THE club hurling game of the year will clash with the World Cup final this Sunday, recalling the GAA’s decision to have Galway and Kerry play in the Super 8s at the same time as the 2018 decider.
Even rugby chiefs decided this was a no-no and shifted their Champions Cup fixtures away from 3pm.
But Gaelic Games officials dance to a different beat, don’t we know.
Ballyhale Shamrocks (or Shamrocks Ballyhale as they seem to be calling themselves now) and Ballygunner’s All-Ireland semi-final could have expected a big crowd at Croke Park and a sizeable TV audience, especially as these two giants of the club scene served up such cracking fare last year.
The split season has magnified the importance of the club game but pitting the marquee clash of the season against the biggest game in world football is a step backwards you’d think.
There is spice too with the Kilkenny men taking umbrage at their Waterford neighbours following the injury-time goal that denied them a first club hurling three-in-a-row.
In the speech afterwards Ballygunner captain Barry Coughlan was effusive in his praise of their vanquished foe, but somewhat innocuously added “we robbed it today, you know. I suppose ye have done that to other teams so I suppose it goes around, it comes around.” Those words did not go down well in Kilkenny.
Colin Fennelly has said: “It’s not something you want to hear. You want that little bit of respect.” Ballygunner are 4/5 while Ballyhale are 5/4 and the draw is 8/1. In the first semi, St Thomas of Galway are 1/4 to beat Antrim’s Dunloy (7/2), who are aiming to be only the second Ulster team to reach the final since 2004.
OUR tip last week for Toulouse to win by 6-10 pints at Thomond Park was of course scuppered when they emerged five-point winners.
However, with the new forgiving format, even an opening home loss does not spell disaster for Munster. In fact, defeat to Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens at lunchtime on Sunday is not an eliminator.
Last season Clermont emerged from Pool A with eight points, after winning only one game, while in Pool B three teams managed the feat with a single victory, with Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Stade Francais all getting through with eight, eight, and seven points respectively.
If Munster are harbouring ambitions of securing a home draw in the last 16 they probably need to win all three of their remaining games, as no team finished in the top four in their pool last year with less than three wins.
A defeat for the Reds looks a less-likely scenario after Northampton were battered by Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle in their opening game of the Champions Cup in the famous Atlantic port city, so they will come in at a lower ebb than Graham Rowntree’s men.
The Saints found themselves trailing by 46-0 in the second half, although they did rally a small bit to make it 46-12 while the French eased up.
Munster put it up to one of the strongest sides in the competition in the freezing fog last Saturday, and although they did secure a losing bonus point late on, they never really looked like they had Toulouse’s number, even when Antoine Dupont had to sit out for 10 minutes near the end.
They are favourites to secure the away win, coming in at 8/13, while Northampton are 11/8 underdogs.
Ulster crashed to 39-0 defeat in Sale, one of the worst defeats for an Irish club side in many years. They host La Rochelle at teatime tomorrow, who are even money to win with a minus-five point start.
We were caught last week predicting a similar French win but think O’Gara’s reigning champs can beat that spread.
WE’RE all in on Argentina for Sunday’s game with previous recommendations so we’ll look elsewhere. The RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year award will be presented tomorrow.
Katie Taylor is 1/6 favourite, but having won twice before (most recently in 2020), the decision may go elsewhere. Although Sonia O’Sullivan did win five times!
Curiously, no Gaelic footballer has won since it began in 1985. Only two hurlers have, compared to 11 golfers.David Clifford has been having quite a year, first with Kerry and now with club Fossa. He may be in with a shout at 6/1.