to good effect but it was all damage limitation at this stage.

Cork were at their ease, seniors such as Coleman and Kingston having a major impact. Even the injury to Darragh Fitzgibbon failed to hamper their effort. They see this team as one that was caught at minor level and therefore had unfinished business. It remains to be seen whether they can deliver on that promise and given Tipperary’s ineptitude I wouldn’t take this game as a reliable barometer of their potential. The fate of their seniors will be influential given the overlap of personnel.

For Tipperary there’s no denying it’s worrying. Our successes at minor level aren’t being carried through to U21, which is a crucial stepping stone to the senior brand. We are producing classy minors but for some reason they’re not driving on at this level and once again last week we looked ponyish beside Cork’s greater horsepower.

In fairness to all involved there are some qualifications that need to be added to any criticisms. This side was predominantly the minor class of 2016 so it’s a year too early for them and perhaps that physical deficit showed.  Besides Cork’s senior win a few days earlier was a massive boost to their U21s, something we sampled in our last All Ireland at this level back in 2010. Then you have the venue where traditionally Tipperary always struggle to deliver. Sound like excuses? Perhaps.

In any case I’m sure Liam Cahill will point to an off-colour performance all round, which doesn’t accurately reflect his side’s potential. That will certainly be put to the test now in an All Ireland semi-final clash with Galway. It’s a last chance for these lads to atone.

Meanwhile the All Ireland series is revving up nicely with another whopper of a contest last Sunday at the Stadium. What a game for swings and roundabouts. Kilkenny looked over and out trailing miserably behind a Galway team transformed from their form the previous week.

Yet somehow, incredibly, Cody drew another colossal effort from all involved. Substitutes, Hogan and Fennelly, were central to the shift in trend but even more so it was a recovery hewn from unbelievable effort. They just whaled into the game, refused to accept the evidence of the scoreboard and eventually came within a score of the All Ireland champions.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough and therein Galway will take most encouragement. A few years back Galway would have wilted in the face of this Kilkenny resurgence but last year’s All Ireland win has brought a new psychology. They now believe they’re better than Kilkenny, they’ve beaten them twice in this championship, and in that mood it’s difficult to see the champions being unseated.

Anyway we’re neutral observers this year and the entertainment value has been incredible. For Tomas O’Shea it’s all too much hearing these hurling ‘snobs’ going on about the game and its greatness in a year then there’s been so many football landslides. When hurling fans point out the flaws in football they’re labeled snobs; when the football pundits do likewise it’s all fair game. Amazing! O’Shea lacerated Cork football at the weekend – now if a hurling fan did that can you imagine the outcry?

Anyway the hurling season moves ahead with appetizing quarter-finals. Davy and Wexford square up to his old colleagues from the ‘Banner’ on Saturday with Kilkenny and Limerick hogging the limelight on Sunday. I’m being a snob, of course, the sporting weekend will really be about Dublin and Donegal and Galway and Kerry among others.

Clare I see are firmly fancied to take out Wexford in that hurling quarter-final, something Davy is quite happy to broadcast. The ‘Banner’ are 2/5 against 9/4 for Wexford. I’m not so sure there’s that gap. It will be interesting to see how Clare react to losing Munster and whether they can bounce back or remain deflated by that defeat to Cork. It’s been a disappointing championship thus far for the Slaneysiders so the Davy surge is under threat. Clare deserve to be fancied but not by the listed odds.

The Limerick/Kilkenny game is even more fascinating. Limerick had a facile win over Carlow at the weekend so that should help shake off any cobwebs from their Munster exit. Meanwhile the Cody influence remains intact in Kilkenny even if the quality of personnel is not quite up to past excellence. The bookies list this one as evens which is instructive. Remember that game they played a few years back in monsoon conditions at Croke Park. Limerick felt they left that one behind. Now is their chance to prove the point. I remain to be convinced.

Finally – and regrettably – my old stomping ground, the West division, which gives its name to the byline above, drew unwelcome publicity during the week with reports of a minor game being abandoned and an ambulance called following an outbreak of what Micheal O’Hehir used to call a melee.

Cashel K.C. and Cappawhite were the opposing sides and unfortunately in the age we live in this incident has gone viral. It’s been the source of coverage and comment on various media platforms with mobile footage of some of the skirmishing being widely shared.

I’m afraid it’s like a throw-back to a former age when discipline was lax and these incidents were far too common. Back in those days the West had a reputation for unsavory incidents and it took some time to eradicate that malaise. I always gave credit to administrators like Mick Frawley and referees like John Moloney for spearheading a new era in this regard. We certainly don’t want to go back to the old days.

The West chairman, John O’Shea, made the headlines recently by calling for the instant dismissal of Mick Ryan and his management team. He now has unwelcome publicity on his own desk. The one thing we don’t want to hear is that reports were all exaggerated. Deal with it.

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