1. Counting, counting, counting.
If you had black and amber on your back Sunday in Croke Park you probably experienced the unusual sensation of steam exiting your ears when Wexford won that crucial penalty late on in the Leinster hurling final.
Wexford’s Rory O’Connor headed for the Canal End goal — has the expression ‘pinning his ears back’ ever been more apposite, helmet or not? — and in a last, despairing effort Enda Morrissey of Kilkenny hauled him down. Stonewall penalty, though Cats supporters were unhappy with the number of steps O’Connor took on his travels.
Still, even those diehard Kilkenny fans may remember another game with Wexford when one of their forwards took quite a few steps bearing down on the same end of the ground before kicking a game-turning goal.
DJ in 1991, Rory in 2019. What goes around comes around. Eventually.
2. Learning on the job.
Experience keeps a dear school yet fools will learn in no other. Even allowing for the hyperbole — that ‘fools’ is very harsh, no? — a couple of teams absorbed lessons over the weekend that a hundred training sessions couldn’t teach.
Both Kilkenny and Armagh had chances to squeeze out a result in their respective Championship games but didn’t manage their opportunities well enough. That’s something for both teams to consider and assimilate rather than their managers. Armagh, of course, will have to wait until next year rolls around to put those lessons into practice, but Kilkenny only have a fortnight before another opportunity rolls around, when they’ll face either Cork or Westmeath.
Will their approach be slightly different on July 13th as a result of what they learned on June 30th?
It’s a long, long time since Wexford won a Leinster minor hurling title, but I can date it perfectly. It was the same summer I did my leaving certificate, which puts it around the early Cretaceous (a few lads from our school were on the Cork side which won that minor All-Ireland title, which makes it even more resonant. What? Stop, I was nowhere near that for God’s sake).
Anyway, it means Wexford collected senior and minor provincial titles in the same year — the one afternoon — which gives the whole enterprise a lift.
This is not to say that Wexford are building an impregnable dynasty and will harvest half a dozen seniors from that minor side. If they do, fine; if they get two seniors from the team, great; but as an endorsement of the tireless, unseen work being done in the county it’s priceless, and gives a boost to those doing that work which will energise all concerned for another couple of seasons at least.
4. Levels of football.
This has been a vexed question for quite a while, the number of evenly-balanced football contests at intercounty level, and a few blow-outs at Super 8 level last year made the matter all the more pressing.
For that reason, will this weekend be the most competitive football weekend until the All-Ireland semi-finals, and possibly beyond even that?
The match-ups are enough to get the most jaded football supporter’s pulse racing precisely because they’re so well matched: Mayo v Galway and Tyrone v Cavan are top attractions in anyone’s language. Four evenly matched sides, all of whom have ambitions for a long summer; all of them happy enough to crush the opposition’s ambitions while they’re at it.
Anthony Daly reviews the hurling weekend with Brian Hogan, TJ Ryan and
Ger Cunningham. In association with Renault - car partners of the GAA.
The other two games, Cork v Laois and Meath v Clare, also feature four sides who will be optimistic and realistic at the same time. None of these four will be fearful of the opposition, and all will see next weekend’s game as a golden opportunity to make the Super 8s. What more could you ask for?
5. A full house.
It’s funny that there isn’t a GAA ground in the country which is universally accepted, unless it’s the revered Semple Stadium. Apart from that venue, someone will always have an issue with a particular pitch because of access/traffic/bad associations/poor food/a hammering in the distant past.
And yet, and yet: there was something special about the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday not just because of the hurling, but because it was almost full.
Nowadays people (understandably) husband their resources in going to so many games and the opportunities to experience a full house are rarer and rarer, so Sunday was all the more rewarding as a result. The heat, the noise, the atmosphere created by over 40,000 people made a great afternoon a fantastic occasion.
Traffic’s still terrible, though . . .