Our writers discuss the major issues from the opening weekend of the hurling championship.
Will Croke Park revisit Kennedy intercept?
Four minutes before half-time an extraordinary incident occurred. TJ Reid, standing over a handy free, sent it sideways to the waiting Billy Ryan, unmarked 15m away to his right. Except Ryan wasn’t unmarked after all. Dublin selector Greg Kennedy was standing beside him and he decided to become a participant by putting up his hand and catching Reid’s pass.
After Cathal McAllister had a word with Kennedy and waved him towards the sideline, Reid tapped over the retake. Brian Cody was furious and, let’s face it, he had every right to be. “I’d say even people who are longer involved in the game than I am haven’t seen it, so I certainly haven’t seen it before,” he announced.
“I know Greg Kennedy played a fair bit at corner-back but it was a bizarre thing to do.” Did the Dublin camp apologise for it afterwards?
“What happened after the match, I’m not even remotely interested in that. If they were or whatever, that’s between themselves and ourselves.”
As the goalmouth was packed with defenders and attackers, it wasn’t as though Kennedy had denied Ryan a tap-in. It was a goalscoring opportunity nonetheless and the former Galway player rendered Reid’s piece of quick thinking worthless.
Unsurprisingly it got the Nowlan Park crowd, who rarely need a second invitation to vent their ire, worked up and in the end probably worked to Dublin’s disadvantage.
Whether Cathal McAllister could have taken a harsher line remains to be seen. Under the rules, was he entitled to do more to Kennedy than simply wave him off the field? We’ll find out during the week. Certainly it will not come as a shock if Kennedy is required to explain himself to a Croke Park committee in the near future.
Time for umpires to step up game
You could have used an example from last year. Or the year before. Or the year before that.
The Munster championship was only a couple of hours old when we had the now-traditional farrago involving a score, this time a Patrick Horgan flick for Cork against Tipperary in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Cue much discussion among umpires, referee Sean Cleere, linesman on the North Stand side, a hold-up, uncertainty, and eventually a point was awarded.
While you have to admire the constancy, and the willingness to continue to provide talking points to those of us who would otherwise have to rack our brains for something to discuss, is it not past time when umpires can actually do the job they’re supposed to do?
Last year we had a ‘ghost goal’ awarded to Tipperary against Waterford in the Munster Championship, something a more pompous correspondent than yours truly could argue undermined the basic integrity of a major competition.
Yesterday wasn’t nearly as close, but what happens when it is a one-point game determined by an avoidable error?
Whatever is being done to prepare umpires for modern inter-county hurling, it’s clearly not sufficient. If it was then we wouldn’t have these embarrassments on a regular basis.
‘Tipp football isn’t in a good place, let’s be honest’
Selector Shane Stapleton was the first to raise concerns about the overall state of Tipperary football after their defeat to Limerick.
The shock came days after the county’s minors were eliminated in a 15-point hammering by Clare. Since they made the All-Ireland finals at minor and U21 level in 2015, their record has been among the worst in Munster. The minors have been knocked out by Clare three times and Limerick once, while at U21/U20 level, Tipp haven’t won a single game since 2015.
“It’s a massive setback. Tipp football isn’t in a good place, let’s be honest,” said Stapleton.
“The U20s are training away but mightn’t have the biggest hopes for the year. The minors only won one match out of four. We were relegated out of Division 2 and now we got beaten by Limerick, a team a lot of neutrals would’ve fancied us to get over. So it’s not in a good place but the only thing is we have a lot of firepower in [the dressing room] that can get us back on track if we put the shoulder to the wheel and all stay together.”
Manager Liam Kearns added: “I still have a lot of faith in that panel... but certainly, we’ve taken steps backwards in the last two years and this year in particular.
“We just have to have a long hard look at it now but that has to be after the year is finished. Certainly, we seem to be behind at underage level. The County Board and everybody will have to look at that.”
Learnings and work-ons for Tribe
With a bye week to look forward to next weekend, Micheál Donoghue admitted his side need time to get up to speed after a mediocre show against Carlow.
He hadn’t had the chance to watch Kilkenny’s win over Dublin on Saturday night as he finalised his side’s preparations for the visit of Carlow, but next weekend he will launch a spying mission or two as his Leinster rivals do battle.
After a week off Galway face Wexford in Pearse Stadium, before their fate will be decided with a couple of tricky away games in Dublin and Kilkenny.
With plenty of improvement to do in his own camp, Donoghue won’t have too much time to waste, but he admits his side are happy to be handed this schedule.
“Yeah, I suppose we’re fortunate the way it’s fallen for us. But we’ll take away a lot of learnings,” said the Galway manager.
“We still have a lot of work to do and a lot to build on for two weeks. We’re well accustomed to playing Wexford, so they’ll come and they’ll bring a massive intensity to the game, like they always do, and we know that’s going to be a huge challenge.
“Obviously, they’re out next weekend as well so they’ll have the game under the belt and then they’re travel down here.
“It’s going to be another huge task, but right now we’ll just keep the head down and training and look forward to it.”