LAST weekend was hurling’s penultimate big-stage event before the final showing on Sunday, August 18.
The outcome of both semi-finals could also fit under the banner of the more things change, the more they stay the same. The decade opened with a version of Kilkenny and Tipperary, and it will also close with this old familiar pairing, making it five times that they will have met on the big day this decade.
Others may have viewed the weekend’s ash action as another occasion to pay homage to Kilkenny’s most famous citizen, Brian Cody. This season a few who earn euros on informing others how the world should be run were calling for the big man to step down because tactical innovation had moved on. Really!
Who would have thought when he received his first contract on November 19, 1998, that 21 years later he would become intrinsically linked with Noreside success like no other. For those of you into statistical recordings, the Black and Amber under Cody’s management, has won 42 titles in all: 11 All-Irelands, 15 Leinsters, nine national leagues and seven Walsh Cups!
Nowadays, the pathway to glory could be best explained, using a game of snakes and ladders. Kilkenny have played seven games and in three of those, they failed to emerge victorious, while Tipperary’s form could be viewed in a more positive light, with only one loss thus far in the Munster final.
The Munster crown was a good indicator of All-Ireland success before but not anymore it would appear. In the last 20 years, only Cork in 2005 and Tipperary in 2016 have won both titles.
Again this weekend, both Munster and Leinster champions, Limerick and Wexford, exited the national stage.
This hurling championship is now a rather complicated entity, but for 2019 it is the very familiar pairing that will entertain us on the big day. Were Kilkenny to win their 12th, under the guidance of Cody, I think it would be their most satisfying.
In the world of Gaelic football, Cork’s football summer just keeps getting better. Last Sunday, the U20 team fell seven behind Tyrone and notwithstanding the fact that the Ulster champions had a player sent off, the victory was a really significant one, for the Rebels.
The strength of the panel, is probably best illustrated, by the fact that of those who came on, they contributed 1-5, with Jack Murphy’s brilliant individual goal being one of the signposts, for the second-half recovery.
When this side defeated Kerry, some expressed the view that for real progress, another win was vital. That has now been achieved and it is on to meet Dublin, in the All-Ireland final this Saturday in Portlaoise at 4pm.
Of course, this will be another high order challenge, but what is rare about this Dublin team is the amount of focus that attaches to one of their forward six. Normally, the spread of major threat for the Leinster champions is from a broader spectrum.
On this Dublin team, the number 14 Ciaran Archer, would appear to have a close affinity with both white and green flags. To get to the final, Dublin have played four games, and Archer’s tally reads as follows: 3-8, 1-8, 3-8 and 2-5... some shooting.
However, Cork’s forward men are not exactly shy either and in particular, Cathal O’Mahony from Mitchelstown has shown real potential. A victory in the final would undoubtedly be another boost for the fortunes of the big ball in the county.
And it would also be a serious endorsement of the brand of football being developed, by the management team, led by a unique and knowledgeable individual, Keith Ricken.
Over the past few years, I made reference to the Munster minor football championship, which appeared to weigh heavily against Cork playing football into August. Thankfully, new fixture structures were put in place, which saw Cork as defeated Munster champions, progress to the All-Ireland quarter-final, where they were drawn against the Ulster champions, Monaghan.
Right from the start, Cork were in control and a 16 point winning margin was an impressive showing. A goal in the 26th minute, by Michael O’Neill from Buttevant, was followed by another a minute later by team captain, Conor Corbett from Clyda.
I think it is always a little special when a team’s centre-forward and full-forward raise green flags, but to do so in the space of a minute, had a real winning feel to it. The weekend after next in the All Ireland semi-final, Cork will play Mayo.
The objective of playing August football has been truly achieved.
With the shadow of inter-county calendar on the decline, it is almost time to welcome back the club championship from the wilderness. Bar a late spring, early summer modicum of action, it has been a summer of club championship drought.
As you may be aware, the Cork County Board organises three main championship competitions, senior, premier intermediate and intermediate. In total across these three grades in both codes, there are 114 club teams and all are still involved, but not for long more. Beginning tomorrow evening, until the close of business on bank holiday Monday, barring draws after extra time, 10 will have said their goodbyes.
For the next three months or so, club championship 2019 will be played out and for the select number, who will reach county final day during the month of October, they will be afforded a real opportunity to experience the heavenly euphoric feeling, when their leader will raise the trophy of triumph. It is really a case of welcoming back the world of the real GAA to its rightful place.
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