KIERAN SHANNON: Ponderings from a summer few could have dreamt of

After a weekend and summer of GAA like that, we have to dispense with our normal practice of zoning in on just the one thing.

There are just too many questions and talking points, such as:

1. Does Henry Shefflin have to come back next year so he doesn’t finish up on the note he did last Sunday?

No. We don’t get this consensus that he has to come back, frankly. It wasn’t as if it was an ignominious dismissal like Zidane ’06. Besides, who now remembers that Brian Whelehan’s last game for Birr and in Croke Park was him lashing out with his hurl and getting a straight red card in a lop-sided All Ireland final defeat to Portumna?

Only train-spotters like this column. Whelehan’s legacy is intact, as is Henry’s. After all the injuries he’s been through and all he’s won, only he knows and only he should decide whether he should come back.

2. Was Kilkenny’s defeat last Sunday the end of an era or will they be back?

The answer to both is yes. They will be back contending next year and for years to come but their dominance is over. In other words, they might have to settle for winning a couple of more All-Irelands before the decade is out, not the five or six as they’ve become used to under Cody. Poor them.

3. Has Jimmy Barry-Murphy been vindicated in making the call to dispense with Donal Óg and Seán Óg and Gardiner during the winter?

You’d now have to say so. That’s an exciting, vibrant young team he’s got there playing without fear and without baggage and without looking over their shoulder either.

The reason Cork won and contested so many All-Irelands was because they had demanding and brilliant leaders like that trio but just like Jimmy calculated back in 1999 that a young Donal Óg Cusack didn’t need a veteran and still able Ger Cunningham in the shadows and dugout that year, likewise he made the call that Anthony Nash didn’t need to feel he was one mistake from being displaced as number one.

The same with their half-backs. Even if Cork don’t win an All-Ireland this year, they’re building to winning one very soon, and it turns out that process was hastened by making a clean break and start this year.

4. Were we the only ones who thought it jarred a little seeing the London footballers have to shake hands with Enda Kenny in the formalities before the Connacht final?

We know that Kenny is a genuine GAA man, that the gesture was probably well meant and all, and that it would hardly have been ideal for the London lads to offer a 1968 Black Power-like show of protest minutes before playing the game of their lives, but think about it.

These players are in London because there isn’t a job for them here.

Kenny is the head of a government who not only can’t give them a job but won’t even give them a vote.

While other governments ensure their exiles and emigrants can still vote, ours can’t.

The London players would well have been within their rights to refuse to shake his hand last week, saying don’t bother giving us your hand, give us a job or a vote instead; after all, if we all partied, we can all vote, right?

At least Croke Park extended their hand to them by opening their gates to them against Cavan last weekend.

5. Has there been anyone who has given three such memorable performances in defeat at the one venue as Michael Meehan has in his last three championship outings to Croke Park?

In 2005 you had him blitzing Cork for two goals in a cracking All-Ireland quarter-final, in 2008 you had him taking Kerry for 10 points – six from play – in that classic monsoon All-Ireland quarter-final, and then last Saturday he comes up with THAT free to go with the six points he kicked earlier.

His career hasn’t quite turned out like we thought it would – still no championship win in Croke Park, still no All Star – but last weekend he reminded us just what a special talent he is and, after all he’s had to endure to get back there, what a tough-minded, resilient competitor he is too.

6. The greatest All-Ireland quarter-final manager of them all?

As he’d say himself “without a shadow of a doubt”, Davy Fitzgerald.

That’s four wins at that stage in the last five years he’s pulled off in Thurles – and interestingly the last three have all been against Galway. Clearly they have trouble bouncing back from defeat in the province – and clearly he’s exceptional at it.

7. When was there last a hurling championship as brilliant as this one?

The answer is never.

Last Sunday sealed the debate once and for all. Just when you thought the championship had exceeded its quota of shocks, it offered up two more.

Now nothingin the rest of the championship can surprise us. But be sure it will continue to thrill us.


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