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A double semifinal bill holds obvious attraction. Close to fifteen thousand were drawn to the Stadium last Sunday, a decent enough crowd in the context of live TV and current household economics. Their reward was success for the favourites - if they were of Tipp. or Cats affiliation. For Dublin or Galway the course of events have ominous early signals of assured and heavy disappointment. The first game ran promptly Tipp’s way, the second gave brief illusion of a Galway challenge, soon and severely to be quashed. Everybody likes to win, but all contests need that touch of prolonged tension. The final, though, is apt to be, or is hoped to be, of a different order. Nowlan Park on May 5th is the return for May 3rd 2009 at the Stadium. We lost that in extra time.
Looking at the demolition of Dublin I was reminded of a Nenagh meeting in 2007, the last game of a group in which the Dubs had done well enough to raise their profile into competitive category against the stronger counties. So what was the result? Tipp. by fifteen points, precisely as on Sunday. Which, not to be unkind, seems an index of brittleness in the metropolitan psyche. They are entitled, of course, to a degree of sympathy for facing Tipp. on our patch and for being hit soon and often into a position of obvious hopelessness, having to hurl a long seventy minutes with only a slight touch of pride to keep them going. A rebound against Wexford in the Leinster championship is next on their agenda, while the fact of League promotion is a help to dented morale. As to Tipp’s next outing it’s both an opportunity and a threat. If we don’t rise to the ultimate challenge all the classy hurling which decorated the stroll on Sunday will count for little. The Cats will be all out to put us in our place in their place, if you get what I mean!
If Daly lacked Paul Ryan - of Ballycahill connections - we were missing both Mullinahone men, Paul Curran and Eoin Kelly also Conor O’Brien and John O’Brien. The listed placing of Padraig Maher at full back seemed questionable - recall Cork in 2010 and the early shift to left half? He needs room for full scope to cover and clear from half back. The “full” berth reduces his territory and it deprives the side of his attacking clearances and placements. So one was pleased to see him outside and Conor O’Mahony inside, after all, the Newport player was full back as a minor. Curran’s return to fitness will probably see both Curran and Padraig restored to half back as usual. At the other end Pa Bourke’s nominal full forward left ample options and switching with Seamus Callanan - and so it turned out, to Dublin’s devastation. The towering Drom-Inch forward vied with Padraig Maher and Shane Bourke for “Man of the Match”. A further item of interest was the deployment of Noel McGrath at midfield, a placing sure to bring him more into the picture than some of his inside berths had done. Ditto as to Lar Corbett’s outside role on the “forty”. Young Forde was an interesting promotion, well justified by his various contributions.
The contest wasn’t entitled to that term. It was akin to an Honours candidate given a Pass paper in the Leaving Cert. Advance, and I suppose cautionary, belief that we might have problems with a Dublin side buoyed up by promotion. Previous meetings were there to be cited against over confidence. Tipp. played to town - and went to town against a defence unable to come to grips with our fluent attack, ample time and room created. In ten minutes we had Seamus Bourke’s instant goal and “Bonner’s” persistent advance for a similar finish, plus three white flags. The accumulation reached eleven minor scores before Callanan rammed in a pre break penalty for the third goal. At 3-11 to 0-8 all was thoroughly settled - one wondered what Anthony would find to say to his bewildered brigade, except attempt a better impact on resumption.
This, to a modest extent as through Sutcliffe at wing forward, O’Callaghan and Treacy inside, they did. No goal came their way and the eight points secured were matched by the runaway leaders - Callanan’s from right wing maybe the best - before the exercise ended on a note that “put the tin hat” on the losers’ unhappy day. ‘Keeper Nolan had his throw up to strike tapped into the net by substitute Michael Heffernan, leaving the margin at a point per man. We had used five reserves, and none, out of necessity. The departing Michael Cahill, Shane McGrath, Lar Corbett, Padraig Maher and Shane Bourke were appreciatively clapped to their positions on the bench. There’ll be no such luxury in the final, for which this was no test whatever but an unhindered exhibition of skilled control, combination and finishing. We were ready for better than was offered against us. Competition for forward spots has been sharpened by the rise in Shane Bourke’s rating and by the impact of Jason Forde. Noel McGrath may well be left at midfield and Brendan Maher at wing back. The “forty” seemed to suit Lar Corbett quite well.
The second game would surely compensate for the one way first. Such hopes got prompt support by Donnellon’s breach of the Cats’ defence for a 1-1 v nil opening chapter. Kilkenny had begun their innings before the unfortunate, and at the time, alarming injury to Fergal Moore - better news was very welcome in the aftermath - and they carried on after the long hiatus. Eoin Larkin’s dead eye marksmanship from frees was a main resource. Goalie Callanan averted worse with a terrific stretch to stop Richie Power’s shot, Lester Ryan, most promising of recruits, not only took personal flags but led up to Colin Fennelly’s third quarter goal.
The Cats never let their margin shrink by more than one point thereafter and all Galway’s energy in pursuit availed them not at all. Seven up was kind to the losers at the end, who kept trying to add to their early goal but never did against a defence in which Eoin Murphy has by now established himself between the posts. J.J. Delaney’s full back play was a flawless performance. We’ll travel in full awareness of the holders’ quality.
The Mid’s losers section has Sarsfields against the Brackens - a third defeat in a row hardly thinkable vis-a-vis the Blues. Neighbours and old rivals Holycross and Boherlahan are the other issue on the menu - not a lot of evidence exists about the likely outcome here. The “Abbeysiders” to borrow a Dungarvan tag, may just get there, having done reasonably against the ‘Church while Boherlahan suffered heavily against Moycarkey-Borris.