A week seems a long time in sport, when I sat down to watch the All-Ireland hurling final replay on Saturday evening last I could not believe it was only six short days after Mayo’s agonising one point defeat to Dublin in the football final, it now seems like the game was on about three months ago. The evenings are getting shorter and for the players unfortunately reality bites. It is a horrible feeling, most of them would have taken the week off work to either celebrate or simply drown their sorrows, and to wake up last Monday morning and return to their daily lives is really the hard part for them especially as they left without the holy grail. It is very depressing. I have to commend the two O’Sheas and Robbie Hennelly who were very giving of their time to supporters after the Breaffy and Charlestown league match last Sunday, signing every autograph and taking part for every picture request.
The All-Ireland hurling final replay was some advertisement for hurling. It was a fitting end to a truly brilliant year for the sport. Very often replays don’t live up to expectation but this game was an unbelievable spectacle, if you blinked you were likely to miss something special. In such games heroes are born and what happened in Shane Dowling’s case is the stuff of dreams. Dowling was told at 2.50pm that he was in the team after originally been named as a substitute, and three hours later the 19-year-old had scored 3-03 from play and won the man of the match accolade in an All-Ireland final, that’s real Roy of the Rovers stuff. Clare have a very young team and six or seven of their players have now won two All-Ireland u21 medals and the coveted Liam McCarthy Cup in the space of 14 months. They very easily could be the new Kilkenny and win a number of titles in the coming years.
The county intermediate final was a really good game, especially the first half with both teams going score for score and the tongue twister tie, Kilmaine from the south taking on Kiltane from the north had some brilliant passages of play and outstanding performances. I fancied Kiltane from the very start in this competition especially after they gave my own club Charlestown a right tanking in a county cup semi final earlier this year. They have some really good players, are very well organised, and have a panel bigger than any I have ever seen. Both of their midfielders are powerful and can score, and up front they have an abundance of talent with the ever impressive Mikey Sweeney the star turn. It is very important they don’t simply settle for winning the county championship, there is a provincial and All-Ireland title to be played for, could you imagine the party in Bangor if either of those titles were secured.
The senior quarter finals will be decided this weekend. On Saturday at 3.30pm the Mitchel's take on the Stephenites in what promises to be a humdinger with a lot of fine talent on show. Pat Holmes will be hoping Barry Moran and Richie Feeney will want to prove a point, and according to sources both turned out for club training the Tuesday after the All-Ireland. Ballina will put up a big fight but I expect the Mitchel’s to prevail in a very keen contest. The second quarter final on Saturday evening sees my old team Charlestown square up against old foes Garrymore. The bookies have Charlestown priced as red hot favourites but I don’t see it that way . We have struggled in years gone by against Garrymore, and in Jimmy Killeen and Enda Varley they have two forwards who always play well against the Sarsfields. Combine this with the loss of three key players from last year, you have a Charlestown team struggling to put up big scores and a question mark over the fitness of star forward Anto Mulligan- this could be the shock of the quarter finals, Garrymore could sneak it. Ballaghaderreen and Breaffy collide in the first quarter final on Sunday and if David Kilcullen is in town the Midfield battle between himself and Barry Kelly against the two O’Sheas may be worth the entrance fee alone. Breaffy showed great early promise but the reigning county champions should have too much fire power, and with Andy Moran and Barry Regan on the pitch I can’t see Ballagh losing. Peter Forde will be hoping his county players have no All-Ireland hangover when they take on Knockmore at 3.30pm on Sunday. The likes of Jason Gibbons and Danny Geraghty need little in the line of motivation. Knockmore will struggle with key players missing. Ballintubber in full flow are not to be messed with. My quarter final winners are.
1 ) Castlebar 2 ) Garrymore 3 ) Ballaghadeereen 4 ) Ballintubber.