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Talking Points: Weekend's GAA club action

Some of the key issues that emerged from yesterday’s games around the country in the AIB club championships.

Captain Padraic Maher and the Thurles Sarsfields' players celebrate in the dressing room with the Bob O'Neill cup after the game.
Captain Padraic Maher and the Thurles Sarsfields' players celebrate in the dressing room with the Bob O'Neill cup after the game.
Image: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

1. A therapeutic weekend for Tipperary hurling
In the wake of Tipperary’s disastrous All-Ireland semi-final loss to Kilkenny in August, their squad drew flak from all angles.

Lar Corbett was at the front of the firing line yet it was not a pleasant time for Padraic Maher, Michael Cahill and Pa Bourke either.

But as the vitriol rained down upon them, they found a sanctuary in Thurles Sarsfields. Their club insulated them and helped renew an enthusiasm for hurling.

Yesterday they brought the curtain down on a memorable 2012 club campaign. County titles are commonplace for the Tipperary club but the coveted Munster title had eluded them until now. They achieved that in a spellbinding encounter, which opponents De La Salle contributed richly to.

In a 1-21 to 1-16 victory, the towering defensive play of Padraic Maher and Michael Cahill was again evident with Pa Bourke once more lethal up front as he notched seven points.

And the sight of Lar Corbett chipping in with some classy scores was a heart-warming one for followers of the club and indeed the county.

On a weekend that also saw Silvermines win the Munster intermediate title with the precocious talent of new inter-county recruit Jason Forde on show, the rehabilitation process for Tipperary hurling took significant steps forward.

2. Club scheduling comes under fire
Páirc Uí Chaoimh may have housed a classic clash yesterday but 179km east of the Cork venue, there was not even a ball pucked in anger in Wexford Park. No one could quibble with referee Barry Kelly’s decision to postpone the meeting of Ballyhale Shamrocks and Oulart-The-Ballagh given the sodden state of the pitch surface.

Yet the neccessity to call off the game raised the issue again of the scheduling of the provincial club championships. Oulart-The-Ballagh manager Pat Herbert is less than enamoured with the fixture-makers judging by his comments after the game was rained off.

Yesterday saw heavy fog in Castlebar, driving rain in Newbridge and poor visibility in Portlaoise, all affect the club clashes being held at those venues. It is a perennial problem playing these matches in the depths of winter.

There have been calls for the club championships to be concluded in the calendar year but given the prolonged nature of the inter-county season that will be very difficult to facilitate. If the practice continues, the GAA looks set to be at the mercy of the weather Gods for the foreseeable future.

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A waterlogged pitch at Wexford Park. Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

3. St Brigid’s excellence continues
They may not be amongst the heavyweights at inter-county level, but in the club games Roscommon have a tradition of churning out great teams. Clann na nGael’s record during the 1980′s was marvellous with a Connacht title in 1982 followed by six in a row between 1984 and 1989. Before that Roscommon Gaels had a fine outfit who won back-to-back provincial crowns in 1974 and 1975.

And now St Brigid’s can sit comfortably in that group. The Kiltoom club yesterday won their third successive Connacht championship and fourth in seven years. To put that into context, they are only the second side in Connacht – after Clann na nGael – to achieve that feat. Giants out west like Crossmolina, Corofin and Ballina Stephenites all saw that achievement elude them.

There was much to admire in St Brigid’s despatch of Ballaghaderreen yesterday. Their second-half showing was formidable with a shrewd management team of Kevin McStay and Liam McHale helping direct a team where Karol Mannion, Peter Domican, Frankie Dolan and Senan Kilbride all shone.

Of course their appetite will not be sated now. No Roscommon club has ever won an All-Ireland club senior title. Clann na nGael were schooled in hard knocks with five All-Ireland decider losses in the 1980′s. St Brigid’s will hope their excellence in the provincial arena can now be transferred to the national stage.

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St Brigid’s manager Kevin McStay. Pic: INPHO/Mike Shaughnessy

4. Ballymun and Portlaoise both forced to sweat
The expected results were produced in yesterday’s Leinster semi-finals. Yet the victories were character-building exercises for the favourites involved.

Ballymun Kickhams saw their opponents Sarsfields misfire repeatedly in front of goal in Newbridge and were grateful to the greater economy they showed on a tough day for football. Ted Furman’s second-half goal proved a priceless strike.

Portlaoise needed to draw on all their experience against the bright and brave play of newcomers Emmett Óg Killoe. The Longford side have been a revelation this season yet the Laois outfit had the guile to get the string of scores that sealed a three-point win.

The two best sides in Leinster this season will now meet in the decider. Portlaoise are experience campaigners yet Ballymun are just as ambitious even if this is a new experience for their team. It promises to be an intriguing showdown.

Ballymun and Portlaoise to face off in Leinster decider

St Brigid’s reign supreme in Connacht again

Thurles Sarsfields make Munster hurling history

About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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