Galway’s victory on Sunday seems irresistible in retrospect, but cast your mind back to the National League semi-final, when they were 10 points down to Waterford.
Or to a few minutes before the league final itself, when most people had a feeling Tipperary would do the business that day in Limerick.
Micheál Donoghue said on Sunday the players had taken ownership of the team, and you saw the results of taking the initiative.
if this were an award for a collective, Cork’s raft of kids would pick it up. As it is, Conor Whelan of Galway — can he really be under 21 still? — had a tough outing in the All-Ireland final but was quality all through. Scored. Worked. Led.
Very close behind him, Mark Coleman of Cork.
David Burke of Galway wasn’t as spectacular as he was last year, but he still got four points from play in Croke Park last Sunday, a decent showing by anyone’s standards. He also reined in his natural tendency to bomb on to help protect his half-backs in the key game for Galway, the All-Ireland semi-final, and in so doing got them to the big show. Add in the best victory speech of recent years just to copper-fasten his standing as our player of the year.
Micheál Donoghue made it a clean sweep of Walsh Cup, National League, Leinster, and All-Ireland championship. Donoghue’s calm and measured approach dovetailed with his comments on Sunday that the players had taken ownership of the team. Honourable mention to Kieran Kingston. His Cork team were expected to put up a show against Tipperary in the first round of the Munster championship — at best — but they won the Munster title and led going into the final quarter of the All-Ireland semi-final. An immense job.
This was a good one — there were a fair few twists and turns in the season, but were there as many outstanding contests as enjoyable occasions? By any standards Galway-Tipperary in that All-Ireland semi-final stands out, though. A compelling contest with Galway taking on the mantle of favourites, Tipperary shaking off issues on and off the field to throw down the gauntlet — and that Joe Canning point to win it all in injury-time.
The All-Ireland semi-final was still a live issue when Austin Gleeson dropped the ball while on the Cork 45; the Waterford man picked it up and slalomed through for one of the all-time great goals seen in Croke Park. Finished with a spooned flick, not even a full stroke, past the stand-out keeper in the country. Cue imitations everywhere hurling is played.
Some decent efforts here but a full-length dive by Cork’s Anthony Nash in the All-Ireland semi-final against Waterford was surely the highlight. Paraic Mahony had time and space and picked his spot, but Nash flung his hurley out and denied him, diving to his right to make the stop.
Famine, as in ending of. Or maybe sweeper, use of. Or disciplinary process, never-ending application of. As for helmets, if we never hear them mentioned again...
The sideline cut is now just becoming ridiculous. Joe Canning did it on Sunday in the All-Ireland final. Mark Coleman and Darragh Fitzpatrick for Cork, Noel McGrath for Tipperary... the list goes on and on. It’s at such an epidemic level now, I’d be inclined to give half a point for a sideline going over the bar rather than the two points everybody’s always looking for.
Barry Kelly. Again. Some pretty poor displays resulted in some terrible calls — or significant, season-turning calls being missed in some of the biggest games of the year. Kelly remains top of the tree by some considerable distance and should be on the biggest games as a matter of course.
Would you stop? If officials threw the ball in properly that’d be a start.
For a while there the move everybody was trying wasn’t the time warp, but the helmet-removal move. Don’t all shout at once, that referees (see above) didn’t catch them all, but the hue and cry about this development will hopefully put an end to it for 2018.
A few minutes after his side shipped a double-digit beating by Waterford in the All-Ireland SHC semi-final, Cork manager Kieran Kingston expressed his sympathies with the family of the late Tony Keady: “None of us can be there from Cork hurling because of the game but that puts sport in perspective and on behalf of Cork hurling, myself, Pat (Hartnett), all of the management team and players, we send sincere condolences to Margaret and the Keady family because for the day that’s in it, we weren’t in a position to do that personally but I think it’d be remiss of us not to acknowledge that.”
Good thinking by the GAA to have Waterford and Galway players’ clubs represented by kids in those clubs’ kit as they were being presented to President Michael D. Higgins.
The round of applause for the late Tony Keady on six minutes last Sunday, as befits one of the great number sixes.
Joe Canning v Tipperary. We all tried that ourselves when we were smaller — usually when training was either about to start or just over — but Canning did it on the highest stage when every chip was on the table. If you see any freeze-frames you can see how close three flying Tipperary players came to blocking him down: that’s how fine the margins are.
Jamie Barron of Waterford did more dancing on the head of a pin than anybody else this year, closely followed by Conor Whelan of Galway. Feet of John Travolta, wrists of John Fenton.
Traditionally this one goes to Thurles, and God knows Tom Semple’s field hosted some good games this year, but in a break with tradition we go to Páirc Ui Chaoimh Two (bigger, longer and cut the morning of the match). We had two good games there — Waterford-Wexford and Clare-Tipperary — but more significantly, we gained another hurling venue.
Lukasz Kirszenstein. This Polish gentleman is a strength and conditioning coach who brought Tipperary to a fine physical peak last year: the All-Ireland title followed. He brought Galway to a fine physical peak this year: the All-Ireland title followed. Next year the Oakland Raiders, surely?
“As I said, ‘Praise your enemies’ … who said that, Oscar Wilde, was it?” — Derek McGrath (or was it Michael Corleone?)
Traffic in east Cork for Wexford-Waterford. Ahead of time, we were told that in years to come skeletons would be found in long-derelict cars between Killeagh and Castlemartyr...but they weren’t.
Lee Chin’s monster game against Kilkenny in the Leinster championship showcased all the Wexford man’s incredible athleticism. Managers everywhere took note and planned to shut him down as a result.
Davy Fitzgerald was suspended for the clash of his Wexford side with Kilkenny in the Leinster championship. Wexford Park, which hosted the game, also hosted an odd-looking timber structure in the stand: Fitzgerald’s perch for the game. Not sure whether it was sound-proofed or not, but there was one echoing boom at a refereeing call which went against a Wexford player.
With huge pressure being put on the hurling fraternity by adventurous stylings in the world of Gaelic football — step forward David Gough: the pal who said his fade was the true victor in the Mayo-Kerry semi-final spoke truly. James Barry of Tipperary looked like he was rocking an incipient mohican ahead of the Galway semi-final, and Waterford’s Maurice Shanahan has led the way in past years with a boule a zero, but I’m inclined to award the palm to Cian Lynch (above) of Limerick this season. His asymmetrical red fade was the pick of a poor field in 2017.