ALL-IRELAND QUARTER-final day is one of the hurling occasions in the summer that I look forward to most.
Go back over the last few years and invariably we’ve been treated to great games. There’s the prize of a big day out in Croke Park at stake. The pressure isn’t as great and both teams usually go for it. It’s good stuff to watch.
I thought yesterday would fall into that category. A big crowd in Thurles with plenty from Wexford and four teams with chances to make their mark as Wexford and Tipperary had the qualifier momentum with Dublin and Limerick having the desire to bounce back from defeats.
It never materialised into a day of cracking hurling. The standard wasn’t great, it was stop-start stuff and there was messy hurling on show. Limerick and Tipperary ran out convincing winners but it was a desperately disappointing day for Wexford and Dublin.
The recent schedule of games didn’t help Wexford. The most important thing for them yesterday was to get off to a good start. Go ahead on the scoreboard, get the crowd behind them and then while the bodies might have been tired, the enthusiasm of their minds would get them through.
Instead Wexford were lethargic and well beaten. It’s a pity for them as their season ends with old doubts about them returning. They should look at their season as a whole and they’ve made huge progress. The age profile of their side is favourable and should allow them to build on this.
Dublin never got going yesterday and it was indicative of their 2014 season. Seeing them against Cork last August, I thought this was a team going places and were likely to threaten for the All-Ireland title. It was interesting they opted not to go with a sweeper yesterday. It’s a game they play really well and it would have allowed them to nullify the direct running of Bonner Maher. The setup of 15 v 15 suited Tipperary’s attacking setup and they took charge.
Time For Change
Is there a need for Dublin to shake things up? From the outside, it looks like they need an injection of something new. There’s no doubt that Anthony Daly has done a brilliant job with Dublin. My own view is he’ll know himself and I think he may have brought them as far as he can. It looks like 2013 was their best chance of winning an All-Ireland under him and change could be on the way.
In contrast Limerick are flying after yesterday. I was very impressed by them. The work rate that shone through in the Munster semi-final – but was lacking slightly in the Munster final – returned yesterday. Paul Browne and James Ryan were flying at midfield. Shane Dowling continues to get vital scores, he’s hit 4-29 in three games and is performing really consistently. Graeme Mulcahy was also very lively in the corner alongside him.
Declan Hannon turned in a really good performance and that was a major positive for Limerick. It’ll be interesting now to see where Donal O’Grady will fit in if he returns from injury against Kilkenny. I’d give Limerick a right chance in the All-Ireland semi-final. Their defence is excellent and if they can get their forward unit going, they’ll really put it up to Kilkenny.
Tipperary also look to be in a good place. They seem to have rode out the storm since the defeat to Limerick and they look settled. They were good in defence yesterday and struck home the goals when it mattered.
Shane McGrath was excellent throughout. His form is a big boost for Tipperary and is the kind of guy who can really inspire a team, getting hooks and blocks in before carrying the ball forward. I don’t think Tipperary are firing on all cylinders yet and will need to step it up against Cork. That’s going to be a cracking game though, I expect it’ll be a shootout and whichever backline copes best will help their team prevail.
It’s a week where the focus is on Gaelic football but there’s a massive hurling match on Wednesday night in Ennis. The Munster U21 final is a huge game for Cork. The lack of underage success at minor and U21 has been highlighted constantly. This is a chance to correct that.
Cork had a good win over a fancied Waterford side in the semi-final. They have a right chance on Sunday and a few really good quality players. Alan Cadogan is one of the best forwards in the senior championship this year and will be a huge threat at U21 level.
Clare are favourites though. They’ve lead the way at U21 level in recent years. They’ve the likes of Tony Kelly and Colm Galvin in their ranks and a brilliant team. It should be a great game and I’m looking forward to it.