Westside column – October 29th 2011

Westside column – October 29th 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The West has a new senior hurling combination for 2012 after Aherlow pulled off a famous intermediate win at Golden on Saturday. A rousing last quarter from the glens men proved too powerful for Gortnahoe. Elsewhere Drom/Inch gear up for the visit of Ballygunner on Sunday and the latest twist to the relegation impasse sees Cashel score a boardroom win at Munster Council.
I’m sure the Glen of Aherlow was rocking on Saturday night after that historic win by the locals. There have been so many historic firsts for the club in recent years and I’m sure this one will sit snugly beside the best of them. ‘Effin’ Eddie’s video library has another addition after his son, Brian, captained the side to a memorable conquest. For the first time in their history they’ll play senior hurling next season as they become the newest dual-club.
By any reckoning this was an extraordinary win by Aherlow. Two years ago they took a first county junior title against Nenagh, the club that featured in that much-travelled video! Last year the concentration was on football when a first county senior title was the prize. This time it’s back to hurling and yet another historic first. And all of it achieved with a very limited pool of players.
It bears out the old belief that if you get a bunch of lads together with a winning mentality then anything is possible. It also illustrates the spin-off benefits between the codes. It was always said in my home club that if hurling was prospering a type of domino effect aided football. Likewise in Aherlow’s case hurling seems to have piggy-backed on football success.
The worst of the weather arrived last Sunday, but Saturday was no picnic either. It was one of those days for getting down and dirty, a time for more graft than craft. Aherlow had to give second best in the first half and indeed were fortunate to be only two adrift at half time. The heavy going led to a good old-style collision which may have been short on frills but didn’t lack for thrills.
Cathal Dillon’s free taking kept Aherlow in it at this stage – he delivered their entire first half total of five from placed balls. But Gortnahoe looked the slicker hurlers at this juncture and none slicker than centre back John Teehan. In hindsight Shane Long’s old club will regret a few critical items from that opening half. They had the best goal chance of the period but William Og O’Brien stood firm to stop Kevin Slattery’s drive. Then the free taking of Niall Teehan was wayward and by the time they changed taker several chances had been wasted. After a lot of effort they traipsed off just two-up when it could easily have been six or seven. You don’t leave a game hanging like that against Aherlow.
Aherlow hung in, and one sensed that if this came down to a dogfight there would be only one winner.  The third quarter remained indecisive and the critical action was reserved for the final ten minutes or so. The game’s only goal was a vital item and it fell to Aherlow with nine minutes left to play. Gortnahoe’s goalie came off his line to contest a high lob from Cathal Dillon and the ball broke kindly to Steve Chapman. The corner forward seemed to have missed his chance of an immediate dispatch to the net but in the follow up he somehow forced it home. Aherlow were a point up but more importantly their tails were up, the adrenaline was now pumping and the game’s tide had definitely turned.
Amid great excitement the West side kicked on to clinch the game. The lads from the glen were wading into each tackle now with renewed vigour, every ball a vital item to be won at all cost. Their defence was superb, the Gortnahoe attack a fading enterprise. Eventually the clinching scores came. A great point from Barry Grogan doubled the lead to two; a Cathal Dillon free made it three; and his brother Sean hit the clincher three minutes over time. Mark Hanley came thundering out with the final ball and the long whistle unleashed a wave of euphoria as Aherlow began to celebrate a famous win.
It’s one they’ll cherish in the glen. More that individual excellence they had a great team ethic. The defence epitomised the character of the side. Against a forward line that contained Willie Brennan, brother of Kilkenny’s Eddie, and a sprightly youngster, Kevin Slattery, they eventually closed out all raids to the extent that Gortnahoe failed to lift a flag in the final quarter. Behind that rearguard William Og in goal had one dodgy moment in the first half but atoned with the save of the match some time later. Elsewhere the Grogans were key contributors, Cathal Dillon’s free-taking was also crucial, though he missed a few in the second half, and Steve Chapman will remember his match-turning goal.
So the West will have a new senior side next year. I don’t know how they’ll juggle senior hurling and senior football but that’s an issue for the future. For the moment they’ll toast a remarkable win, one that has taken the club to un-dreamed of heights.
For Gortnahoe and manager Brian Horgan it was a disappointing one to lose. They had the outstanding individual in John Teehan and I’ve no doubt weren’t helped by the conditions. An injury to Willie Brennan was a negative too. Still when you spurn your chances in a final you can expect to pay the price.
