Mid Have Strong Hand In Final Four

Mid Have Strong Hand In Final Four

Plenty to anticipate. Our minors’ bid to improve on their draw with Dublin is an obvious main focus. Like the rest of the hurling world, we’ll also pay keen attention to the Kilkenny v Galway replay. The fifth Sunday in September will be a rare and rivetting occasion at Croke Park. On the local front the Quarter-finals at the weekend have given Mid a strong hand in the semi-finals on October 7th and North no hand at all, for the second season in succession. The gallant intrusion of Anacarty into the equation is a piquant feature indeed.

The minors will have Tipp. followers early arrivals at the HQ. The local element will also be prompt through the stiles as Dublin, double losers a year ago, seek to achieve a more positive result this time. The sound victory of their young footballers has certainly got things off in that direction and will strengthen metropolitan confidence for this occasion. Eric Lowndes, Cormac Costello, Conor McHugh and Donal Gormley will be seeking personal doubles on Shay Boland’s side after shining for Dessie Farrell.

Tipp. seem likely to field as before - Thomas Hamill of Killea expected to be fit for centre back after missing a club game in the meantime. It was he who was questionably penalised for Paul Winters levelling late free. That indecisive outcome did not flatter a strong, physical but also skilful Dublin who had Tipp. well short of semi-final fluency for most of the game, especially as regards attacking moves.

John McGrath’s 1-11 from placed balls is ample evidence, all our three substitutions were up front. A more or less gift penalty from the Dublin ‘keeper gave John McGrath a steadying goal after a very ominous start to the game, and Mark McCarthy’s was vital in the recovery to lead with time running out. The ref had been quite kind to us but found reason to give Dublin the crucial equaling award, so its back to slips, square one and all that. Tipp. beat Galway in the last replayed final, with coach William Maher the Captain - hopefully, it’ll be an omen, but there’s no basis for expecting Dublin to be any less of an obstacle this time, their many merits still there and, if anything, more optimism in the camp. All of which should alert our mentors and their chosen youths to a better start and, hopefully, the desired outcome to an extended campaign.

Interest in the seniors has, if anything, intensified over the lengthy interim. The publicity generated by Joe Canning’s remarks kept the pot boiling in the immediate aftermath. This has died down but has to be in the background even if Brian Cody moved to placate all sides, asserting mutual respect between Joe and Henry and no big issue arising. Anthony Cunningham managed to turn his player’s comments into positive praise of the “King”, convincing few, I’d say, of the validity of the claim. Certainly, Canning standing over his first free on Sunday will be the focus of mixed feelings from the fans!

So, can Galway avert a balancing of the year’s books by the Cats? A win and a draw against them testifies to Galway quality and, more so, their mental steadiness. The surprise factor has long gone and Kilkenny will not be over confident to the extent of presuming command about to be reclaimed. Their attacking unit, so rampant in the last passages of the semi-final, was not allowed such room or time by the Tribesmen’s defence. To a degree amazing at this stage of his illustrious career the side relied on the leadership of Shefflin in meeting the challenge. Replays have a habit of falling short of the original but this one promises better than that. The result? a Galway win would be epic and rate top of the county’s achievements for the height of the final hurdle. Somehow, I don’t feel convinced.

The vital ingredient in any match is prolonged tension. Neither in the fading natural light nor in the illuminated Stadium did the four games at the weekend yield much uncertainty as to who would come through.

The Mid trio were obvious favourites and still stand. The fourth contest may have had Portroe as nominally fancied for North title ownership but no relative form was available vis-a-vis Anacarty. Events proved the idea erroneous and Eire Og, to widespread surprise, have outlived Clonoulty-Rossmore, their West conquerors and regular candidates at this stage. Only one Divisional champion side carries on after North, South and West winners made their exit. Sarsfields alone survive. Drom-Inch, finding tempo at the right time, made perhaps the best impression of all four winners.

