BEFORE I go into this weekend’s action, I want to refer to three games I have seen last weekend.
The first is the Harty Cup final between Ard Scoil Rís and Midleton CBS. Going to this game, I was convinced it was going to be a cracker with two very talented teams on show.
A lot of quality players on both sides. Also, I thought there would be a great rivalry between Limerick and Cork.
But how disappointed I was.
Only one team performed. For some unknown reason, Midleton failed to turn up.
Was it nerves or did the occasion get to them?
Overall it was very disappointing for them. But that is not Ard Scoil Rís’ fault.
They looked a powerful unit and I would say they are looking good to win their first All-Ireland at this level.
Then again, they have had very strong teams before, but failed to deliver. However, I think this team will make history.
Apart from the game being disappointing, and although the facilities were excellent, I think Mallow is not capable of holding big games.
Traffic congestion a big problem. The game had to be delayed for 15 minutes and this is not the first time this has happened at this venue.
It is very frustrating for all concerned, especially for the two teams who are ready to go at the set time.
A great venue, but in the wrong place! Getting in and out is a complete nightmare.
It’s a helicopter you’d need!
When I did get out of Mallow, I made my way to Thurles. No such traffic problems here, even though there was a big crowd.
A very entertaining game between Tipperary and Wexford.
Tipp took some great scores and played some great hurling, with the McGraths, and Jason Forde especially.
Here is a player that is really maturing and credit must go to Michael Ryan for giving him the extra responsibility of taking frees and giving him a leadership role, which he is really responding to.
I still think that this Tipp team lack a bit of ruthlessness to really put teams away when they have them on the rack. That is something that could cost them.
Only for Darren Mooney, their goalkeeper, the wastefulness of the Wexford forwards, and Lee Chin’s poor free-taking, Wexford would have punished them big time.
They are a Wexford team that is improving with every game and have big crowds following them as well, which is great to see.
On to Sunday, to what I thought would be the game of the weekend, in Ennis.
The one thing you can’t lack when you take on Clare in Ennis is aggression because you can be sure that is what you will be dealing with — and I mean aggression on the ball, and getting to the ball.
Cork lacked that completely in the first half. Apart from Sean Donoghue and Eoin Cadogan, Clare were on top everywhere with Tony Kelly and Colm Galvin completely dominating the game from midfield.
The Cork attack didn’t show much, with Mike O’Malley and Seadna Morey completely in control.
I know Cork were short four quality players in Conor Lehane, Alan Cadogan, Mark Coleman, and Darragh Fitzgibbon, but surely that was the time for others to put a hand up for a place.
I did not see much of that from this Cork team, even though they did improve in the second half, and created some goal chances, but the Clare goalkeeper, Donal Tuohy, was in very good form.
Although there was only four points between them in the finish, I think that score flattered Cork, but I believe this will have little significance when they meet in the championship later on.
The outstanding feature of the three games I attended was the poor standard of defending. I know a lot of teams have “experts” involved coaching all aspects of the game, but they are really falling down in the art of defending.
It seems to be so easy to get scores now. Men unmarked all over the place, big scores conceded far too easily, and that to me is down to bad defending.
I would go so far as to say that the team who learn to defend properly will go all the way.
Hopefully, this will improve as the season goes on, as there is a brilliant art to that aspect of the game, and it’s wonderful to watch.
I met a few irate pensioners and a few students coming out of the game last weekend very cross that their concession is gone up from €10 to €12.
I think this is very short-sighted of the GAA to do this. Surely with extra games this year, this should not have happened.
Are we getting too greedy?
I think the standard €15 league match fee is too much and puts pressure on families, and is affecting the gates.
Now to this week’s games.
It’s a big game for Cork, the home meeting with Waterford. If Cork are to maintain an interest in the league, this is a must-win game.
I didn’t have the Cork team at the time of writing, but I’m sure they will make some changes if all his players are fit. The likes of Mark Coleman, Conor Lehane and Alan Cadogan should all come in.
Cork will have to show a lot of leadership from their big players in this game, something they did not do in Ennis.
As this is a game Waterford will want to win to avoid relegation, this should be a good contest and I’m looking forward to seeing this one.
Another game that should provide plenty of bite in is Kilkenny-Tipperary in Nolan Park. A huge game for Kilkenny against the old enemy. And do they like beating Tipperary?
But I think they will earn this one as Tipp seem to be coming into form.
The final game is Clare versus Wexford in Wexford. As Clare are already in the quarter-final, I’m sure they will try out some new players, as a few of their men are involved in the Fitzgibbon Cup final on Saturday.
For that reason, I expect Wexford to win.