2019’s hurling was always vulnerable to Cecil B DeMille’s law: “The way to make a film is to begin with an earthquake and work up to a climax.”
2018’s hurling endures as wonderful disaster, a spectacle in want of follow-up. Last summer’s contests remain so enthralling, so perfect, and so lethal.
Their splendour is casting this summer’s work on grass into killing shadow.
What to say? Appropriately enough, DeMille made his name (and his fortune) by directing The Ten Commandments (1923), the movies’ first great religious epic.
Just now, the tenor of comment is Biblical.
Behold: Philistines at the gate
No GAA rivalry counts as more tedious or more sensitive or more durable than the Israelites of hurling and the Philistines of Gaelic football.
Nothing daunted, Dick Clerkin, Colm Parkinson, and Pat Spillane took to sandals and robes on recent Sabbaths.
The divergence in small ball standard between 2018 and 2019 offered abundant opportunity for big ball sermons.
Spillane, two evenings back on The Sunday Game: “Whisper it quietly: The Gaelic football championship this year has probably given us better quality, more entertaining and more intense games than the hurling.”
From a whisper to a scream…
The coming weekend could badly do with a couple of cliffhangers, the odd last-minute rescue, a few collapsing temples, the parting of a sea.
We definitely could do with a parting of the River Shannon, as Limerick and Clare set to odds in the Gaelic Grounds.
Which brings us to…
Cliffhangers can lie hidden in plain sight. Next Sunday evening, the All-Ireland champions could be gone. Finito, finished, prostrate…
The situation is straightforward. If Cork, as much expected, overcome Waterford, Limerick become a penitent. A loss to Clare would deliver perdition.
This double result would allow Limerick, even with Tipperary beaten in the final round, a maximum of four points.
Both Clare and Cork, in this scenario, edge head to head arbitration.
Equally, those counties’ final round tie would ensure only one of them finished on four points, ruling out the score difference arbitration.
True, last weekend’s action very much indicates a Limerick win. Even so, the prospect of death can undermine as well as concentrate anyone’s mind.
Nerves come into play, a factor that can inhibit verve.
Even as losers, Clare would retain a lifeline. A win at home to Cork the following weekend might suffice for third place (and likely appearance in the All-Ireland quarter-finals).
Clare could save their season. Limerick would be a handful of dust.
Watch this dynamic as the week spools. Clare’s management need to emphasize it.
Limerick’s management need to defuse it.
A plague on one house
The last few weeks really got Biblical on Waterford’s backside.
There they were, making the 2019 NHL final, making ground, settling into a new regime, getting themselves into position to improve on last year’s showing. Zzzzzz!
Waterford must be feeling devoured. Locusts gorged on all that had been carefully tended over several seasons. Recriminations are afoot.
Yet calm reflection might shine a light none too harsh on either the previous or current managerial regime.
Waterford probably hit a sweet spot, that equilibrium of youth and experience, in 2016 and 2017. There fell the real chance.
NHL triumph in 2015 means the current group is at least five years into a cycle.
Is it any wonder that their best performers in 2019 are their youngest players, Callum Lyons, Jack Prendergast, and Conor Prunty?
These men have not been in desert places. The Déise are done for this season.
Their best way forward requires months of careful deliberation.
The current set-up must simply ensure this visit to Páirc Uí Chaoimh is a contest rather than a vivisection.
Land of milk and honey
Three Munster rounds gone, Tipperary rest for a week and sit down to a rich diet of praise.
This panel deserves the repast because they are hurling out of their skin. Some of Tipp’s play is exhilarating to watch, a beguiling marriage of force and finesse.
Éamon O’Shea avoids making noise and so can be underrated. As a coach, he does not issue programmes or assert credos.
O’Shea lives by his ability to elicit top-level attacking play. With him back, Tipperary are averaging nine different scorers and 29 scores.
Next Sunday, Kilkenny host Galway in Nowlan Park. This occasion, beyond the points at stake, is an invitation to make a serious statement.
The winner should be a late summer force. The loser? Doubtful.
Next Sunday evening, aficionados will scrutinise not just this result but the prompting performance.
Does said showing hint at someone down the line capable of souring Tipperary’s burgeoning feast?
The pacemakers possess a Plan A so beautiful and so effective that they might not have tested a Plan B before judgement day.
The Good Book is scattered with moments of ambush. Fret not, Israelites. Trumping an earthquake?
Look forward in hope, recalling another DeMille truism: “Give me any two pages of the Bible and I’ll give you a picture.”
Grass, camera, action! And pray for some roof-lifting excitement.
Derek McGrath and Ger Cunningham review the weekend's hurling with Anthony Daly