Bless me father for I have regressed, this is my first GAA blog of the championship season. Forgive me, my schedule has being as packed as an intercounty Munster or Leinster SHC player at the moment. I am struggling to get a breather if being honest with holidays, getting engaged and trying to wade through the work emails. Without further to do, let’s kick on with the column.
Galway / Tipperary Hurling Relations at an all time high!
As Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un (the wonder kid corner forward from the local hurling club U10’s) are scheduled to meet for a cup of tea to compare pace notes on governance, Galway and Tipperary hurling relations look to be in a good place as well given the generosity of the Galway officiating crew to hand the Tipperary Senior Hurling team a lifeline with a phantom goal at the Gaelic Grounds (Waterford home venue).
The goal reward was everything that Irish sporting fans who have zero interest in GAA leap on. Officiating crew screwed up but what means had Alan Kelly and umpires to review the play? Nothing. Hawkeye was of little help. The actual ball was in the hand of Austin Gleeson so could Hawkeye have being able to identify the sliothar in the hand of the player if it was in operation for goal line technology?
Technology should be used when it assists the referee and umpires. Hawkeye on whether a point is good or not has being a welcome addition (after GAA figured out how to switch it from football to hurling / vice versa after that infamous Limerick vs. Galway minor game).
The goal line technology is a different story; it is something that that the authorities need to look at. Waterford to their immense credit were incredibly calm in post-game interviews but will they be if they are pipped for a top three Munster SHC berth? VAR has its perils too, how many cameras does VAR require to adjudicate a referral?
The opening fixtures in this hurling championship have yielded one significant keynote trend. Inconsistent officiating has being to the fore. Should a player be yellow carded when preventing an opponent running past him primed to create a significant attacking move? James Owens thought not for O’Donoghue (Cork) but Alan Kelly thought so when issuing a card for Michael Cahill.
James McGrath could have being well in his rights to warrant a red card or two during the Limerick / Tipperary match but did not but he issued three red cards to Offaly players against Wexford the following weekend. The words of the match referee assessor ringing in his ear. Match Officials look to be struggling with the schedule of games; the decision making on key incidents need to be better.
Galway have being the standout team of the championship so far. Their last two performances have oozed class. Their ability to secure victory over Kilkenny in the final quarter of their historic Salthill encounter was a keynote performance.
Their ability to keep a Wexford side at arms length last weekend was also impressive. Their hurling ability and physicality is proving too much for anyone in Leinster at present.
Michael O’Donoghue has the luxury of potentially resting key players for their last round robin fixture against Dublin. Ominous signs for the rest of the chasing pack. Joe Canning’s injury aside last weekend, all lines played with massive confidence.
Last Chance Saloon for Tipperary
Clare travel to Thurles this weekend knowing a victory will eliminate Tipperary out of the championship. Tipperary have failed to fire at a consistent high level of performance in this round robin series. Second half backs to the wall performance again required last weekend. The team selection has being off; midfield has lacked physicality or pace.
The Tipperary full back line have struggled to quell opposition inside full forward lines due to the space created further up the pitch. Key players for Tipperary are slowly getting into their groove. Tipp management’s decision to rotate the squad about during the league is not working; players look uncertain as to their role or position.
This is their All Ireland final this weekend; if they start as abjectly as they did in their other three fixtures, the season and Michael Ryan’s reign as Tipperary manager will be over. Time to stand up and deliver but will face a fresh, pacy Clare side who will be only too happy to dump the Premier County out of the championship. Nervy afternoon awaits for Tipperary!
Encouraging from Limerick, Cork and Waterford
Last weekend was a weekend where Limerick, Cork and Waterford produced excellent performances. Cork’s exertions in recent weeks caught up with them in the second half of their draw against Limerick who played with a composure not seen in a Shannonsider side for many a year.
Cork for me look primed for a Munster Hurling final; their pace, skill set and skill is fantastic. Consistency and putting a complete game is the key for John Meyler to unlock but their marquee players are playing well. Harnedy, Lehane, Kearney, Cooper, Fitzgibbon, Coleman, Horgan all to the fore.
Waterford produced an incredible display last weekend despite the injury woes. They were on point from minute one and the likes of Devine, Foran stood up. The third quarter lack of scores is a concern but this was a performance full of quality; Waterford are a serious live threat to Limerick this weekend. Limerick hurlers played forty minutes with fourteen players, there has to be an impact so expect personnel changes from John Kiely for the visit of Waterford.
Joe McDonagh Cup
Exciting competition with little fanfare from the national broadcaster. Westmeath with their 100% record advance to the final and they could knock out Carlow if they win their round robin fixture next weekend. Antrim are primed to take advantage if Carlow lose but they face a dangerous Kerry outfit who competed well this year. Laois and Meath face off in the other game; the loser is relegated to Christy Ring Cup next season. The competition has being massively competitive and the fact that there is ramifications at both ends of the league standings suggests that this format is working.
Offaly Senior Hurling team will ply their trade in the Joe McDonagh Cup for next season. Kevin Martin, management and players have tried their utmost to stay in the All Ireland Series but the early season league promise has evaporated in recent weeks with heavy defeats. Time to regroup and go again in the Joe McDonagh but Offaly should see how their neighbors Laois have fared in the competition this season.
An immediate promotion is not guaranteed and requires everyone in the county to regroup. The news of centers of excellence in recent weeks are a good first step, underage player development is in progress. Offaly have good hurlers but it needs organization and infrastructural spend to reap rewards both short and long term.
Offaly need to regroup; Joe McDonagh Cup will be a good means of performing this. The question though is why there is no relegation in Munster? Time to discuss in the weeks or months to come. There has to be a better way of promoting / relegating teams from the All Ireland Series.