Given our thirty-two senior clubs and four separate divisions our senior hurling championship is a long meandering process. It’s a multi-layered and protracted season which for the casual observer can be difficult to follow.
Anyway the field is now down to the last ten following round four wins by Loughmore and Nenagh last Saturday. A double header at Holycross this coming Saturday week should leave us with quarter-finals; Swans face Borrisoleigh but surely the feature tie of this round is the clash of Clonoulty and Toomevara.
First let’s take a backward glance to last weekend before looking ahead to the upcoming fixtures. Since their defeat up North Nenagh Eire Og have been quietly gathering steam and their easy dismissal of Silvermines was surely another significant statement of intent by a side that’s something of a dark horse in this championship. Like others they’ll hope to avoid Drom in the quarter-final draw but they’ll fancy their chances against any of the other divisional winners.
Loughmore can’t draw Drom in the quarter-finals, which will enhance their chances of further progress after they dismissed Roscrea last Saturday. It was a lively contest at Templemore even if the hurling wasn’t exactly vintage. Roscrea brought an abrasive edge to some of the exchanges but the superior hurling of Loughmore won through.
If the winners had taken their first half goal chances it would have been wrapped up at half time. Instead they led by just six points and even when they went nine up in the second period it was Roscrea who finished with a flourish, two late goals putting Loughmore on the back foot at the end.
Noel McGrath led the scoring stakes with ten points, four from play. His brother John pitched in with another three and you had two each from Evan Sweeney and John Ryan. That scoring spread was superior to anything Roscrea could muster with young talent Sam Conlon looking the most menacing in attack.
It was an important game for Loughmore after their Mid final eclipse. Great to see John Meagher in excellent form at half back; his first half point was probably the score of the game, challenged only by Jason Fitzpatrick’s sizzling goal for Roscrea. There’s plenty of fine hurling talent in this Loughmore side though whether or not they have the team balance to push for ultimate honours is another matter.
Holycross’s well-developed venue will be the focus then on Saturday week for this double header. Swans are rated outsiders against Borrisoleigh though it may not pan out as simple as that. Brendan Maher is clearly the key man for Borris’ and if his impact can be curbed then the South side might have a chance.
The clash of Clonoulty and Toomevara will be keenly anticipated. Clonoulty’s stock has really tumbled since the West final collapse and this is a last chance to revive their season. Injuries have been unkind to them though many have queried their line out options too with John Devane at full forward and Thomas Butler at wing back in the divisional final. They certainly looked flat in the West so something much more bubbly will be required if they’re to resurrect their season on Saturday.
Toomevara haven’t gone away, you know. The old dogs refuse to lie down and here they are challenging once again for a place in the quarter-finals. It’s a huge game for both clubs and I expect the effort to reflect that reality
As I write Limerick’s appeal against the awarding of the All Ireland minor semi-final to Galway is being heard in Croke Park. Maybe we’ll be surprised but the vibe is that Limerick’s case is hopeless since Galway have refused to offer a replay.
The word from Limerick is that they’ll go all the way to the DRA with this, which is disappointing. Limerick’s case is weak. To argue that the disallowing of that point cost them the match is ridiculous. They were given a sympathy free at the end to draw the match and Galway then won fairly in extra time. If the Hawkeye blunder had happened in the last minute then there might be some substance to their case but not the way events transpired.
In almost every tight game you can isolate individual errors that cost a team a point or two but to suggest replaying on those grounds is ludicrous. It’s one of the harsh realities of sport that human error will always be a feature and you simply have to take it on the chin. Limerick would have been much better served if they endorsed the magnanimous comments of their team manger after the game rather than dragging this issue through the appeals process.
Blaming Galway for not offering a replay is a bit rich too. They won the game fairly in extra time so why should they put their players through an unnecessary rematch.
I’m disappointed too with the over-the-top reactions of some in calling for the immediate removal of Hawkeye. One mistake was made, which hopefully won’t be repeated, but think of all the errors that have already been corrected by Hawkeye. Technology is increasingly being used for the betterment of all sports so let’s embrace it.
Finally, as I wrote last week’s article I hadn’t seen the letter from my anonymous critic so a brief comment in reply is surely warranted now.
According to the letter writer this column “declared that Tipperary were wasting their time by trying to improve the standard of Gaelic football”. Really! Of course no such declaration was ever made in this column but sure why bother about accuracy when you’re disgruntled.
Then came the statement that “the standard of Tipp football was compared to that of Kilkenny”. Ahem! My only reference to Kilkenny was by way of defining the term ‘dual county’; a simplistic definition, I said, could include Kilkenny because they play some football. There was no comparison whatsoever drawn between football standards in the two counties.
And then there was the mother of all statements from Mr. Anonymous: ‘Football (in Tipperary) has had more of a chance of winning something this year than hurling”. Oh please, I want to encourage contributions to this debate, but can we at least deal in realities, not delusions.
P.S. A big day for Tipperary’s intermediates this Saturday when they travel to Nowlan Park for a repeat of last year’s All Ireland decider at the Stadium. Michael Ryan’s men are going for the double, which won’t be easy. Good luck to them.