The highlight fixture next weekend is undeniably Drom/Inch’s date with Ballygunner in the Munster quarter-final. I assume it will be at the Stadium though I don’t have confirmation of the fixture at writing time. Drom’s first sortie into Munster club action is a huge day for the club as they wave the Tipperary banner in the provincial series.
Ballygunner of course have been here before, winning their solitary provincial title ten years back when Billy O’Sullivan was captain. Coincidentally his brother, Shane, is captain this year and there’s a little matter of nephews, Pauric and Philip Mahony, the former one of the nominees for young hurler of the year. I suppose in the past the Ballygunner name was synonymous with people like Paul Flynn, Fergal Hartley and Stephen Frampton so the present side has a younger look about it.
A big issue for Drom is how they’ve responded to winning that first county title. In these circumstances there’s often a temptation to indulge in celebrations and view the inter-county series as a less important addendum to the season. Hopefully that isn’t the case. Most clubs get very few opportunities outside the county so every chance needs to be grasped with both hands. Besides there’s a general perception that the Munster series is wide open this time so Drom have every reason to give it a lash.
There’s an interesting Tipperary connection of course on the Ballygunner side through Andy Moloney. He was coming in as an impact sub during the Waterford campaign but then was a starter in the final against Tallow. Ballygunner came through a stormy semi-final with De La Salle, the reigning provincial champions, before taking their 12th crown against an outclassed Tallow in the decider.
An interesting head-to-head that’s likely to have a strong bearing on the outcome will be that between Ballygunner’s on-form centre back, Wayne Hutchinson, and Seamus Callanan. Tipperary followers will be familiar with Hutchinson who is having a fine season so that clash with the Drom captain might be pivotal.
In Waterford Ballygunner are seen as a work in progress, with a significant element of the side U21. Still the club has past experience of this competition against the first-timers from Tipperary. It should be an interesting contest with the winners due to face the Limerick champions in the semi-final. Good luck to Drom.
Meanwhile the Cashel relegation saga continues to rumble on with no obvious outcome in sight. Last week Munster Council heard the King Cormacs’ appeal and decided to send the case back to Tipperary County Board. By now it’s becoming something of a hot potato with nobody feeling comfortable enough to adjudicate.
Already this case has been on three agendas but so far the substantive issue has not been addressed. It sounds extraordinary that the issue is bouncing back and forth on the wings of technicalities with nobody prepared to grasp the nettle. It first went to County CCC who felt it was not their jurisdiction to hear the case and so they advised that it be sent to County Management. The management body felt there was no case for it to hear and so Cashel turned to the provincial authority. Last week then the Munster Council decreed that the Tipperary authorities erred in not hearing the case and so it’s back in the local court of arbitration. It appears now that the County CCC will have to sit in judgment on the thorny issue at stake.
Do you sense in all this that nobody wants to sit in judgment over the issue? By now it has all become so messy that there’s a no-win outcome whichever way it goes. If Cashel lose at CCC they’ve apparently intimated that they’re willing to go all the way to the DRA. On the other hand if Cashel win it seems highly unlikely that Ballybacon will agree to a re-fixture and so we could be into another round of appeals and counter-appeals. Through all this Borrisokane are left in limbo so I can’t imagine they’re in any mood to be accommodating.
It’s a thorough mess at this stage. Cashel no doubt have the letter of the law on their side but by agreeing to play extra time that day they definitely lost the moral high ground. The CCC doesn’t smell of roses either because as the organisers of fixtures they should have stipulated the extra time situation in advance. One solution of course would be to abandon relegation entirely for this season, something I know the County Board will try to resist. Perhaps a compromise might be to abandon relegation this time and have two teams drop next year. Either way I can’t see relegation being played out this winter.
Sarsfields may have fallen spectacularly in Tipperary but they still have the great achievement of three All Stars in their ranks. Lar Corbett and Padraic Maher were certainties ahead of last week’s announcement but they were joined by Michael Cahill to give the club a precious triad. I think Cahill’s statuette is richly deserved. Perhaps the only issue in advance of the awards was whether or not Tipperary would claim two in the full back line, something which might be seen as over-generous in some quarters. In the end Tipperary’s hardiest campaigner, Paul Curran, got deserved recognition. It’s strange that we have three defenders and just one attacker on the list after a year where for a long time our forwards were seen as the hottest around. Anyway, well done to our quartet of recipients.
P.S. There seems to be no stopping Aherlow these days. Not content with hurling and football they’ve taken to the Irish language with great gusto and have reached the final of a lucrative competition. It gives Eddie a chance to add the ‘cupla focal’ to his more famous ‘French’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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