Monday, 19 September 2016

Mayo's Long Wait Goes On

All-Ireland SFC Final:

Dublin 2-09; Mayo 0-15

Mayo's 65-year wait for the return of 'Sam' has to be put in abeyance until Saturday, October 1st, when yesterday's drawn All-Ireland Senior Football final will be replayed at Croke Park.

In yesterday's game, Mayo were unfortunate to concede two goals that were deflected into the net by their own players. The first came after eight-and-a-half minutes as the ball rolled loose after Mayo goalkeeper, David Clarke, made a fine save. Dublin corner-forward, Bernard Brogan, drew on the ball with his left foot only to see it going wide. Unfortunately for Mayo, it struck the leg of their back-man, Kevin McLoughlin, and rolled into the corner of the net. In the 22nd minute, as Mayo centre-back Colm Boyle turned towards his own goal, he had the misfortune to strike the emerging ball with his foot and put it past his own keeper.

Mayo deserve great credit for recovering from these set backs. The wet conditions yesterday made the modern-day Croke Park very slippery — especially near the side-lines. The replay will be decided in favour of the team with the most "hunger" on the day.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Great Day for Tipperary

All-Ireland SHC Final:

Tipperary 2-29; Kilkenny 2-20

All-Ireland MHC Final:

Tipperary 1-21; Limerick 0-17

Having suffered defeats at the hands of Kilkenny in recent years, this win was especially sweet for the Tipperary senior hurlers. Their attitude seemed to be 'now or never' and this hunger morphed into fierce determination and work-rate throughout the field. Allied to skilled forward play — especially from the lethal inside trio —  it made Tipperary an unstoppable force on the day. Tipperary had stars throughout the team but two players stood out for me, namely Seamus Callanan and John O'Dwyer.

In the minor final Tipperary started as strong favourites having inflicted a 17 points defeat on the same opponents in the Munster final. It was a heavy mantle for Tipperary to carry with Limerick determined to make amends for their humiliation on the last occasion. The first half was one of swaying fortunes with little between the teams at half-time. An early second-half goal gave Tipperary breathing space which enabled them to finish out the game with a reasonably comfortable margin of victory.

I found it hard to believe that this was the first time since 1949 that Tipperary achieved the senior and minor double. 1949 brings back fond childhood memories. It was the first year that I have a memory of the Tipperary GAA campaign. The late Pat Stakelum, from the Holycross-Ballycahill club, led the senior hurlers to a final victory over Laois by 3-11 to 0-3. Goalkeeper John O'Grady, from the Moycarkey-Borris club, captained the minor hurlers to victory over Kilkenny

Monday, 29 August 2016

Hurling Final Odds and Ends

  • Longest Wait. First hurling champions, Tipperary, had to wait 25 years to collect their medals! In 1887 no provision had been made for expenditure on medals but, following the 1911 GAA convention, the Munster Council was instructed to devote £30 — a figure then owed to the Central Council — towards providing medals for the triumphant Tipp team who received them in December of the same year.
  • Shortest and Longest Reigns. The shortest reign as champions was two weeks achieved by Kilkenny who beat Cork by 7-7 to 2-9 in Dungarvan in 1905. A fortnight later they went down 1-14 to 0-5 to Dublin in the 1906 Leinster championship. Kilkenny also had the longest reign from September 2005 to September 2010.
  • Complete Set. Cork and Tipperary have won All-Ireland finals in 21-a-side competitions,17-a-side and 15-a-side. Hurling championships became 17-a-side in 1892 and changed to the present 15-a-side in 1913.
  • Clare's First Appearance in an All-Ireland hurling final was at Inchicore on Sunday, November 3, 1889 when they lost to Dublin by 1-6 to 1-5. And no wonder! According to contemporary accounts of the game, Clare players did not wear boots or stockings and were "unable to adapt to the slippery ground conditions".
  • Limerick's Bob McConkey was the first recipient of the Liam McCarthy Cup following his side's 8-5 to 3-2 win in the 1921 final. The "new" McCarthy Cup was presented to Liam Fennelly after Kilkenny's 3-10 to 1-12 win over Cork in 1992. This completed a unique double for Fennelly who captained his county to win the "old" trophy when beating Cork 2-14 to 2-12 in 1983.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Great Campaign comes to a Halt

All-Ireland SFC Semi-final:

Mayo 2-13; Tipperary 0-14

In yesterday's All-Ireland senior football semi-final in Croke Park, Tipperary led Mayo by 6 points to 3 after 25 minutes. Then, what I describe as a "blind pass" — a side pass without a proper view of where the ball is going — gave possession to Mayo from which they scored an opportunistic goal. They followed this with 7 points to Tipperary's 1 to lead at the break by 1-10 to 0-7.

Tipperary, to their great credit, reduced the margin to 2 points by the third quarter until a second Mayo goal ended the game as a contest. Mayo substitute, Evan Regan, lost his footing as he was about to shoot for a point but managed to strike the ball with some part of his foot. It trickled through to the edge of the small square where the loitering Conor O'Shea had the easy task of shooting to the net.

