See what Culbaire has to say about the All-Ireland senior hurling final replay and the County SHC ties.
An inter divisional County final always has wider appeal than one monopolised by a pair from the same region. We are assured of the more desirable variety on October 13th after Loughmore Castleiney sustained Mid involvement by holding out successfully against a late Borrisoleigh thrust. The North’s representative, though, has still to be established. Eire Og Nenagh had appeared certainties to go through when surging three goals up on Kildangan but have to restart from scratch next Sunday. The North champions snatched an unlikely draw to repeat the result of a group game earlier in the year. Like all people of hurling attachment, we in Tipp. watched another Croke Park spectacular with admiration of a goal strewn All-Ireland replay as the youthful panache of the Banner took a brilliant title to complete the senior - Under 21 double. Cross Shannon congrats are very much in order.
Morning’s sunny brightness had given way to growing overcast dimness by the time the semifinals got going at the Stadium, the artificial aid of the multiple lights was certainly required for the second portion of the double header. A reasonable good crowd of over four thousand turned up, quite a few were seen to depart ahead of the final whistle when Nenagh took an apparent winning lead which ultimately proved to be inadequate. News of the draw would have come as a surprise to the premature leavers, the outcome a particular drop for any presumptuous followers of the light blues.
A less successful rally belonged to Borrisoleigh, five adrift twice in the last quarter. In a game of no exalted standard of play, the interim situated left all to hurl for at one up to the Mid side, whose goal by Cian Hennessy drew the loudest cheer of the half. The lodgment had seemed improbable but John McGrath had the vision to supply Liam McGrath on the left to transfer to the scorer at the Killinan end. The three pointer edged them ahead as a retort to a Borrisoleigh recovery from a previous early deficit. The minimal advantage at the break grew to five and apparent control till a Kinane goal from a close in rack led up to restoration of the one point gap after three quarters. The time factor injected greater urgency to the contest and a rise in tempo with Loughmore showing sharper reaction and better combination. Their serious state on the board then had Borrisoleigh moving Brendan Maher to full forward. The unorthodox ploy paid no immediate dividend but his was forthcoming when the Tipp. star beat the keeper’s advance to a dropping ball for a goal which left the issue uncertain at a margin of only two. Brendan had a fleeting chance of a rescuing goal close to the last whistle. Not to be, and “Borris” had failed to exploit their first semi-final in over twenty years. Loughmore, though, have the big day ahead of them. Who would have visualised it after their Mid final drubbing? Still, it has to be acknowledged that last Sunday had them in more characteristic competitive mood. An advance on that may give them a decent chance of regaining 2007 status against whoever it may be. John Meagher and Tom King were defensive leaders. They got a wide spread of flag raising out of the forwards, Noel McGrath getting plenty of support in that vital facet.
The all North second feature quickly showed itself to be of greater intensity than the opener. Close knit rivalry was at work with Kildangan taking an assertive approach in an effort to ruffle the more ball playing style of Eire Og. We saw a parallel to Clare v Cork in Daragh Egan’s Nash like goal after he had been beaten twice in about twenty minutes by Michael Heffernan. The Kildangan keeper’s excursion downfield yielded a similar response. The score signalled a spirited spell by his team mates to come within a single point at the break.
Egan’s next trip was less successful. Indeed he had hardly regained his regular post after failing to beat the massed defence when his own citadel fell for a fourth time and Heffernan’s third success, Paddy Murphy had got the other one in returning an Egan stop past Daragh as Nenagh were gaining a promising lead which grew to nine and a conclusive control - or so it seemed till security gave way to renewed doubt.
Joe Gallagher’s goal was the biggest dent in Nenagh command and confidence. Kildangan momentum enabled them to go on from there and wipe out the later three point margin. The final free gave Ruairi Gleeson an easy leveller. No question about it, Kildangan walked off the happier side, their tremendous recovery giving an moral advantage for next Sunday. Eire Og were up against a grittier opponent than they’d met from Mid or South in qualifying for the semi-final. The replay needs no boosting, last Sunday was sufficient advertisement of its potential to entertain.
The four All-Ireland titles for Munster, with Clare taking a marvellous double to be the county of the year. The Banner flies high indeed after an amazing season. Some thought Davy Fitzgerald making a move from Waterford to his native Clare was leaving the somewhat promising portfolio. Senior impact had been weak for several seasons. But minor and Under 21 material was of a different stamp, though considered too immature to show quick senior potential. Right now, Banner stock has soared. If they could take two national titles in three weeks, what may lie ahead? Their present joy is plenty for the moment. They have given fresh impetus to the code of hurling and shaken up what for so long had been largely a Kilkenny hegemony with some Tipp. intrusion at All-Ireland level and stronger hand in Munster. The “hurling is dying” school of thought has never been sillier, what a mighty spectacle the colourful crowding of Croke Park and the repeated extraordinary fluctuations of the two encounters. The Banner’s senior title will be of historic character. Will we be forgiven a little Tipp. claim to interest in Conor McGrath’s pounce for the goal that reversed Cork’s race to parity - the “Toome” background worth mention? The O’Donnell triple impact of goals justified a choice, modestly I say! - hinted at here a week back. What a riddling of a Cork defence exposed by ample well judged diagonal strokes and well supplied by a rampant Clare defence in building a lead that looked quite adequate till Cork, in spells preceding and following the break, gallantly overhauled. The energy expanded, however, left them open to the Banner’s retort. The Rebels’ fate was eventually sealed by the extraordinary fifth goal that somehow emerged from Honan’s end line advance. In retrospect, Clare will forever thank O’Donovan for the September 8th equaliser while Cork will wonder how they failed to kill the final seconds and retain their lead. Some doubted that Clare could reproduce their initial display. They did better, both in their early blitz and in their rebound from getting pulled back to equality. Interest will be huge in the 2014 draws to be made this Thursday on RTE Two. Credit Clare for the added profile of what emerges.