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Dylan Walsh 18 (Thomastown) Goalkeeper
The Galway minor footballers took themselves, their families, their management team and their supporters on a roller-coaster ride last Sunday afternoon in one of the most astonishing games of Gaelic football you will ever see at inter-county level.
Naomh Anna, Leitir Mór, did their very best on Sunday afternoon at Pearse Park in Longford to try to reach the final of the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship, but it was not to be. They have punched above their weight for most of the season on the road to county and provincial success, but last weekend they came up against a team that was just too good for them. There is no shame in that. And to their credit, they fought like real troopers right to the final whistle as they have done all season.
Justin McCarthy would have had a wry smile on his face last Sunday afternoon. As you all know he resigned from his post as the county team’s hurling manager a number of months ago after a “heave” from his own players. It had become apparent, in the wake of a heavy defeat to Clare in the Munster championship, that some of the players were unhappy with McCarthy. Much was made of Dan Shanahan storming off the field that day and refusing to shake Justin’s hand when substituted. As in that game big Dan was totally anonymous last Sunday, barely touching the ball, until he was rescued from the action or, should that be non-action! I wasn’t too enamoured with the Waterford players at the time as I felt it was another example of player power being exerted, something that has become quite common this year. Remember it was McCarthy who took Waterford to three Munster titles and also to the brink of All-Ireland glory. It wasn’t his fault the players choked when so near the finishing line. They had the perfect excuse last year. The system militated against them, they said, as they had played three consecutive Sundays in a row. The manager is always the easy scapegoat after failures and these players must have felt the need to apportion blame to someone. Justin is obviously a proud man. He walked before it got ugly and, other than issuing a brief statement at the time, he kept his powder dry. I am not sure if he went along to Croke Park last Sunday, but as the game unfolded he would have felt fully justified in having walked from the job when the players had the audacity to question his methods after seven relatively successful years in charge.
It was deja-vu all over again. Similar to the county senior final, Ballyhale Shamrocks were effortlessly cruising to victory as they led the Laois senior champions 1-13 to 1-3 at the interval.
Mayo will start their defence of their Connacht u21 title tomorrow in Fr O’Hara Park in Charlestown with the visit of Liam Sammon’s Galway side. Since the trio of Pat Holmes, Noel Connelly, and Mícheál Collins took charge of the side in 2006 they have at the least managed to claim the Connacht title, in their first year in charge they landed the top prize seeing off Cork on an unforgettable day in Ennis.
Local senior camogie player Jacqui Frisby has made the final 10 in the inaugural Gala Performance Award introduced this year to recognise the most outstanding individual performance during the course of the Gala All-Ireland Senior Championship, and Jacqui demonstrated her remarkable talent in the Tipperary V Kilkenny game in Semple Stadium on June 27. This led to the Kilkenny senior player making the shortlist of nominees for best performance of the season.
Mayo may well be the bookies’ favourites to win Sunday’s All Ireland semi-final clash against Down, but the favourites’ tag is something that Ray Dempsey has never paid much heed to as an inter county player and as an inter county manager since he took the reins of the Mayo minor side in 2008. The Knockmore man who brought last year’s batch of minors to within seconds of claiming Mayo’s first All Ireland minor title since 1985 last year, is once again only 60 minutes away from the last Sunday in September and an All Ireland final day out in front of a packed Croke Park.
Kilkenny have scooped six Vodafone All-Star awards for 2009, with Henry Shefflin and Tommy Walsh claiming the honour for the ninth and sixth time respectively.
This Sunday in Pearse Stadium ( 4pm) St James will take on Leitir Mor in the eagerly-awaited county intermediate final.