Hurling Reflections: September 7th


Apologies for anyone who was looking for some immediate feedback to the All Ireland Senior Hurling final during the week on the blog. I was in Carlow in recent days for a funeral. All I will say in relation to the last few days is that Cancer is a scourge, the sooner we find a cure for this disease the better. RIP Tom Egan. A true gentleman; it was a privilege to know you. Gone but certainly not forgotten.

The West is awake

All Ireland Senior Hurling Final

A game where experience was absolutely key. Galway in previous years would have lost this final encounter. They dominated huge periods of the opening half but Waterford stuck to the coat tails and only trailed by a point. Galway’s goal concessions were soft; the first goal a total miscommunication defensively allowing Kevin Moran acres of space to hit home a low drive past Callanan who was a bit exposed on his near post. The Waterford second goal could have being a morale and confidence killer for the Tribesmen; the ball slowly going over the line after several players missed it.

This Galway team are a different animal to previous teams in recent years; they continued to stick to the game plan. There was zero panic in the ranks and their passing ability in the middle third continued to pose problems for Waterford’s defensive sweeper system. Several excellent long range point efforts in that half from several players. Cathal Mannion set the tone and others followed. Conor Cooney played at an immense level throughout.

Waterford’s forward line struggled to gain a foothold in the contest; only for Moran and Brick Walsh in the opening period, this game could have being out of reach early. Jamie Barron did chip in with a couple of scores but his midfield influence waned in the critical second half championship minutes as Coen and Burke asserted control and dominance.

Galway’s management did not have it their own way. The Glynn switch failed abysmally. The Ardrahan clubman struggled for space and ability to win aerial ball. Credit to the Waterford full back line for stemming this threat but they were exposed once Galway unleashed Jason Flynn and Niall Burke whose contribution off the bench was key to this victory. Quality possession wins. Quality scores from the pair (0-02 each) and they created free scoring opportunities at vital moments in the final quarter.

Waterford responded valiantly and in fairness their sub bench made a good impact too with quality scores from Brian O’Halloran and Tom Ryan but there was minimal full forward line threat in that second half. Maurice Shanahan struck a forlorn figure.

Waterford will look to the period early in the second half when they took the lead and missed opportunities to extend out to a two point lead when Kevin Moran with space to run into decided to shoot on sight and missed. A crucial miss and Galway responded with three unanswered scores going into the last ten minutes; the championship minutes had taken place.

Waterford will be back but they need to evolve into a more attacking unit. Gleeson’s influence was minimal and his game management at the death did not do any favors for Waterford hitting a long range free wide at the death when a lob into the Galway full back line was the call.

Waterford have to use this result as motivation for next season; they are close but vitally lacked attacking threat at key parts of this contest to get over the line. Devine, Ryan, Curran, Bennett, O’Halloran need to be provided with game minutes next season to address some of these concerns. Conor Gleeson was a loss; his defensive work and relationship with Jamie Barron would have being crucial in the midfield battle.

Credit to Kieran Bennett, did not let the side down but the midfield cohesion from Waterford at times was not there and Galway took full advantage as David Burke hit several scores from play in both halves; a true captain role and set the example for the team.

Coen even got in on the scoring act with an excellent score early doors. Waterford defensively stuck to the task but when Galway switched tact and went for pace, they had no answer in the final quarter with Niall Burke and Jason Flynn taking the plaudits. Noel Connors was heroic for Waterford throughout; his battle with Conor Whelan was incredible from start to finish.

Super Ten Proposal – Ditch / Rethink

An excellent end to the All Ireland SHC final capping off an excellent inter-county hurling season ended abruptly with almost rumour and confirmation of the Super Ten proposal leaving the rest of the emerging and minnow hurling counties behind. Kerry, Westmeath, Laois, Antrim, Carlow, Kildare and Westmeath must wonder where now if the proposals get through congress?

It will be a sad day for the association if the decision is to alienate any counties who wish to participate in the Liam McCarthy competition. The relegation / promotion proposals lean heavily towards the elite. The Tier II and minnows have not a hope of developing and improving given the proposals. A cash generation exercise from the association. The club player is a remote figure in this discussion. Disappointing.

The GAA and Elitism were never in the same sentence when it came to hurling. A sad day, hopefully counties stand up to this proposal and seek ways of allowing emerging counties to compete at the level required.

Cast your mind back to a county called Galway back in the 1970’s; a county who wanted to progress in hurling, took some heavy losses along the way but got the experience and competitive games to climb up the ladder. 2017 did not happen overnight. It took many years of toll to make this happen. The early days of Galway hurling should not be underestimated. Time to reflect, otherwise hurling will be confined to ten counties with conceivably only four to five teams genuinely able to ponder Liam McCarthy glory.

