O'Loughlin Gaels, Trillick and Kiladangan all celebrated county senior glory.
club call

5 key storylines after a weekend of major GAA county senior final action

The last weekend in October generated big talking points around the country.

- Compiled by Declan Bogue and Fintan O’Toole

1. Kilkenny guard changes

The modern dominance Ballyhale Shamrocks have enjoyed, not only in their local patch in Kilkenny, but further afield in Leinster and then on the national stage, has been extraordinary. They were dislodged by a single point in yesterday’s Kilkenny county final, ending a remarkable run of success.

Their previous last knockout defeat in Kilkenny was at the semi-final stage in 2017 at the hands of James Stephens. Since then they have been crowned Kilkenny champions five times and Leinster kingpins on four occasions, only missing out there on the 2020 accolade when the competition was not played due to Covid. They have also picked up three All-Ireland successes, only stopped once when Harry Ruddle bagged his famous goal for Ballygunner in February 2022.

No wonder then O’Loughlin Gaels cherished this triumph, particularly after going so close in the 2021 decider. Brian Hogan was their manager, his face drenched in emotion after this victory, just as it was in 2016 when he steered his club on the pitch to a major win over Ballyhale.

2. Limerick and Galway champions march on

If Ballyhale exited the stage, then two heavyweights elsewhere reigned supreme in their respective county finals. Both Na Piarsaigh in Limerick and St Thomas in Galway are serial county title winners, they will enter the All-Ireland club race as major contenders and in the mood to make their mark.

Na Piarsaigh only won their maiden Limerick title win in 2011 but Saturday’s success was their eighth. They have completed back-to-back final victories for the second time in that time frame. Stitching wins together is no problem for St Thomas, soaring to new heights for their group yesterday in Galway with a sixth title on the bounce, matching the great team of the ’60s from Turloughmore, the club they held off for victory yesterday.

There was one other striking similarity this weekend between the pair. William O’Donoghue came back after snapping his plantar fascia in Limerick’s All-Ireland final win, David Burke has returned after snapping his cruciate in a training session March. Two towering midfield presences now available to bolster their clubs for the challenges that lie ahead.

3. Relief in success in Tipperary and Dublin

The recent consistency of the Kiladangan hurlers from north Tipperary and the Na Fianna hurlers on the northside of Dublin city, has to be admired. When you factor in replays, yesterday was Kiladangan’s seventh Tipperary senior hurling final appearance since 2016. The results sheet read one wins, two draws and three defeats before this second instalment of their rivalry with Thurles Sarsfields.

Failing to collect a second title would have been a stain on their record and would have stung their group. To back up their dramatic breakthrough in 2020, proved their credentials as a team of substance. Bryan McLoughney’s dramatic goal swung that epic three years ago in their direction, Sean Hayes struck for the critical score to settle yesterday’s encounter after a wondrous pass by Declan McGrath to pick him out. A second Tipperary senior win is a huge feat  for Kiladangan.

For Na Fianna the last two years have been tough, succumbing to Kilmacud Crokes in two successive finals. In 2021 they coughed up a nine-point advantage in normal time and lost in extra-time, last year they slipped up by three points to the same opponents. Even without their talisman Donal Burke, they still coped at the third time of asking. The Currie brothers struck 2-15 between them as they blitzed Ballyboden St-Enda’s to win their first title in style.

colin-currie-aj-murphy-and-conor-mchugh-celebrate-winning Na Fianna players celebrate. Tom Maher / INPHO Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

4. Cork and Waterford winners change Munster picture

The players of Castlehaven and Rathgormack savoured their respective county final victories yesterday. A first in a decade in Cork for Castlehaven after seasons of setbacks, while Rathgormack ensured they atoned for losing the last three finals in Waterford.

When the celebrations settle in both communities, they will look ahead and observe the opportunity in Munster. The defeated teams in these finals, Nemo Rangers in Cork and The Nire in Waterford, have been serial competitors in Munster with eight county titles between them since 2016.

Rathgormack participated in Munster in 2019, but that was their first foray in two decades in the province. Castlehaven last figured back in 2013. They are both on the same side of the draw as Cratloe, the Clare standard-bearers returning to this stage for the first time in nine campaigns. 

One of that trio will feature in a Munster decider. The stakes are high.


5. Crunching the figures in Derry and Tyrone

In the Trillick crowd after the Tyrone final, one man could be heard saying there was 19,000 at the Derry final. 

In fact, there was a small enough crowd of circa 5,500. Maghera is a medium sized town of over 4,000 residents and with them chasing a three-in-a-row, also their first three titles, you might have expected more there to see it, not to mention that Magherafelt is a fairly big town itself. 

 It seems that the poor weather though stopped a large ‘neutral’ attendance. It’s not that they didn’t want to see it however, as there were several thousand streams bought for those who wanted to see it with the feet up in front of a roaring fire. 

Meanwhile, Trillick continue to defy expectation with their feats in Tyrone. Three championships in the last nine years represents a third of their total and they are living in a golden age. Not bad for the small Kilskeery Parish, a sizeable chunk of which is in Fermanagh.

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