Dubs can take a bow after hurling heroics

IT WAS a brilliant weekend for hurling and a dreadful one for football.

Let’s forget about the football, then, and concentrate on one of the best weekends ever for the game of hurling. For once, both the Munster and much-maligned Leinster hurling championship produced the goods in spades and in scores.

Pride of place must go to the Dubs, who showed nerves of steel and great skill in qualifying for their first Leinster final in 18 years. No wonder former champion hurler, Sean Óg O Ceallacháin, presenter of the longest running programme in the world (his 11pm Sports Results on Sunday night) gave the Dubs’ result on top of his programme.

This has been a long, arduous and difficult journey for all who love hurling in the capital. The schools, the clubs and the county board have been building the hurling wall of success, brick by brick, over the last decade. The wall is now built, only to cap it. It’s a tall order against the Cats in the Leinster final but regardless, Dublin hurling is here to stay.

Hopefully, now, those Dubs fans who have made Hill 16 their mecca, will now start supporting the camán men in blue as only they can. Exciting times for Dublin and great prospects for the GAA. The Dublin hurlers, guided by Anthony Daly, have crossed the Rubicon and they can only get better from here on.

Another Clare man, Mike MacNamara almost pulled off the shock of the Championship only to be denied by the hurley of that super custodian, Brendan Cummins.

I met Mike McNamara in Thurles on Saturday and asked him how were they fixed for the following day’s encounter against hot favourites Tipp.

“We’ll be okay, Sean,” was his immediate response. Okay? They were brilliant. Minus the Lohan lions and Colin Lynch, most people didn’t give Clare a prayer. They have no underage success to build on, and every time I see a puck-out, a sideline cut or a 65 being taken from a yard or two inside the line, I bleed inwardly for Clare’s lost U21 title last year.

But these Clare men are tough. Mac is tough. No self-pity there. And after Sunday’s performance, Clare are here to stay. Good news for Clare and good news for hurling.

Still, Tipp won the game and Liam Sheedy will be more than happy to have had a tough battle. It will suit him and Tipp fine as they prepare for a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Waterford. It promises to be a great final as Waterford and Limerick improved considerably on their below-par performance of the previous week.

With Mullane, Kelly and Prendergast bang on target, the Déise boys had too much firepower for a much improved Limerick side. Justin has plenty to work on and their next game, away to Wexford, is certainly winnable for them.

The fourth great hurling game of the weekend saw Galway’s first foray into the Leinster Championship nearly end in glory. But just as we were thinking the Tribesmen would hold out, up steps hot-shot himself, King Henry, and lofts a mighty point from the halfway line. It was like lifting the sluice gates in a dam. Scores came gushing forth and in the end, all Galway had for their heroic endeavours was admiration.

Galway are capable of matching anybody but if they are to be real All-Ireland contenders they will have to score more from play. No player, including Joe Canning, scored more than one point from play. You’ll win no All-Irelands with that return.

Yes, indeed a great weekend for hurling. The Munster Championships roars on. The Leinster Championship has been restored and is already streets ahead of recent years. A good showing by the Dubs in the final and we’d all be happy.

Yes, a very good weekend for hurling. All we want now is for someone to whisper the intellectual hurler’s great refrain, the open draw.

After last weekend, surely not.

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