All Ireland Minor Hurling Final

Canning and Turnbull were the standouts. Cork game management in either half cost them the result; several missed scoring opportunities in this period. Officiating was called into question. Galway’s second goal versus Cork disallowed effort in the second half; not much difference on replays. Future is still bright down in Cork. The U17 triumph earlier last month is evidence enough that the underage conveyor belt is strong. The minor team reversal could be a blessing; added motivation for this panel to strive to improve further. Galway win their second All Ireland minor title in three years; great achievement.

Hawkeye Sidekick Senior Hurling Team of the Year

GK – O’Keefe

FB Line: Tuohy, Daithi Burke (special mention to Tommy Doyle here), Connors

HB Line: P.Mannion, McInerney, P.Maher

Midfield: David Burke, Jamie Barron

HF Line: Moran, Canning, Brick Walsh

FF Line: J.McGrath, C.Cooney, P.Horgan

Player of the Year:

Joe Canning. His cameos during the year immense but his final quarter performance against Tipperary was sublime; that game winning point was an ESPN moment. Jamie Barron a close second; excellent season but was subdued in the All Ireland final (illness played a factor). Gearoid McInerney is third; superb end to the season with dominating performances from half-back against Tipperary and Waterford where subdued Austin Gleeson. It has to be Joe. It has to be Canning.

Young Player of the Year:

A toss-up between Mark Coleman (Cork) or Conor Whelan (Galway). Pundits will go for Whelan given his All Ireland winning campaign but Coleman was superb for Cork this year; his overall game was superb throughout, would be my choice. Hope pundits do not judge him on the All Ireland semi-final performance alone!

Manager of the Year:

Michael O’Donoghue — any manager who wins the Walsh Cup, NHL and All Ireland in the season deserves it. Derek McGrath with a honorable mention as Waterford improved as the season progressed; the Kilkenny hoodoo is a thing of the past. Kieran Kingston of Cork for a progressive Cork team performance in the championship.

All Ireland U21 Hurling Final Preview

A game which is hard to predict for a number of reasons. How good are Kilkenny? You cannot judge Kilkenny based on their All Ireland semi-final performance; their performance against Wexford was good but the form guide is hindered by the fact that Wexford played with fourteen players for a good chunk of the contest. The Dublin fixture is only but a distant memory. Eddie Brennan will hope that the panel matches are of adequate quality to allow the starting lineup to produce a performance on Saturday. Battle hardened cannot be attributed to this side but there are several standout players. Leahy, Cleere, Walsh, Blanchfield and Murphy are excellent players and are well capable of beating Limerick with standout performances. A side who deserve massive respect but can Limerick bring the work rate, skill set, composure to win this contest?

Limerick contrary to Kilkenny have being tested in recent rounds. An inexperienced Tipperary U21 side were defeated with minimum effort. A lapse in concentration against Clare U21’s side was a warning to all concerned with Limerick before an abrasive provincial final against a well fancied Cork outfit missing Cork senior starts Fitzgibbon and Meade. Limerick had moments of crisis but did enough to win thanks in no small part to the contribution of Aaron Gillane, Cian Lynch, Kyle Hayes who stood up when counted. The Galway U21 fixture could have gone either way in that last ten minutes; the side were put under immense pressure midway through the second half when Conor Whelan cut loose with a superb goal. Limerick were forced to come up with answers and they answered them with excellent cameos from Peter Casey, Aaron Gillane unerring on free taking and running lines and Cian Lynch providing leadership and game management from the middle third. Limerick’s conditioning was decisive but the closing minutes saw some terrible wides from the Shannonsiders and one would hope that their ability and composure to close out the fixture this weekend is much better.

Limerick need big performances from their senior hurling panel members. Tom Morrissey has all the attributes required to win this contest on his own; the Ahane man has to set the tone and example as captain, a couple of early possession wins and scores would be useful to Limerick. Cian Lynch, Kyle Hayes, Barry Nash, Peter Casey, Aaron Gillane and Colin Ryan need to start on the front foot. It is an intriguing contest. Both sides are not the finished article. Limerick have played in flashes throughout. Kilkenny’s path to the final has being overshadowed by mitigating factors; they are an excellent side but will they stand up to the pressure of the final. A big day for both counties; a win for either will increase confidence for potential senior hurling success in the years to come. Slight edge to Limerick given their path to the final but this is a strong Kilkenny side and their outing last day out will have done them few favors. Eddie Brennan and management will need to think fast if issues are apparent early; hard to change the side given their dominance against Derry but will they use recent training games to name the side? Uncertainty on team selection from Kilkenny is a factor in siding with Limerick but this will be a close affair.


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