Hurling Thoughts

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Christy Ring Cup Final Fiasco

A game which should have being remembered as one of the intercounty hurling games of the year was reduced to embarrassment due to errors a plenty from several officials on duty during the final. Tipperary match official John O’Brien will unfortunately will receive plenty of criticism for his inability to keep track of the scores in that last ten minutes but the referee was not the only one who make an almighty cock-up. What were the Croke Park scoreboard operators doing on the day? They were also so culpable on this sad episode as the match referee must have being reassured that his scores were tallying as expected with the scoreboard graphics on show.

Antrim officials were slow to realize the error as well; surely one of the Antrim backroom staff realized the error and raise it to the linesman. Antrim officials in the crowd surely were in attendance and saw the error. The lack of action was frightening and the CCCC are now in a total bind.

The referee match report states that Meath won the final 2-18 to 1-20. By right, this constitutes that the result is final and there would typically be a no recourse for Antrim for grounds for a replay. If the CCCC do decide to sanction a replay, every county board will in the country will be prepared for numerous appeals to replay games such as this.

Mistakes do happen and perhaps it is time for GAA to assign the scoreboard responsibilities to someone on the linesman (fifth official) but given that the fourth official was not called upon to provide his score to the match referee at the final whistle, where do we go from here?

The mere fact that the Christy Ring Cup final was held in June and that the vast majority of the country are now finished their hurling season is an absolute disgrace. How does the GAA think that hurling will develop when the developing counties only have a three month window to work with? GAA are a contradiction in terms. The weaker counties should be playing well into the summer and finals should be showcased before the SHC All Ireland series.

As for the final, Meath’s win was sublime who left everything out on the pitch; every player put their bodies on the line and their fitness was superior to Antrim who need to reflect on how they blew a nine point lead (first half) and five point lead (deep into the second half). They failed utterly to close out the contest and gave Meath the opportunity to win the contest.

A replay if sanctioned will go only one way. Antrim will beat Meath with a bit to spare. Antrim learn nothing from their first final outing. Meath’s hope and promise for developing small ball in the county is shattered. Where is the GAA President going to comment on this issue? Weak leadership all round from the association and one that will leave a bitter taste in the mouth when it is time to reflect on the GAA season this year.

Waterford and Clare Hurling Games – Please Stop

Munster SHC has being a flat out disappointment this season. Cork never turned up to face Tipperary at Semple Stadium two weeks ago. Clare beat themselves off the pitch yesterday with a performance which exposed Clare’s inability to get their inside full forward line into the game, inconsistent free taking and the sheer folly of positioning Tony Kelly in the Clare half-back line thus eliminating Clare’s most potent forward threat. This was a day that Clare’s Davy Fitzgerald and Donal Og Cusack will want to forget in a hurry.

Waterford thoroughly deserved their victory. They started the game with enormous intensity and the early 1-1 salvo from  Maurice Shanahan was pivotal in this victory. Clare were playing catch-up thereafter and with Tony Kelly’s influence non-existent, Clare struggled for a forward player who could take the game by the scruff of the neck. Waterford’s half-back line cleaned out Clare’s half-forward line. The aerial battle on the forty was a no contest as Fives, De Burca were brilliant under the dropping ball.

The decision of Derek McGrath to switch Austin Gleeson to the forward line and introduce Padraic O’Mahoney inside was sublime. Both players produced in spades. Gleeson is a dream of a hurler; his physicality, his fitness, his sideline cuts and his ability to take scores from any distance came to the fore yesterday. Clare had no response to his 0-6 haul and his score at the end of the contest (long range) was one of the scores of the year.

As Clare struggled to gain any parity in the contest, their cause was not helped by an erratic free taking display. Conor McGrath who is usually so reliable with his placed ball was not confident throughout; his confidence waned by the minute and several scores came and gone. This was in stark contrast to O’Mahony whose free taking as always was on point. The decision also to switch David Fitzgerald to the attacking forty did not work; confused Clare more than their opponents.

The contest will not be a Munster SHC classic. Both sides bored the pants off me with their defensive first hurling. No creativity to unlock either defense. The Waterford goal was rather fortunate. Shanahan ground stroke was an air shot which somehow evaded Kelly and several defenders enroute to the goal.

Clare struggled to get Conlon and O’Donnell into the game and Clare may have reached a cross-roads in their squad development. The tactics deployed stifled Clare more than Waterford. Clare have several superb players but their defensive / counter-attack hurling is leaving the likes of Conlon, O’Donnell and McGrath increasingly looking from the outside.

Waterford did what they threatened during the NHL encounters. They put Clare to the sword. Several keynote players but Kevin Moran was sublime in that second half. His work rate and points from play were crucial throughout. The experienced De La Salle player won his 50/50 contests and his distributions to his inside forward line was on point throughout. Waterford showed signs that their forward line is improving. Shane Bennett will grow into this championship. A win that was required from Waterford and with Austin Gleeson in the mood, Munster success is a big possibility.

Galway win in a stroll; Offaly win again

Galway take care of business in Mullingar. The scoreline was emphatic but the main point was whether talisman Joe Canning was knocked out cold in the contest? Player welfare yet again rearing its head and Canning has taken his fair share of punishment for club and county. If Canning was concussed, time for Galway hurling to make a statement and rest the player on medical grounds. Westmeath failed to get into this contest but their recent U21 success against Kilkenny has being one of the stories of the season. Time to regroup and go again in the qualifiers.

Offaly hurlers beat Laois with plenty to spare. Eamonn Kelly will be pleased by this outing; in control for large periods of the game. Dooley again to the fore and sets up a tie against Galway where Offaly will be massive underdogs; time to produce a performance to give the critics more grief but beating Laois and trying to beat Galway is a different story. Time will tell.