Firstly Lar na Pairce warmly congratulates Brian Cody and Kilkenny on winning last Sunday’s All Ireland Hurling Final replay.
This latest triumph gives the Cats their 34th title and puts them four ahead of Cork on the roll of honour.
From early on last Sunday it was obvious that Kilkenny had improved substantially from the drawn game and had figured out Galway’s game plan.
The changes they made – adverted to in this column last week- worked a treat with Richie Hogan in particular benefiting enormously from a move back to his favoured full forward line.
Cillian Buckley was very much at home in midfield while newcomer Walter Walsh was the ace in the pack scoring 1-3 and also winning the coveted ‘Man of the Match’ award.
However this scribe, who was present at the game, believes that this decision was based more on sentiment than anything else and felt that Paul Murphy was by far Kilkenny’s best performer, especially at a time when Galway threatened to build up a substantial lead during the first half.
Mention of Galway and the subsequent revelations that both Joe Canning and James Skehill were not 100 per cent fit highlights again the sheer stupidity of playing injured players in such a cauldron.
Canning was a pale shadow of his normal self and it beggars belief that an unfit player was asked to play a roving role when he should have been sited at the edge of the square where he would have done some damage.
In truth, Kilkenny, Murphy apart, were vulnerable here conceding three goals, lucky to see another blown back for a free, while Canning also rattled a post with Herrity beaten all ends up.
On another day that would have amounted to the concession of five goals and made for a most interesting finale.
However we must again mention the failure of Galway to come up with a new game plan when it was obvious that their system of playing just five forwards was not working.
Playing Canning in a withdrawn role and hoping to hit Kilkenny on the break did not really work and one could see the Cats growing in confidence as they time and again cleared their lines with aplomb.
It reminded this scribe of the 1986 final when Johnny Crowley was left unmarked and had the game of his life. For Crowley in ’86 read Paul Murphy in ’12 and nothing has changed.
Shefflin a true great
Kudos too to Henry Shefflin who now has won nine medals, all on the field and sits proudly as the only man in GAA history to do so.
He deserves every accolade bestowed upon him as he has been a marvellous servant to his native county and has dragged Kilkenny over the line on many occasions but none more pronounced than this year.
Although victorious we thought that Kilkenny had not the same verve and élan of old and were helped in no small way by Galway’s meltdown, both on and off the field. Galway need to learn and learn fast that any sign of weakness will be ruthlessly exposed at this level and failure to finish off teams when in front and on top will always come back to haunt you.
They have the talent but must marry it to ruthlessness and smart game management if they are to fulfil their potential.
For now Kilkenny bask in all the adulation received and with 34 titles they sit proudly atop the roll of honour.
Just seven short years ago they were two behind Cork but have won 6 of the last 7 titles while the Rebels have failed to register a single win in that time.
Kilkenny will aim to win another three in a row next year but methinks that Father Time has caught up with a number of their players and a fallow period may await them.
However similar sentiments were espoused just two-years-ago and we all know what happened since then.
For now suffice to say that all counties will harbour thoughts of dethroning them but only a handful have the necessary ability to do so, chief among them being Tipp whose minors looked outstanding in disposing of Dublin in the replayed final and who with Eamonn O’Shea at the helm will believe they have the tools for the job.
We will wait and see.
Bandon v Ballinhassig
On Sunday in Pairc Ui Chaoimh Bandon will attempt to win the premier intermediate hurling championship when they face Ballinhassig.
Victory will see the Lilywhites regain their senior status just 12 months after winning the intermediate title.
Their clash with Ballinhassig evokes memories of the 1971 junior final when the Carbery lads triumphed before three years later winning the intermediate title and with it promotion to the senior championship.
Both sides have been very impressive in their respective campaigns to date with Bandon enjoying good wins over Aghabullogue, Castlelyons, Carrigaline and Youghal with their closet call coming against Castlelyons when they had a point to spare.
Otherwise they were relatively untroubled as their goal scoring ability propelled them to comfortable victories. Ballinhassig meanwhile defeated Mallow, Newcestown, Ballyhea and Inniscarra with Newcestown pushing them all the way to lose by the narrowest margin.
On Sunday I expect Bandon, powered by the Crowley brothers, Mark Sugrue, Donagh Lucey, James O’Donovan and goalie James McSweeney to prevail against a Carrigdhoun side that will look to Martin Coleman, the O’Sullivan’s, Lombard’s and Danny O’Callaghan, for inspiration.
A repeat of ’71 is predicted with Bandon proudly taking their place in next year’s senior draw.
Sarsfields v Bishopstown
The senior final sees Sarsfields take on Bishopstown in a unique pairing.
The ‘Town’ appearing in their inaugural final will be rank outsiders and while they have defied the odds all season will probably find Sars too hot to handle.
Favourites since the outset, Sars, have been relatively unscathed and will be hoping to win a 3rd title in recent years. They will more than likely oblige.
The O’Driscoll brothers, Colm and Kevin, fresh from their exploits with Tadhg MacCarthaigh will line out with the city side and should they win, will become the first Caheragh lads to win county senior hurling medals.
O’Donovan Rossa v Duhallow
Meanwhile on Saturday evening O’Donovan Rossas attempt to qualify for their first senior football final since 1994 when they face Duhallow in Pairc Ui Rinn.
Rossas will enter the game in a confident frame of mind following their dismissal of last season’s semi finalists, Avondhu, last time out and with Donal Og Hodnett, recently voted Munster U21 Player of the Year, in scintillating form will be confident of advancing.
Duhallow will look to inter county men, Donnacha O’Connor and Aidan Walsh to inspire them but club commitments may militate against them.
Having drawn with Dohenys and only defeating them following an extra time win in the replay, a side that Rossas easily disposed of in the first round we believe that Duhallow swill have it all to do to make the final.
We expect Rossas to be celebrating on Saturday evening
Finally Clonakilty won the South West Junior Hurling title following a tremendously exciting extra time win over Dohenys in Newcestown last Saturday.
They now face Kilbrin in Cloughdubh on Saturday in the county series.
Added significance was added to the Clon/Dohenys game as it proved to be Darren Sweetnam’s final hurling game prior to committing his sporting future to rugby as he signed a three-year contract with the Munster Development squad.