With a little luck Tipperary would have been much closer at the finish; with a lot of luck they could have got over the line! Maybe it was for the best. Tipperary are still not ready to take on the Kerries and Dublins of this world; although they played to the best of their ability in all of their games as underdogs. Mayo have the capacity to raise their game to a much higher level which I hope they will do and go on to win their first All-Ireland since 1951.

The true Tipperary Gaels, who have done so much in recent years to restore Tipperary to football eminence, cannot rest on their laurels. They cannot merely do the same things again and expect a different result. Great work in the restoration has been accomplished, but it is only at foundation level and must be built upon. A plan should be drawn up taking on board the views of anyone that matters. A greater effort should be made to activate the game throughout the county, especially in the three big towns that presently only promote the game at under-age level. The club championships should be made as competitive as possible and completed in a reasonable time. Only top-level coaching from juvenile-level up should be entertained.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Tipp Squeeze Tight Win

All-Ireland SHC Semi-final:

Tipperary 2-19; Galway 2-18

Yesterday's senior hurling semi-final at Croke Park was one of swaying fortunes. Tipperary started slightly on top, but Galway got right into it when they scored a fortuitous goal as a result of a very dangerous gambit by a Tipperary defender — an attempted pass over-the-shoulder. Tipperary had a dominant spell after about a quarter of an hour with four unanswered points, but Galway finished the half strongly to lead by two points at half-time.

The second half was tit-for-tat most of the way until Galway scored a second goal which gave them a three point lead. The introduction of John O'Dwyer gave Tipperary a great boost. He scored a fine goal himself and drew the fire away from Seamus Callanan and John McGrath resulting in the latter scoring a vital Tipp goal within minutes of the first. Galway were still attacking at the end but time ran out for them. They suffered the loss of two key players, including the great Joe Canning through injury at half-time.

Tipperary will need to be far more assertive and confident to oust Kilkenny in the final.

Monday, 1 August 2016

History in the Making

All-Ireland SFC Quarter-Final:

Tipperary 3-13; Galway 1-10

Who would have believed it? Tipperary are now through to an All-Ireland Senior Football semi-final for the first time since their harrowing defeat to Cavan in 1935 (as I chronicled here). While a narrow victory would have been a most pleasant result for the loyal supporters who travelled to Croke Park yesterday, the manner and margin of the win demands the use of superlatives.

Unsurprisingly, Tipperary started tentatively allowing Galway to build up a four-points lead. The blue and gold machine then got into gear, notching up 1-06 without reply. Galway rallied and, with the help of a powerfully-driven goal, reduced the margin to three points at half-time. The first ten minutes of the second-half decided the outcome when Tipperary produced two goals, coolly taken by the rangy Conor Sweeney from Ballyporeen. Tipperary didn't score for the last 19 minutes and Galway added a mere two points as the tempo of the game slackened greatly. The final whistle brought jubilant Tipperary supporters onto the pitch where they celebrated loudly with players and management for more than 20 minutes. While not taking anything from Tipperary's famous victory, the Galway team greatly under-performed. They seemed to freeze every time Tipperary scored a goal and, when they conceded the third goal, they gave up the ghost.

Prior to the game I felt that Tipperary had a lot of potential in the forward line, but I was fearful that their backs would be unable to cope with the Galway forwards who showed great potency in the replayed Connacht final. The backs stuck manfully to their task while the forwards displayed a wide range of skills with centre-half forward, Kevin O'Halloran, contributing nobly. Kevin, along with Philip Austin and George Hannigan, should be presented with special medals by the GAA in recognition of the standard they have achieved despite having to hone their skills in the football wilderness of North Tipperary.

Tipperary have produced many outstanding footballers down the years, but the teams lacked one essential ingredient and that is 'confidence'. This team has it in spades and, in the upcoming semi-final against Tyrone or Mayo, they should give it a real go.

The best of luck to them.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Wonderful Tipperary Win

All-Ireland Senior Football Qualifiers:

Tipperary 1-21;  Derry 2-17

Every loyal Tipperary supporter will be filled with joy following the county's one point win in last evening's game played at Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan. Tipperary are now through to the All-Ireland Senior Football quarter-finals for the first time in the modern era.

Tipp captain, Peter Acheson, celebrates with manager, Liam Kearns 
While every notable win by a football team representing the county is cherished, this victory will rank in the top echelon when one considers: the unavailability of leading players before the start of the competition (as already chronicled); the rather heavy defeat to Kerry in the Munster final following a historic victory over Cork; and the unfair distance the team had to travel to fulfil this challenging fixture.

Playing with the breeze, Tipperary started well and led by four points until they were rocked back by a Derry goal and found themselves a point behind at half-time. An extra effort was needed in the second-half and it was forthcoming, boosted by a goal from Kevin O'Halloran who availed of a poor Derry kick-out. On the 65 minute mark Tipperary led by five points, but Derrry weren't finished and scored a goal and three points to take the lead. True heart was needed and it came in the form of a strapping lad from Ballyporeen, Conor Sweeney, whose trusty left foot drove over two late points to clinch a famous victory.