Back to the scene of our sorrow but stick-less for another All-Ireland final. This minor climax will have even the dyed-in-the-wool ash fraternity glued to the screen or occupying H.Q. seats. On the home front, the weekend has four Divisional runner-ups coming into the next round of the County series - draws made on last Monday night. Sarsfields continued their recovery campaign with a facile win over the ‘Church at the Ragg, where Nenagh took the tussle of the two Eire Og’s. Brackens progressed over Davins on Saturday and will play Borrisoleigh under Stadium lights this Wednesday. The South picture became clearer with Mullinahone’s success against Swans - the final with Davins upcoming. In the O’Riain competition Moycarkey-Borris are into the final, to meet Moneygall or Knockavilla. Relegation lies between Borrisokane and the losers of Ballybacon and Cashel.
I suppose there’s not a lot to be said at this stage about our loss of the All-Ireland title - only wince and bear it. Reaction is always critical in the wake of failure and the case is no different in this sad instance. However, it did appear to feature a good deal of unease, ahead of the game, about the relative ratings of candidates on field and bench. Some surprising choices were certainly made. On the day itself, somehow ownership of the crown appeared more of a mental burden than inspiration. The negative start was all too similar to the way we got stuck in traps in the 2008 loss to Waterford The drift of early play stemmed mainly from lack of either possession or effective hampering at half forward and midfield. We actually out scored Kilkenny by a point the rest of the way from five down.
Dublin have suffered two heavy defeats in hurling so they’ll be all out to do better in Sunday’s football. Kerry will be at the shorter odds in senior and probably Dublin in the minor on account of home venue and loud support. In Tipp’s rare appearances we’ve lost to the Dubs in 1955 and 1984 - the Cemetery year Dublin’s last victory in the grade. So at least they have no recent prominence or quota of medal holders. The size of the occasion, the crowd - apt to swell earlier than is usual - and the prospect of a great breakthrough will test the nerves of our youths, but they’ve stood up to the pressure round by round through the championship. They’ve been methodical and well drilled, Power-driven, so to speak! Victory would resound through the football world. Best of luck to them.
For a second Sunday in a row, Padraig and Lar faced stripey opposition in Sars’ game with the ‘Church - Michael missed out, as did Kevin O’Gorman. No problems arose at the Ragg in a game that revealed its shape in a hurry through Corbett’s instant recovery of goal touch for a prompt pair. Church resistance, their losses in personnel outnumbering the Blues’ absences was led by James Barry and produced a mini rally of some well struck points. For a time the need to pace Padraig Maher seemed to deprive Sars of some forward possession but soon Stephen Lillis was filling in well at centre. A Pa Bourke low drive, akin to Tipp’s solitary goal, effectively banished all idea of something close. Worse still for the uplanders was the dismissal of Paul Ryan, doubled by that of L.J. in the second period. Richie Ruth was certainly the main agent in the topping up of an already adequate margin. The ‘Church, in current circumstances, had no hope at all of repeating their achievement of two years back, and the Blues move on in defence of their title. Nenagh took till the last five minutes to put Anacarty positively away in the earlier contest.
Moycarkey-Borris reversed their Mid group result on Saturday evening with a second half assumption of superiority at Holycross. Getting into the O’Riain final will offer the incentive of appearing on the County’s highest profile programme. Moneygall, winners over Brendan Cummins’ side, meet Knockavilla in the semifinal and would be very appropriate contenders for the trophy named for the late, illustrious Seamus.
The format of the National League, apparently decided on a Council vote, remains a contentious issue. More than that, it has led to a mini-revolt which was an expression of discontent among many counties. On Wednesday of last week an emergency meeting took place in Thurles, with eight counties to be attending. As things turned out, Galway could not be present on account of a domestic session.
All this seems slightly peculiar. It suggests that some counties weren’t as vocal as they might have been when the unpopular decision was made, and only later realised the shortcomings of confining League title ambition to a mere half dozen counties. Most vexed of all would surely be Limerick. Having won promotion on May 1st they find themselves excluded from the elite six and left to battle for a lesser prize. A second proposal which would have linked two groups in semifinals would have made better sense but it didn’t succeed.
One hears that the votes of basically football counties had a big influence in defeating it. A third proposal would have left matters as they were last time - eight counties with just a final for the top two - the mood was against this.
Why the adopted system? It amounts to a “premiership” of the leaders in the current order of merit. The thinking appears to have been swayed by the probability of maximum gates in these games, but at the cost of excluding the presumed second echelon, Limerick, Clare, Wexford, Offaly, Laois in that category. Which, of course, deprives these of having a crack at the ‘big boys’, and their followers of such an attraction. Personally, I would argue for two groups with all twelve counties split on a level basis, not packing Kilkenny, Tipp, Dublin, Waterford, Galway and Cork together in one package. The case for restoring semifinals is overwhelming, they made a fine K.O. programme. Up the rebels who seek a re-think!
County managers have been falling like nine-pins. “Sits. Vac.” have multiplied among the counties which employed external bosses. The traditional Big Three, of course, sternly resist imports. Davy left Waterford, pleading the stress of travel as a big factor, it was hardly the only one - the obvious thing is lack of confidence in any great improvement in championship prospects. Less predictably, Donal O’Grady called time on Limerick, that brief spell apparently all he bargained for. “Sparrow” O’Loughlin quit in Clare, having done reasonably well with current resources in a county of promising youth. John McIntyre’s Galway future is under review by the clubs, Anthony Cunningham’s Saturday All-Ireland may recommend him for the senior role. One positive in-comer has been Jimmy Barry-Murphy in Cork, famous, respected name ready for a belated come-back. Such second terms are dubious as one deals with a new generation of players - we in Tipp know plenty about that. The tendency is for departures to become arrivals in managerial circles, with reluctance to get off the lucrative carousel. Limerick would be a tempting post for Fitzgerald, shorter journey involved. Clare would be shorter still Donal O’Grady has been mentioned in theoretical talk as a potential successor to Frank Murphy at the official helm in Cork. May be nothing in that.