This is the most exciting National League I can remember in any format.
Every team in Division 1A are in with a chance of making the semi-final in the last round tomorrow but every team also has relegation fears hanging over their heads. It’s a unique situation surely, in any sport, but what amazes me is the lack of fanfare and promotion in the lead-up to such an amazing series of games?
Where is the marketing? Why is the GAA so shy about letting everyone know? Are they afraid it might attract too many people or what? It should be advertised as Super Sunday and sold on the airwaves over and over again all this week.
The second the games were all over last week a campaign should have started and there should have been no let-up all week.
Despite the lack of promotion I hope big crowds turn up at the three venues. It’s a drying sod now, the clocks will have changed, people can tune in on their radios to results elsewhere — where better could you be than at one of these games with the whiff of championship cordite in the air.
There’s no messing this weekend and we can see that from the teams that have already been announced. And while we’re talking about selections, what’s been a real boon in the league this year is the number of new players that have been discovered by different teams.
I’ll start with Kilkenny and with their goalkeeper, Eoin Murphy who has impressed me hugely. He is a good shot-blocker, a good organiser, fast off his line, good puckouts and clearances — everything you want in a modern keeper.
Lester Ryan in midfield has been another good find, rangy and strong with an eye for the posts. When he fills out he is going to look even more like Frank Cummins.
And of course in typical Kilkenny fashion another dangerous corner-forward has shone during the spring. Look for Ger Aylward to be on or near the championship team.
Tipperary too have found a keeper in Darren Gleeson who may be the man to finally dislodge Brendan Cummins. It might only be because of puckouts and clearances but you can’t over-state how important this is in the modern game.
Gleeson has possibly the longest puckout in Ireland but he’s also deadly accurate. At the other end of the field a good scoring forward in John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer has the makings of a real star.
In Cork, Christopher Joyce could be their centre-back for years, Stephen Moylan looks promising up front, while Daniel Kearney could make the midfield position his own.
Waterford have found Jamie Barron and Jake Dillon, two really promising forwards, invaluable on any team.
In Clare, another two youngsters, Seadna Morey in defence and Shane O’Donnell up front, two of the quickest players around. Morey was there or thereabouts last year but O’Donnell is only just out of minor and already establishing himself as a threat.
Galway have Davy Glennon. He was a brilliant in midfield as a minor and would do the same job there as a senior.
We’ll know more about all the above players though after Sunday because as I said, this now has a taste of championship about it — let’s see how they react to the increased pressure.
Hopefully on Monday we’ll be saying this was Super Sunday, that the crowds turned out in their tens of thousands. Players react to that, they tend to lift their game, and old venues — Semple Stadium, Nowlan Park and Walsh Park.
If we can’t get crowds to places like that on a day like this, what chance do we have?
Likely winners? I’d fancy Kilkenny, Tipperary and Waterford to win but many of us have fancied different teams on different days already during this league and been made to look very foolish.
Isn’t that great, that so many people get it wrong?
Isn’t that exactly what you want in sport, that anything can happen?
It’s not going to be just the game you happen to be at either; everyone will be keeping an ear tuned in to the other games and you can be sure that the lad who’s getting news from the other games will be very popular.
The only downside to all the drama is that Dublin, Limerick, Offaly and Wexford should all be involved in this too.
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