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Westside column – September 20th 2014

Act one of the hurling drama has been put to bed by now, suffering from an acute bout of analysis paralysis. Meanwhile we anxiously await the curtain-call for act two of the series on Saturday week.

It’s that in-between time where the waiting makes people anxious. It’s a bit like sitting in the eye of a hurricane, that temporary pause before the second lash of the elements hits.

Hopefully the storm metaphor, though, will be inappropriate for the re-match. There was certainly nothing stormy in the drawn event, though Donal Og Cusack saw fit to dredge up a few old flashpoints in the ongoing rivalry as part of his television preview. It was a contribution that some resented and we can only hope he won’t be telling us ‘I told you so’ in a fortnight.
Over a week after the drawn event now and the praise for the spectacle we witnessed hasn’t in any way abated. Sometimes there’s an initial euphoria after a game which doesn’t quite survive the test of cooler appraisal. Not this one, however. It still sends a tingle through the nerve endings when you watch the ebb and flow of such an incredible contest.


Of course replays sometimes struggle to match the original so there’s no guarantee of a repeat here. That will hardly bother us, I suppose, if the result comes out right. Both sides I assume are now trying to digest the lessons of the drawn game. For Tipperary that means trying to curb Ritchie Hogan the next day as well as ensuring we take a far greater quota of our goal chances. Leaking fewer scores at the defensive end will also be a priority and I’m sure both managements have analysed the draw forensically to see if there’s any area where an advantage can be gained next time.

Eddie Brennan’s contribution to ‘The Sunday Game’ has come in for criticism and rightly so. He focused on referee, Barry Kelly, and the Kilkenny implication that they’ve fared poorly under his whistle. Kilkenny whinging about Barry Kelly is a bit rich because they’ve certainly got their share of breaks from referees over the years as we know to our cost. Eddie chooses to be selective in his recall.

But here’s the more important point. As a paid analyst on the national broadcaster Eddie Brennan ought to park his partisan views outside the studio door. If he’s unable then RTE should review matters.

Meanwhile the preparation for the replay enters its final phase. There was a reported scare in the Tipperary camp when ‘Bonner’ Maher collided with Paul Curran in training – it sounds like the proverbial irresistible force meeting the immovable object. Anyway ‘Bonner’ seems to be okay, which is welcome news because if there’s one player we can’t afford to lose for the re-match it’s surely the Lorrha man.

As the build up to the replay intensifies club games once again are the victims. Cancelling three of the divisional finals has created a major backlog so we can expect a glut of activity in October as the county struggles to meet Munster deadlines. Indeed the one final which went ahead saw Nenagh Eire Og pull off a late, late draw with Burgess courtesy of an injury-time leveller from Paul Ryan. That replay is planned for next weekend.

Incidentally wouldn’t it have been ironic if on the week we cancelled club activity that a key player was injured in county training. Yet that’s the nature of the risk you have to take. Some of these training games are more intense than club fixtures so you often wonder about the wisdom of cancelling club games a fortnight out from a major engagement like an All Ireland.
Postponing the West final in particular seems to have divided opinion. Conor O’Brien is the only county player involved and he’s got very little play time with the Tipperary team this season. Perhaps the counter argument is that if Mickey Cahill starts then Conor comes up the ranking as a defensive replacement.

Meanwhile on All Ireland weekend the not-so-little matter of relegation was settled without fuss as Davins and Cashel K.C. took the drop to intermediate for 2015. The Carrick side has been senior for just five years since their county intermediate win of 2009; this time Moneygall proved too strong when it came to the crunch. They’ll be a major loss to the South, their clashes with Swans were always crowd pullers – and pleasers. I always associate the old Carrick club with my childhood memories of the great team of the sixties and especially names like Mick Roche and P.J. Ryan.

For Cashel K.C. it was a traumatic event too. I saw their game with Ballingarry and they could have no complaint about the outcome. The South side both out-fought and out-hurled the West side on this occasion and it really was a sad outcome for the King Cormacs. In fact were it not for Simon Delaney the outcome would have been even more decisive. The Cashel defender was their stand-out player.

Clubs regard senior status as a badge of honour and it’s a major blow when the drop comes. In that sense I have great sympathy for both Davins and Cashel who now face the challenge of rekindling interest in the lower level. The experience of Golden, who went down last year, and Ballybacon a few years earlier, offers a warning as they both struggled this year at intermediate.

The relegations mean that West and South are now down to four senior teams each, which clearly diminishes their local championships – not to mention their coffers. And there’s every risk that the numbers will drop further in coming seasons. Any hope they’d combine for a more meaningful south-county series?

If the old order is changing with the likes of Cashel K.C. and Carrick Davins being relegated then a new order is definitely on the horizon with a novel county minor final looming between Moyle Rovers and Newport Gaels. A few eyebrows furrowed last week when the semi-final results showed the South champions out-gunning Holycross and Newport too strong for Clonoulty\Rossmore. This is certainly new territory and welcome for its sheer novelty.

It had me scurrying to the records to check out just how unique this pairing is. Interestingly Newport beat Moyle Rovers in an U12 ‘C’ county final six years ago so it’s probably a reasonable assumption that some of the same players will be in opposition this time.

Newport have the assistance of a few players from Ballinahinch, hence the addition of ‘Gaels’ to the name. One such player is Davy Gleeson, younger brother of Dermot, ex-Tipperary and more recently a Cork county medal winner with Newtownshandrum. They also have county minor panellists in Conor Floyd, son of county secretary, Timmy, and Pa Ryan, son of ex-Clonoulty player, Cecil Ryan.

Moyle Rovers this year won their first ever South title and were impressive in their defeat of Holycross in the semi-final. A strong, athletic side, I’m told, was too powerful for a young Holycross team. They have a county minor panellist in Stephen Quirke and I’m sure will feel well capable of making history just as Declan Browne and company did at junior level back in 1998.

Newport’s only previous North minor win was way back in 1926 at a time when there was no county championship in the grade; the county archive doesn’t even record that success.

Anyway it’s a fascinating new pairing, which will give us new county winners. Newport seems to be the fancy for a game that I understand will go ahead next weekend. Check fixtures for details.