County Awaits Reaction To Reverse
The fall-out from our Croke Park downfall has been in proportion to the size of the deficit - extreme in tone and content. The fact of defeat, though, ought not, I suggest, have been a huge shock to any realist. We all have a duty to make optimistic sounds in advance of any test - no way can one be discouraging. But the available evidence ahead of the game was clear enough - Tipp. would need a very sizeable step-up on the year’s form to cope with a Kilkenny who were hardly going to be short of motivation or of their best resources in bidding to avert a second reverse in the same season. The loss to Galway wasn’t about to indicate any real erosion of their known and oft-proven quality.
To be more specific, how many of our players had been showing top personal form as compared to the heights reached in the 2010 All-Ireland? Right through the field, the answer was - scarcely anybody. Line after line, there was good cause for worry at lack of individual flair and leadership such as surprised and baffled the Cats on that occasion. I refrain from quoting names, but the general slippage would have to be radically reversed - such was our fervent hope, that the big day would produce something special in face of the obvious threat. It didn’t, or at least have enough sustained resistance to survive the Cats second half offensive.
A parallel with 2003 is quite exact, even to the extent of having been champions two years earlier and of meeting Kilkenny in a semi-final. Then, as on August 19th, we led at half time, by two points, actually. I quote my own words in reporting the sequel - “the closeness for forty minutes was a fading memory”.
Eddie Brennan, pounced, as Aidan Fogarty did, for a crucial goal and on the Cats surged to score 27 to our 0-2 in the final half hour. Walsh and Shefflin were the predecessors of Larkin and Reid in wrap up goals. So you see that our current woes had prior pedigree in second half collapse.
The repercussions nine years ago were led by a change in the management. Michael Doyle, Kevin Fox and Liam Sheedy gave way to Ken Hogan, Jack Bergin and Colm Bonnar, after just one year in office. The brevity of their term owed much, it seemed, to discontent among their players. Is the wheel to come full circle in that regard? Somewhat of a campaign by no means pleasantly expressed was waged by other sources to put pressure on the incumbents.
There’s no doubt that strange thinking was behind our forward deployment. One has never heard over all the years of a team’s set up being designed to restrict the role of an opposing defender and that by denying room or space to one of our own attackers. If Lar was to stay close to Tommy, wasn’t the converse equally true? The claim that it “worked” for half the game relied on good fortune in escaping at least another goal and in securing a handy one of our own. The signs of defensive problems did not wait till the second period at all. Just as hard to fathom was the mis-use of “Bonnar” Maher, whose typical style, missed while he was out with injury, wasn’t exploited when he was available.
Everything was, of course, well intended, but the logic lacked sense. Such allegations as having a scheme to get Tommy sent off only occur to imaginative minds - all the excited reactions haven’t been on our side. The chaotic and widespread confrontations all over the place from the start were reflections of both tension and desire to gain a moral advantage - they were also quite stupid and no credit to either group. One’s heart sank to witness the scenes of contention - was this the show piece of our great game?
Normally, a CV of two Munster championships would see the mentors with a respectable record - time was when it would be quite adequate for re-appointment. Defeats by so powerful a rival as Kilkenny would not be counted as huge discredit. But the tactical aspects last Sunday week and the dire eventual drubbing - embarrassment, more like - have had a terminal flavour. Carrying on in charge would not be a congenial mandate in these negative circumstances.
The semi-final had seemed to be receding into history quietly enough as regards comment from either camp. Rather surprisingly, though, Brian Cody has been in on the blame game with full endorsement of his own side and by inference and even more plainly, attribution of all to Tipperary. I’ve heard of sore losers but sour winners are more unusual. A big issue has been made of Michael Rice’s injury. A hand injury caused by one hurley running up another is a hazard of hurling.
There is not necessarily calculation or deliberation involved in the furious pace of exchanges. Of course, if you show it in slow motion it can appear to be less than instantaneous. Padraig Maher’s record, from juvenile up, is one of honest endeavour, with nothing remotely vicious in his approach. To have him tagged otherwise is way out of order. Claims of complete innocence may be smart pre-final tactics for Brian but, please, not at our expense. He’s seen injuries to county players in his own club games, too, with no Tippman in sight.
With good - or maybe bad - timing up comes another Tipp. v Cats issue at Semple Stadium next Saturday. The Intermediate grade doesn’t have the profile of the other three but has to be worth winning, especially by us after the major disappointment. The minors, of course, are a focus of main hope for compensation. I presume that Kilkenny, like Tipp. are entitled to field senior club players who have not played at the highest level in inter-county championships - Cork, rather oddly, were limited to purely club material. We looked a very capable side at Pairc Ui Chaoimh and ought now have a decent chance.
I voted for Holycross last Saturday evening ahead of the Under 21 double bill at the Stadium, in which Kilkenny made a moral point over Galway vis-a-vis the main target - again showing goal flair. The ‘Church were odds on to survive the relegation stakes over newly promoted and more football oriented Aherlow. The Glensmen did not succumb early and held the Mid men at bay quite well for most of the first period, even having the temerity to record the first goal as a wake up call to the uplanders. This the favourites did through Greene with a flag of his own colour emphatically gained in building a five up at the break. From this launching pad they pushed on smoothly to an increasing margin, enjoying the welcome sunshine as senior status was assured. Anything else would have been way out of line for a club that has competed well for several seasons, if remaining just below the leading three in the Division. This year’s prospects, of course, were reduced by loss of players - Pat Shortt made the trip from “down under” to help in averting the drop in hurling’s order of precedence. A new goalie in Ciaran of the same clan drew praise for a terrifically athletic stop in the last quarter.
The O’Riain trophy isn’t the biggest thing going but for the second year in a row Moycarkey-Borris wound up their season in possession of the Cup. Like the relegation issue, this one has been concluded well ahead of last year’s and both the ‘Church and the red - and - yellow have ended on a note of relief. Not that Boherlahan will be unduly disturbed, though it had been expected to be a tighter duel between two of hurling’s original strongholds. The winners loosened up to put in a crisp and bright second period as Doran and Carey goals stretched them well clear. Rory Ryan clinched it firmly with a later three pointer. They’ll hope for a more helpful draw when next year’s groups are identified. Some of the younger element, like Power, Molloy and Bracken are coming along promisingly.
Clonoulty’s West monopoly was undisturbed by Anacarty in the final at Golden, they’ll again be eager contenders on the wider scene. Nor did Drom-Inch show any negative reaction to their Mid reverse in readily out-pointing Burgess in Dolla, where Kildangan took the all North clash with Templederry - former county minor goalie and later forward Daragh Egan showed stopping flair between the posts. Borris had no problem with Cappawhite in the mid week county game.