The Paudie Palmer column: Luck ran out for Cork hurling clubs at Croke Park

The Paudie Palmer column: Luck ran out for Cork hurling clubs at Croke Park
Peter Walsh of Tullaroan looks for a new hurl after scoring his side's second against Fr O'Neill's last weekend. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

I think it is fair to assume that the sporting Lord is very much in favour of completing club competitions in the calendar year. 

Of course, you are aware that when Croke Park decided to move the club finals from St Patrick’s Day to a Sunday in January, they encountered some serious opposition. Many arguments were put forward about why this was a retrograde step, from January being totally unsuitable for playing hurling and football to the fact that moving away from the traditional Paddy’s Day slot was almost an act of treason. 

In the opinion of this scribbler, I think the decision has been justified.

Now where does the aforementioned sporting Lord come into this? If we assume that he has control over the meteorological conditions, his efforts were reasonably conducive to the matches. 

To be honest, I always thought that the wait from winning a provincial title in early December to St Patrick’s Day was ridiculously long, not to mention the knock-on effect it had on players from the participating clubs not being able to line out with their counties in the National Leagues.

Yes, the two senior finals may have been somewhat disappointing, but the attachment to history was a compensatory factor. 

Ballyhale with their eighth title became the first hurling team to win back-to-back All-Irelands and what a contribution from their manager, Henry Shefflin. In 2018, he assumed the bainisteóir’s bib and in the space of two years has lifted two counties, two Leinsters and two All-Irelands. 

Ballyhale Shamrocks manager Henry Shefflin. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Ballyhale Shamrocks manager Henry Shefflin. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

It should add another layer to his legendary status. Many will tell you, going straight into coaching so soon after retiring is a serious challenge and on the home patch, even more so.

Next record... it was the first time that all three titles, junior, intermediate and senior were won by teams from the same county. Again the honour fell to Kilkenny, but where there was no real doubting the outcome of the senior decider, I think it is fair to say that were it not for suspensions and injuries, the two east Cork representatives could have been on celebratory tours this week. 

In the junior final, a reoccurrence of a shoulder injury meant that Josh Beausang could not resume the second half for Russell Rovers. He had pointed five times in the opening half and, I would think that if he was fully fit, the Cork champions would have been there, or thereabouts, coming down the home straight.

Kieran Mooney of Conahy Shamrocks in action against Kieran Walsh, and Kevin Tattan, right, of Russell Rovers at Croke Park last weekend. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Kieran Mooney of Conahy Shamrocks in action against Kieran Walsh, and Kevin Tattan, right, of Russell Rovers at Croke Park last weekend. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Whatever about Russell Rovers, I think that there is no doubt that suspensions were the ultimate difference between victory and defeat for Fr O’Neill’s. 

Mark O’Keeffe and Billy Dunne would, in all probability, be on most people’s list of the Ballymacoda sides top five, but two red cards in the semi-final against Tooreen were unfortunate. 

In the lead up to the final, much of the focus centred on disciplinary appearances in Croke Park on Monday night and Portlaoise on Friday night. The management of the team probably realised that both trips were rather futile journeys, but of course, the club had no choice only to pursue all options to get the reds rescinded. 

Despite lining out without the two stalwarts, Fr O’Neill’s can be justifiably proud of their efforts on the big stage.

Four minutes into injury time, the sides were on level terms, only for the sliothar to reach Shane Walsh, the Tooreen captain, he let fly, over it went, the final sounding. O’Neill’s were obviously in bits, but what a performance. 

It is now history and sometimes in life, it is as the saying goes, not what you become but what you overcame is the deciding factor. If the Ballymacoda-based outfit overcome this heartbreak, further podium finishes are well within their grasp.

You know in life, that you take certain things for granted. I felt like that on Sunday last prior to entering the TV stadium, to witness another historical happening of Corofin becoming the first club to win three All-Irelands in a row. 

The granted part was that they would do so playing easy on the eyes football and the second granted part was that Conor Lane, would give a top-class performance of refereeing. That notion got a serious hammering! 

We were told that regardless of what defensive system was employed, this north Galway team would find a way through. Yes, a few goal chances came about and had they ended up in green flags, Kilcoo would have been home in Down a lot earlier than was the case. 

When Corofin did move three points ahead, midway through the second half we waited for the goal as is normally the Galway side’s Modus Operandi. 

It didn’t arrive and instead, Kilcoo landed two points. Despite knowing that the defensive strategy employed by the Mickey Moran coached side, wasn’t finding favour with the viewers, the underdog gene in us, had us on the Kilcoo side of the ring.

A free, well into injury time was moved by the referee, who appeared not to be interested in how far he moved the ball, for some form of dissent, but to arrive at a location that would be within the compass of Paul Devlin. The Down man didn’t need to look a gift horse in the mouth before landing the equaliser. 

Could they get a winner? Yes, they had chances, extra time was next on the menu, that is if you exclude the drama in the tunnel.

Nothing much happened, but what did occur was captured magnificently by a seriously talented camera person. The high light, or low light, of the tunnel affair centred around an individual wearing the Corofin colours, jumping over a barrier and landing in the tunnel itself, to lend some support to his colleagues. 

The leap over the barrier contained the skill-set normally employed by a farmer who instead of opening a gate, would put one hand on top of it and somersault in over it. 

When extra time resumed, the real Corofin were in town, in nine minutes they landed the same tally of scores as they did in the 70 minutes of normal time. 

In the end, the three in a row history materialised. In sport, taking anything for granted just doesn’t work.

CONTACT: paudie.palmer@hotmail.com, @paudiep

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