I was in Cork last Sunday at their county final, Midleton beating holders Sarsfields; I was in Ennis then yesterday as Sixmilebridge took the title from Newmarket-on-Fergus in the Clare final. In both games the teams did their absolute best, but I have to say I’m really annoyed.
What’s the point of spending thousands on All Star trips and everything else when you’re treating your best club players with so much disrespect?
These were the two All-Ireland finalists, Clare and Cork, these were their the biggest games in those counties, and they’re played at this time of year, in these kind of conditions?
This is the fault of Croke Park, of no-one else. You hear people blaming county boards — that’s the wrong target. The GAA could easily bring the All-Ireland final forward by a couple of weeks, that’s one way of easing the pressure on the club game and on the club players.
Another way is that when individual counties are not fixing their championship games in a timely fashion, then Croke Park should take over the championship fixtures of those counties themselves.
What’s happening is ridiculous. Bad enough the two best teams in Clare were only meeting in the final yesterday, but look at what’s happened over the previous few weeks, all the games crammed together as conditions for hurling were getting worse and worse.
It has to end because, as it stands, it’s totally wrong, totally unfair not just on the players and the clubs but on the supporters.
I wonder how many were in Cusack Park yesterday, cold and soaked? I wonder how many WOULD have been there if this final had been played when it should have been played, at least a month ago?
As regards the game, I have to congratulate the two teams for the way they played in the conditions. Sixmilebridge especially. They won because quite simply they adapted to the weather and to the pitch much better than Newmarket. In a game that was kind of all over the place they had a better structure, and this was most obvious in their half-back line, Caimin Morey, John Fennessy and Aidan Quilligan.
Aidan Quilligan was the team captain and played like it, gave a real leader’s performance.
What can I say about Niall Gilligan? ‘The old dog for the hard road, the pup for the puddle’ — that was definitely the case yesterday. Niall scored 1-6, took the goal very well from the penalty, got the frees when they were needed, came in also with a couple of points from play.
His work-rate though was most impressive, 37 and still giving it everything.
I think though Newmarket made a massive mistake taking James McInerney off him in the second half — James was playing very well on Gillie and I think was winning that battle. After the switch, Niall got the vital points.
James Shanahan was really impressive also for Sixmilebridge, popped up all over the field and got a couple of great points from play. Then again James is following big footsteps, his father James a great player for Broadford, for Clare and for Munster.
James could have a great future now that he has shaken off his injury problems, as could Shane Golden who also played well.
Right or wrong, Newmarket-on-Fergus are seen as the traditional powerhouse of Clare hurling, twice the number of titles of Sixmilebridge. That’s not the case anymore, certainly wasn’t the case yesterday because The Bridge weren’t just the hungrier side, they were the better side and this win is probably worth two titles to them, such is the intensity of the rivalry between the two clubs.
Be sure they’ll enjoy this one but especially in the part of the parish that adjoins Newmarket.
No blame for this defeat falls on the Newmarket defence, who were very solid, well anchored by James McInerney and Enda Barrett. It was the forwards, the lack of fire-power to reinforce Colin Ryan.
Next up for Sixmilebridge is Midleton.
Will they be as motivated for that as they were by the sight of the Blues yesterday? We’ll have to wait and see but be sure of this — they’ll enjoy this one. They have the bragging rights now and boy, will they use them!
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