Hurling is the gift that keeps giving!
I remember saying in this column one year ago this week that the hurling championship could not get any better after we had witnessed two breath-taking semi-finals in 2018. Twelve months on and we have just witnessed two more classics. The hurling championship is the gift that keeps on giving every year.
Saturday evening’s game was drama filled and full of non-stop incident as Kilkenny revelled in the status of underdogs to knock out the hot favourites Limerick. And just when you thought that it couldn’t get any more exciting, along come Tipperay and Wexford on Sunday. I don’t think I have ever seen a more incident-packed and dramatic game.
I felt sorry for the referee on Sunday. There were so many major incidents in the match it seemed he was running from one to another. He got most of the big calls right but it is unfair to expect one person to be able to control a game played by 30 super-fit athletes and a ball that is whizzing up and down the field at almost a hundred miles an hour. I’m not sure that two referees would be a solution but the GAA must do everything they can to assist referees on the day. If that means using the technology available then so be it. These people (referees) are only human and it is inevitable that they are going to make mistakes sometimes.
On the field it is quite incredible that we have ended up with probably the most traditional hurling pairing of all in the final; Kilkenny and Tipperary. The Tipp men must be the favourites but write off Kilkenny at your peril. Cody is a genius and he probably had his finest hour as a coach last Saturday night with that win against Limerick. His team were so motivated, so intense and so focussed. It is a credit to him. He is some operator after 22 years in charge.
GAA must address attendance decline
I listened with interest to Kevin McStay on RTÉ Radio One on Saturday. He was proposing a number of ideas that would make Gaelic football a better game to watch.
The facts of the matter at the moment are that there is a huge fall in attendances at the major games.
In fact, crowds are down 30% this year which must be a huge worry to the GAA. The dominance of Dublin is certainly a factor in the fall in attendances. The game itself is becoming less and less attractive to watch with several of the lower ranked teams not really interested in the championship. By far the best inter-county competition is the National Football League.
The response of the GAA at national level is to establish a second tier championship. However, if you read the column by Niall McNamee at the weekend, he reckons that the vast majority of players from the lower ranked counties would boycott a second tier championship. The GAA at national level would be well advised to think very carefully before they make their decision on this one.
The Tommy Murphy Cup was a disaster when it was tried many years ago. Unless any possible secondary competition is treated with the same respect as the main competition with the final the same day as the main football final then it is doomed to fail.
Brooks is the best!
Brooks Koepka is by far the best golfer in the world at the moment. In fact, the only man who has stopped him winning almost everything this season is Shane Lowry (and Gary Woodland). The way Koepka strolled to victory in the WGC event at the weekend in Memphis was stunning.
Rory McIlroy led into the final round but he fell away again. Lowry is not playing this week but he will be back on course next week in the FedEx Cup play-offs.
Cross channel action this weekend
The soccer season across the water starts again this weekend with a full round of games in the Championship and lower leagues. Will this be the season Leeds United finally get back into the Premier League? It’s a very hard slog in the championship with 46 games, and in the past few seasons they have been going great guns only to fade in the last couple of months of the season. It will be another intense battle this season.
The Charity Shield between Manchester City and Liverpool is at Wembley on Sunday while the Premier League starts again the following weekend.
Cork’s football fortunes on the rise?
Is the revival in the fortunes of Cork football going to continue this weekend? Their U-20s look a really good team and their senior team are definitely the most improved team in the country this year.
Just looking last weekend at all the minor and U-20 matches that were going on, and there no fixtures for Dr Hyde Park again, which is very disappointing.
Big weekend for Ladies’ football!
It’s a big weekend for Ladies’ football in the county and there should be a big crowd in Ballinasloe on Saturday for the All-Ireland Minor ladies ‘B’ final against Longford. This is a very talented team and last year they were defeated in the final and this year they will be determined to go one better.
The ladies’ intermediate team will face Kildare in an All-Ireland quarter-final and should be able to advance to the last four. We wish both sides the very best of luck!
All-Ireland SFC Super 8s (Round 3)
Saturday, August 3rd
Mayo v Donegal at Elvery’s MacHale Park (6pm)
This is what the Super 8s was set up for, a ‘do-or-die’ game to decide who goes to the All-Ireland semi-final. MacHale Park will be packed to capacity and this should be a humdinger.
That Mayo have got as far as this stage is a credit to them and while you can never write off this bunch of players this could be the end of the line. Donegal have a few injuries but they still have Michael Murphy, Ryan McHugh and Paddy McBrearty and Mayo have no player of that standard. Home advantage will be huge for Mayo but I fancy Donegal to win it by three or four points.
Meath v Kerry in Navan (6 pm)
Kerry are through and Meath are out but Kerry will be training away and they would like to finish top of the group in the hope of avoiding Dublin in the semi-finals. Meath will have pride to play for but Kerry look far too strong.
Sunday, August 4th
Dublin v Tyrone in Omagh (4 pm)
Both are through, but there is huge pride and first place in the group at stake. I presume that Dublin will not want to get turned over here while the home side would love to beat the champions.
I am of the firm opinion that Dublin are far stronger than they have been and despite home advantage, Jim Gavin’s men will prevail by five or six points.
Cork v Roscommon in Cork (4 pm)
The match is previewed elsewhere in the sports section this week. How many will be there…just about 2,000 perhaps?
Eirgrid All-Ireland U-20 Final
Dublin v Cork on Saturday in Portlaoise at 4 pm
This promises to be an absolute cracker between two outstanding teams. I have seen both play on TV in recent weeks and there is little to choose between them.
Ciaran Archer is a name to note for the future. The 6’ 4” Dubs full-forward scored 2-6 in the semi-final and 3-8 in the Leinster final.
Cork have many fine players too. They tore Kerry apart in the Munster final and came from seven points down to beat Tyrone last Sunday. Maybe the upturn in the fortunes of Cork football is going to continue.