Expect fireworks in Cork cauldron
By Tony Considine
At least this weekend the GAA got things right fixing the Leinster semi-final this afternoon and the Munster semi-final tomorrow.
I can guarantee you, you’ll have a lot of people who will travel to both Portlaoise and to Cork for two mouthwatering clashes.
Well done to the Leinster Council in particular for playing the minor game (between the same two teams, Dublin and Kilkenny) before the senior match. That policy was always a tradition of the GAA which gave supporters an opportunity to see the new generation of talent and I think it’s a tradition the GAA should return to.
We’ll look at the Leinster semi-final first. This game has been talked up since the draw was made last October. But ultimately how serious is a loss for either side? I remember the late and great John Doyle saying, after the introduction of the back-door: “I’d have hated to go to bed on a Sunday night after beating Cork in the Munster championship, to wake up on the Monday and realise they were still in the All-Ireland!”
If Kilkenny lose today they are still in an All-Ireland quarter-final — who would want to meet them? I think though that regardless of that, Dublin really want to win this game, they need to win a Leinster title. So this is a much bigger game for Dublin than it is for Kilkenny. There were lots of excuses made for Dublin last year with all their injuries (not by their management though, let me stress) and that’s always the way when a team is beaten. But only for the injuries Kilkenny had in 2010 would we be saying they were going for seven All-Ireland titles in a row? You don’t hear much about that though, and certainly not from the Kilkenny camp.
Dublin do have Conal Keaney, Tomás Brady and Stephen Hiney back for this weekend though, and these are three big, strong players.
The thing is though, it’s not enough to just outmuscle Kilkenny, you also have to outhurl them, which is never an easy thing to do.
It is necessary however to be able to stand up to them, and if Michael Fennelly doesn’t play, he’s going to be a huge loss to Kilkenny.
Then you look at the lads Kilkenny are bringing through and they’re not lacking in physicality either — look at that full-forward on the U21 team on Wednesday night, Walter Walsh. A giant, yet also he has all the basics. Is there no end to that conveyor belt of talent? Barry Kelly is going to have some challenge on his hands, because this is going to be some first 20 minutes. How will it end though? I think Kilkenny are still the better hurlers and will be too good in the end.
To Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday, and no matter what people say about Leinster and the new rivalry, this is the game of the weekend.
Cork-Tipp in Munster has an aura about it that separates it from anything else in the GAA, hurling or football, in any province.
Cork or Thurles in June, the thousands from both counties, the tae and sandwiches from the boot of the car, the walk from the square in Thurles or down to the river in Cork — you just can’t beat this day for atmosphere, and definitely the biggest crowd of the weekend will be in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
What kind of a game can we expect? A humdinger anyway, between two teams who have a little bit to prove about themselves. Tipp lost to Cork in the league semi-final, Cork were then well beaten by Kilkenny in the final — I don’t think we saw either show their full hands in those games.
Cork have made six changes from that loss to Kilkenny, and I think every change is a positive. Anthony Nash especially, with those huge puckouts, and Darren Sweetnam in midfield is a strong and powerful player even if he has just finished his Leaving Cert. I also think that Tom Kenny, brilliant and all a midfielder as he was for Cork for years, is finally in his best position, at wing-back.
What I like about the Cork forwards is that they’re so fast, with great movement. What I don’t like about them is that when things aren’t going right, they seem to opt out. There’s no doubting their skill or ability but they must understand that not every ball is going to be put on a plate for them.
Tipperary have two players starting who are crucial to their cause and that’s Shane McGrath in midfield and Bonner Maher up front.
Bonner makes the Noel McGraths of this world look great, and speaking of Noel, he needs to come up with a big game tomorrow.
A winner — any team that can have Eoin Kelly, Lar Corbett and Seamus Callanan on the bench must be good.
If their inside defence is up to scratch, they’ll win.
In the two qualifier games, if Limerick and Wexford don’t win here, they’re going nowhere, and fast.
Overall, while we had a lot of excitement last week, this week we’ll have excitement and a far higher standard of hurling.Home