Any time I’m on the road on a Saturday evening, I always tune into Céilí House, one of RTÉ Radio’s most popular programmes of traditional Irish music and song, writes
Presenter Kieran Hanrahan, formerly of the band Stockton’s Wing, travels Ireland and beyond in search of a good session to bring to his listeners each week.
With the Dublin Trad Festival taking place last week, Kieran had an extended show on Saturday evening. I’m sure I wasn’t the only Clare person soothed by the beautiful sounds on the way back because we all needed something to take our minds off a miserable enough evening; the performance was as dull and dank as the weather.
By contrast, any traditional music fans from Tipperary listening to Céilí House on the way home would have been bursting with pride as they reflected on such an impressive performance. Liam Sheedy and his management will be delighted with the response after the poor showing against Clare in the Munster League final. They got the display they wanted because it was loaded with heart and hunger.
I’m sure most of that desire stemmed from the backlash after the Munster League final but it’s still hard to accurately gauge anything in this league. Clare weren’t good but how worried will they be? Of course, management will want to see baseline requirements but it’s hard to calculate what impact the fact that nothing is really at stake in this league has on mindset. When the result is going away from you, especially when down to 14 men as Clare were, it’s impossible to judge what fellas are thinking.
In terms of analysing stuff, I just don’t know what to think. I’m sure I’m not the only one. John Meyler’s only priority in the league is to find new players but he must still be very frustrated after his side’s performance against Kilkenny. Apart from Cormac Murphy, who got three points from play, what else did Meyler really learn from yesterday? Zero. Patrick Horgan weaved his magic but Meyler is fully aware of what Hoggy can do.
Being a Wexford man, Meyler will always be excited facing his own but he probably can’t wait now until next Sunday, not just to try and bag the two points but to see what kind of stuff is in certain fellas.
Brian Cody will always have a definite attitude towards any game of hurling but he’ll have got a lot more than just the two points out of this performance. All the old Kilkenny traits were as vibrant and visible as ever while Cody will have been delighted with how most of his team applied themselves.
Kilkenny were missing as many big names as Cork but Cody would have been able to say to himself last night, ‘Jeez, John Donnelly, Richie Leahy, Conor Delaney, Billy Ryan and James Maher were very good. Huw Lawlor was solid.’
Cody would have learned plenty too from the how the game played out, and the damage inflicted by the way Kilkenny set up.
Cody may let on that he doesn’t do tactics and gameplans but Ger Aylward was hugely effective as a third midfielder with the quality and volume of ball he delivered inside. Tim O’Mahony didn’t follow Aylward out but I wouldn’t really blame him because he was trying to hold the centre. Yet Meyler will surely be asking himself why Cork were still so open?
Any game needs two teams fully going at it to really judge its merits, which is why the Limerick-Wexford game was, by far, the best match I saw over the weekend. After being in Thurles Saturday night, and then watching the live feed from Nowlan Park in the RTÉ studios yesterday, I was tired as we sat down to watch Limerick-Wexford. But the quality and intensity soon lit me up.
There was a real edge and bite in Wexford Park and John Kiely will be thrilled to have got the win.
After being out of Division IA for so long, Limerick may be more pumped up for points than most teams but the success of last year certainly didn’t seem to blunt their hunger or desire for the fight. Because any slackness against a Davy Fitz team will be ruthlessly exposed.
After applauding Limerick onto the pitch as All-Ireland champions, Wexford then clearly went out to have a right cut off the visitors. Wexford will take a lot out of the match. They battled hard. They got some quality scores. Conor McDonald looked leaner and meaner than I’ve seen him at this time of the season. Wexford could have actually stolen the result late on when McDonald doubled on a ball from Cathal Dunbar. It hit the post and bounced back out to Liam Óg McGovern, whose shot was smartly saved at the near post by Nickie Quaid.
It was no surprise the game went to the wire because there was a spikiness throughout the match. Liam Ryan and Seamie Flanagan were shown straight red cards in the 26th minute but one of the biggest talking points of the weekend was the sending off of Tony Kelly on Saturday evening.
If referees are instructed to issue red cards for contact with the head, Colm Lyons may feel he was technically correct to give TK a red. But, and I haven’t my Clare hat on here, it was never a red card. Tony’s momentum took him into Paudie Maher at pace and there was clearly no intent there.
The sending-off did impact on the result but Clare won’t — or shouldn’t — be wallowing in any sense of injustice because they have other issues to worry about, starting with the damage being inflicted from high ball into the full-back line.
That should be Clare’s starting point this week but that is really what this league should be all about — pointers, not points.