Maybe the peak of audience reaction in the Loughmore v Mullinahone opener came when Eoin Kelly goaled his second “21” on the brink of the break. With the low, glaring sun as an ally he beat the line of defenders for a second time, must have made the backmen recall Pa Bourke’s Mid final strikes against them in Templemore! The sun promptly disappeared as the sides trooped off, but without its aid the Mid side confined the leaders to a meagre four points the rest of the way. Despite general control, though, as Mullinahone lost shape, the game took a lot of wrapping up. Noel McGrath’s audible reaction to going four up indicated frustration at earlier missed chances by his side. Still, it was a somewhat more urgent showing than was the case against Sars in Mid.

Ideas that Clonoulty might avenge last year’s county final defeat were not soundly based - Joe Lupton’s two goals were the basis of nine up for the holders at half way and the final tally of 2-22 indicated a very sharp exhibition indeed. The class of Seamus Callanan was there to be seen, even if John O’Keeffe acquitted himself very well in fielding and striking on the losing side. Jimmy Maher in goal, lived up to his good name as recalling little Jimmy of Boherlahan, a shot-stopper for Tipp. in 1945 success.

If that game petered out, even more so did Sars v Kildangan on the next evening. Fifteen Thurles wides reflected a “whole lotta shooting going on”. It all began deceptively as Joe Gallagher left the defence trailing to beat McCormack right off. Here again a losing ‘keeper took the eye as Daragh Egan halted several drives with aplomb. Veteran Johnny Enright enjoyed a positive outing at midfield for the Blues, placing balls to all corners. Sars indeed put on a classy show of combination, given ample room to do so by an earnest but out matched Kildangan. Pa Bourke, Denis Maher and Aidan McCormack made the major incisions, supplemented by points in profusion.

Portroe did not “pull rank” against West runners-up Eire Og Anacarty, enjoying this prominence and now looking for a continuation, lived up to beating Borrisoleigh with an even more confident display this time to claim another North scalp. Tipp. Intermediate player Paudie O’Dwyer was a prime marksman, along with the tidy Ronan O’Dwyer. Their interim lead was never threatened and hopeful “Port” followers soon knew their fate. Goalie Darren Gleeson, though, re-affirmed his county panel class.

Late Mick Ryan

Sad to hear of the passing of a contemporary and a high class hurler. The upcoming Minor All-Ireland replay recalls to me our team of 1949 and the initial “Irish Press” Cup. Mick Ryan of Moyne-Templetuohy was at midfield in the win over Kilkenny. His later career took some unusual twists. The first was to play for Dublin in the 1950 minor campaign. He went on to hurl for Dublin seniors, one of his finest exhibitions was on a losing side at Nowlan Park. This got him a place on the Leinster team in the Railway Cup. It’s impossible to convey to modern readers the status a provincial “cap” gave one in that period - something of All-Star level but entailing genuine competition on Patrick’s Day before crowds that reached forty thousand or so. Mick won with Leinster in 1954 and, naturally, his quality attracted the attention of the Tipp. mentors. Thus he was back with Tipp. for the 1956 championship and his display in a narrow loss to Cork gained him a Munster place for the next Railway Cup. Again he was a winner. I know of few who lined out for both provinces and fewer still who won on each occasion.

Curiously enough, he was not on the Tipp. panel at all in 1958. From being on the province’s top fifteen in one season and not on his county’s a year later hardly made sense but that was the case. The story goes that our mentors, led by Paddy Leahy, took umbrage about Mick’s timing of a holiday early in ‘58. A great pity that he wasn’t involved in Tipp’s first All-Ireland in seven years. As a hurler he bubbled with energy, he was a champion cross country runner too, and his fair head drew added notice to his lively exertions. I last met him in Dungarvan a few years ago when he was at the Hurlers’ October golf gathering at the Gold Coast. To his wife Monica and family, my sympathy. The minute’s silence before the Stadium matches at the weekend was a merited gesture.