Say what you want about the quality of fare served up this summer, but where post-match interviews are concerned, GAA followers have been spoilt.
Just last Sunday, we had Davy’s blistering tirade against RTÉ’s hurling pundits. The Wexford boss even went so far as to instruct the national broadcaster to review their line-up.
There was Jim Gavin’s unexpected outburst over the “bile and malevolent” attitude shown by certain broadcasters towards Diarmuid Connolly following his infringement with Ciarán Branagan.
And then there was the John Meyler interview on TG4 no more than two minutes after Cork U21 hurler Declan Dalton had converted a stoppage-time penalty to sink reigning All-Ireland champions Waterford on their home patch.
Twice did Meyler have to cut himself off mid-sentence to ensure there was no spilling of tears. He wiped his mouth, he ran his hand over his head, anything to keep his emotions in check while chatting, or at least attempting to chat, with TG4’s Mícheál Ó Domhnaill.
Meyler’s son and Hull City footballer, David, tweeted the video later that evening with the accompanying message, ‘What makes the GAA so special’. That it was retweeted over 300 times was hardly surprising.
The Cork U21 manager says several factors contributed to an interview that was short on words, albeit laced with passion.
“Prior to that Munster semi-final, the U17s had won, the minors had won and the seniors had won. You’re saying to yourself, ‘Jesus, we need to win as well’. People were saying to us, ‘well, ye are up next, ye need to keep the show on the road’. There was pressure to get a result in Waterford. There was a lot of emotion pent up in that,” explains Meyler.
“The drama at the end was soap opera stuff. The guys showed great character. It was a tremendous strike and a tremendous goal from Declan. If that was John Fenton or Christy Ring, you’d say, ‘yeah, that’s fine’. But this guy is only 20 years of age and he’s been asked to take this penalty in front of 4,000 people five minutes into second-half injury-time. The goalkeeper didn’t come near the ball. That’s drama of the highest order.
“A win like that takes the weight off your shoulders… for a night, anyway.” Dalton departed Walsh Park with 1-12 beside his name. Take it as fact that his duel with Limerick centre-back Kyle Hayes will be one of the defining battles in this evening’s Munster decider. Brought in as the reserve goalkeeper, the fact that the Fr O’Neill’s native is now one of the key forwards on this Cork team perfectly captures the extent to which his stock has risen.
“We played one particular challenge against Limerick earlier in the year and a lot of the lads had played games earlier in the day so we said that if lads got injured, we could play Declan out the field as we had another lad to stand in goals. He got seven points that night and we were kind of surprised.
“The pressure on him standing over that penalty was immense. He had missed one or two frees against Limerick at minor level a couple of years ago. People would be reminding him of that, I imagine. So there was pressure.”
That pressure hasn’t abated for while they may have negotiated Waterford, they’ve yet to put silverware on the table to sit alongside the offerings of their U17, minor and senior counterparts. That opportunity presents itself at the Gaelic Grounds.
Standing in the far corner is a Limerick side who eased through their quarter and semi-final contests with 11 and 13 points to spare respectively. Both games were over by the end of the first quarter. Fifteen minutes into their semi-final against Clare and the scoreline read 1-10 to 1-2 in their favour. Where Cork can call on Mark Coleman and Shane Kingston, seven of Pat Donnelly’s side have played senior championship this summer.
“They’ve serious players, the likes of Cian Lynch, Ronan Lynch, Aaron Gillane, Tom Morrissey, and Kyle Hayes. It is a huge ask and a huge order going to Limerick. But purposefully, we’ve played all our challenge matches away from home so as to prepare ourselves. We know it is going to be tough.”
Meyler added: “It is an exciting challenge for Shane Kingston and Mark Coleman to replicate their senior performance at U21 level. The seniors need to perform as seniors in the U21 set-up. That’s their job. They need to step up to the plate when required and hopefully, that will drive the other fellas on.
“But remember, it is 15 against 15. It is not two or three seniors against two or three seniors.
“We showed character and attitude in Walsh Park. We’ll need to show plenty more above in Limerick.”
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