Some of the talking points from this weekend's GAA action.
Case for the defence?
This might be a little harsh, but if your defence is shipping over 30 scores — admittedly in 90 minutes — are they doing their job?
Are the forwards up the field doing their job in protecting your defence?
This is not to dismiss the quality on show in Croke Park over the weekend, which makes the point for us. At that level most opportunities are snapped up, something underlined by John Kiely after yesterday’s game.
He mentioned how quick Cork were to get their shots off, and his own players weren’t too shabby in that regard either.
Still, 30-odd scores is a lot to leak for four teams, surely. At a time when strength and conditioning has never been more scientific, how are teams creating that number of scoring opportunities, let alone taking them?
There’s been an ongoing rumble for some time about the loss of midfield play with the light ball flying over the middle of the field, and perhaps the sliotar could do with a little more weight to keep the scoreboard operators from being overcome with exhaustion.
This is probably the least popular take on the weekend’s entertainment you could imagine, but your correspondent is content to be the voice crying in the wilderness.
Anything to stop running out of ink keeping track of all the scorers.
But let’s relish shot-a-minute bonanza
There are times when statistics, no matter how outlandish, can actually do a game, or games, injustice and there is a temptation to allow the weekend’s two All-Ireland hurling semi-finals speak for themselves.
It would, though, be a shame not to mention at least one bunch of numbers that serve to highlight just how majestic, and how fast and furious, the Clare-Galway and Limerick-Cork extra-time epics actually were.
A total of 129 scores, over 197 minutes, is a staggering state of affairs and proof again that hurling, as a game, is evolving at a rate of knots before our very eyes.
But it is a torrent of scores that doesn’t even tell the whole story.
Add in the 73 wides piled up by the four participants and what we have is a total of 202 attempts on goal over the Saturday and Sunday.
Bear in mind that this doesn’t actually factor in attempts on goal that fell short, as quite a number did, or those like John Conlon’s in the second half of Saturday’s game which was redirected over the Galway end line by the back of a defender.
Even so, what we are left with is an attempt on goal for every second of action.
There are some who aren’t always enamoured with the helter-skelter nature of the modern game and the ding-dong scorelines that suggest a bad innings in cricket when presented on a page or a screen, but it’s unlikely there will be many criticising the latest fare from Croke Park. How could they?
Cork’s back-up ranks still need reinforcement
No more than Saturday when Galway elected to reintroduce Joseph and Conor Cooney having earlier called both ashore, the strength in depth of Cork’s bench was shown up by the decision to return Daniel Kearney, clearly injured, and Shane Kingston to the fray.
Kingston was pulled on 55 minutes, then sent back on in the 78th minute after Darragh Fitzgibbon picked up a knock.
Kearney, as documented elsewhere, came off injured on the hour mark, started the first period of extra-time but was withdrawn for a second time with five minutes remaining.
This had a knock-on effect as Michael Cahalane, only sprung in second-half stoppages, was told to go back up to his seat as extra-time got under way, then told to come back down six minutes later when Harnedy got injured.
It all got a bit messy and the sum total was that Cork’s bench contributed just 0-1, a Jack O’Connor point when the game was up.
Dean Brosnan didn’t get a look in — he would have been a decent option to upset the dominance of the Limerick half-back line under the dropping ball late on and in extra-time.
No more than was said last year, Cork’s bench needs work.
Cover the Hill or colour the posts?
Looking at the supporters getting drenched on Hill 16 yesterday, it was difficult not to think the terrace should become a covered one in some shape or form.
To cover it on days when the famed Dineen Hill 16 is not full might also make it more of a scoring end than it is.
It doesn’t seem so coincidental that when Clare, Cork, Galway, and Limerick were shooting into that end of Croke Park on Saturday and Sunday, that they were struggling at times.
Consider Galway’s 12 first-half wides facing into it and away from the Davin Stand.
Consider Clare’s seven in the first half of additional time playing into it.
Consider Cork’s 10 wides shooting towards it yesterday. Consider Limerick’s eight wides aiming at the Hill 16 posts in the second half.
The sucking power of Hill 16 has always been spoken about when Dublin’s footballers are in Croke Park but then the dominant and larger blue hoard might not make the goalposts feel like such an elusive target.
Admittedly, Limerick scored two goals and won the game yesterday facing Hill 16 but by our reckoning of the 73 wides in the senior semi-finals over the weekend almost 50 (68%) came when striking towards Hill 16.
Coincidence? No, that would be wide of the mark.