LINE of the weekend is a fairly cut-and-dried affair this week, with Kilkenny hurler Pádraig Walsh the only contestant.
Having played a starring role in captaining Maynooth University to the Ryan Cup – intervarsity hurling’s second tier – against Ulster University in Mallow, Walsh went up to collect the cup. Along with the usual thanks to team-mates, sponsors, backroom team and those associated with GAA in the college, Walsh reserved special praise for a man whose role had been absolutely integral in their journey.
“Thanks very much to the bus driver,” he said, “only for him we wouldn't have got here today.” Funny and true, hard to argue with it.
It was strange to be present at two games in a Cork venue and not have any Cork player featuring, but such is the way with how the Fitzgibbon Cup panned out this year. Mallow had been set as the venue for the finals weekend in advance, though there was a deviation in that the Fitz semi-finals were played in advance rather than on the Friday, as had usually been the case.
Sunday brought us to Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the league double-header. Traffic and its effect on parking is always a big consideration for such occasions and we can safely say that 80 minutes before throw-in is the earliest we have ever arrived for a Cavan game.
The match programmes for league games always have player profiles and these can provide interesting insights. For instance, Cork footballer Mark Collins had as his favourite film Mike Bassett England Manager – perhaps taking inspiration from an underdog success story? – while hurler Shane Kingston opted for Christopher Nolan’s three-and-a-half-hour-long Interstellar, where Matthew McConaughey plays his part in helping the world’s population move to a new planet after Earth becomes inhabitable.
For his favourite venue, Kingston opted for Moneygourney, home of Douglas Hall AFC, though his choice of his father Kingston as his biggest influence was a bit more straightforward.
The one change that Waterford’s Pauric Mahony would make to hurling would be to allow two points for a sideline cut, and this is a suggestion which pops up with some regularity. In his autobiography in 2002, Justin McCarthy went a step further and suggested that a free-taker taking the ground option should be similarly rewarded.
It would certainly provide interest if a side were a point down in injury time and conceded a free in range. In addition, teams coming up against opponents with ground-striking specialists in their ranks may be less likely to give away frees, which would lead to a more open game. We can but forlornly hope.
The hopes will be less forlorn on St Patrick’s Day when Nemo Rangers go into battle in the All-Ireland Club SFC final against Galway’s Corofin.
It’ll be exactly a decade since Nemo’s last appearance in the national decider, losing to Dublin’s St Vincent’s in 2008, while it’ll have been 15 years since the win over Crossmolina Deel Rovers.
Nemo’s consistent regeneration is a massive achievement, proof that an ethos and a heritage can run through the veins of a club, even as the personnel changes. Though of course, part of Nemo’s success is the fact that the older players get involved at underage level, ensuring that the younger intake learn almost by osmosis what it means to wear the black and green jersey.
But it’s not all elitist either. In a piece for The Irish News last week, Cahair O’Kane spoke to Joe Kavanagh, who is part of the Nemo backroom team alongside his brother Larry.
He pointed out that, in age-grades where Nemo can fill two teams, they don’t go with A and B selections but rather spread the talent evenly, ensuring that the weaker players benefit and in time become key team members.
It means that Nemo mightn’t win that much at underage but nobody is really concerned once they have a high percentage of players staying with through to adulthood. With results like they have had and will surely continue to have – hopefully in a few weeks’ time – it’s hard to argue with the merits of such an approach.