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Sideline cut: Murph gets up close and personal with the Rebels

“Frank Murphy was there of course, and the man knows how to wear a trench-coat, I’ll give him that. It immediately gives him an air of style and quiet sophistication, far removed from the O’Neill’s jackets sported by your regular county board apparatchik.”

Clones:
Clones: "Amhrán na bhfiann as captured by my mic"
Image: Ciaran Murphy via Twitter

THEY’RE LIKE THE Dallas Cowboys, or the New York Yankees; one of the most storied ‘franchises’ in Irish sports – the Cork hurlers, and I got my first look at them from my sideline position in Portlaoise this weekend.

Although the game was a total non-entity (you’ve already heard they beat Laois by the scarcely believable scoreline of 10-20 to 1-13, I presume) I did manage to familiarise myself with the hardy perennials of the Cork hurling scene.

Frank Murphy was there of course, and the man knows how to wear a trench-coat, I’ll give him that.

It immediately gives him an air of style and quiet sophistication, far removed from the O’Neill’s jackets sported by your regular county board apparatchik.

He has the Roman nose of a Senator in pre-Christian times, and in fact it’s not hard to see him donning a toga praetexta, berating younger members of the Senate for their rashness in the fields of battle, plotting behind colonnades, and generally being a crafty bugger.

Cork GAA supremo Frank Murphy

Then of course there was Dr Con Murphy, who was strolling by me as the tenth Cork goal went in.  I said hello, he came over for a chat and before I knew it he was on-air telling us this did no-one any favours.  He was right of course, because Cork learnt less than nothing from this game, and it could take a couple of years before Laois can forget this one.

Speaking of Cork hurling’s hardy perennials, it’s pretty hard to conduct a post-match interview with 3-11 man Patrick Horgan where there’s a lad playing the bag-pipes about 20 feet from you. It all comes with the territory I suppose but the sombrero-clad pied pipers of the Cork hurling support seem to be on telly more often than Jimmy Nesbitt – I’m sure we’re all aware of their presence at this stage, so let’s stop giving them the oxygen of publicity shall we?  (I know I’m becoming part of the problem by mentioning them here, but I only mention it in an attempt to cry halt, ok?)

We all thought the motivation provided by Brendan Lynskey and a few other former Galway hurlers in the Independent on Saturday would ensure a big performance from Galway on Saturday night against Dublin, but that never materialised.

When I read the statements, I could see that there was a kernel of truth in what was being said, of course.  And there’s no doubt Galway have underachieved massively in recent years.  But the answers to Lynskey’s questions were never going to be provided on Saturday night.  In the final analysis, the heroes of 87 and 88 can say whatever they like until Galway win an All-Ireland title.

That’s their privilege and the burden that the current players have to take on board, and only a Liam MacCarthy will consign those dissenting voices to the history books, which in fairness is exactly where they want to be put, as Conor Hayes said on Saturday evening when talking to us. Judging by Saturday’s performance, it looks like Lynskey et al won’t be put there for a little while yet…

Onwards and upwards (or at least, northwards) to Clones on Sunday and I can’t remember a championship game with 4 goals as good as the ones provided by Derry and Armagh.  The surprise perhaps was that Derry got 3 of them, and that they ran out such convincing winners 3-14 to 1-11, but they deserved every point of that win.

They just wanted it a lot more than Armagh, which is surely the hardest thing for Armagh people to understand.  But being so close to the action it’s hard to even put into words how big Derry are.  They are truly monstrous.  At least six of them could be described thusly – six foot three inches tall, 15 stone, a razor-sharp haircut and a Northern accent… and I think you’ll agree that’s an intimidating combination.

The key now for Derry is to put two big performances back to back, but John Brennan has already shown an ability to unify a panel of disparate individuals.  We always knew that Derry had the footballers, but now they have a guy calling the tune and ready to get them to concert pitch… a pied piper, if you like… only without the bloody bag-pipes.

  • This week Murph was – given a free umbrella by the good people at Superquinn in Portlaoise, “as long as we get an aul’ mention.”  Done and done.  And they say the entrepreneurial spirit is dead in this country…

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