Megan Frazer scored two goals – her seventh and eighth of the season – to lead sixth-ranked Maryland past Rutgers, 3-1, in College Park, Md. on Friday. Frazer is a senior from Derry. Maryland is now 14-4.
Richmond’s Rebecca Barry is on a two-goal diet. The Limerick sophomore knocked in a pair in both Friday’s 3-2 win over Lock Haven and in Sunday’s 3-1 victory over La Salle, both on the road. She also assisted on the Spiders’ first goal in the La Salle win. Teammate Amy Cooke, a freshman from Ballyclare, Co. Antrim, set Barry up on the deuce in the Lock Haven win. The Spiders (15-4) also had Dromore, Co. Down freshman Kerri McDonald on the pitch in a starting role.
Syracuse wrapped up the Big East Conference regular season title with a 3-2 win over Connecticut at home on Saturday. Two of the Orangewomen’s three Irish players contributed to their side’s scores.
Liz McInerney, a grad student from Dublin, knocked in the first goal for her fifth of the season. Then, Gillian Pinder, a freshman from Dublin set up Syracuse’s second goal of the game. She later scored the game winner; that was her eighth goal scored this season. Third-ranked Syracuse is now 16-1 and will compete in the Big East playoffs this weekend in Louisville, Ky.
Aisling Naughton scored the game-winning goal – her third such marker this season – to lead Michigan to a 1-0 triumph over Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant, Mich. on Sunday. Naughton, a freshman from Goatstown, Dublin has eight goals on the season for the 14th-ranked Wolverines (13-5).
Hayley Sarratt broke a string of three scoreless games for Holy Cross with a goal in Saturday’s 2-1 road loss to Colgate. That was Sarratt’s first collegiate goal. She is a freshman from Dublin. Holy Cross finished the season with a 2-15 mark.
Trish O’Dwyer scored Monmouth’s third goal of the game in Friday’s 5-0 win over Robert Morris in West Long Branch, N.J. That’s the seventh tally of the season for O’Dwyer, a junior from Dublin. The Hawks are now 7-12.
David Rooney of McNeese State set a meet record to win the Southland Conference Men’s Cross Country Championship in Beaumont, Tex. on Friday. A senior from Portmarnock, Co. Dublin, Rooney ran 8,000 meters in 23:33.5, with his nearest pursuer nearly a half-minute behind him. McNeese, coached by Brendon Gilroy (formerly of Sligo), swept the top three places and six of the top 11. Stephen Kerr, a McNeese freshman from Armagh City, placed 21st with a time of 25:09.8. An Irish duo from Lamar also competed, with Dublin junior Chris Jones finishing 15th in 24:52.2. Teammate Ryan Creech, a sophomore from Cork, got 27th place in 25:26.4.
This was Gilroy’s first Southland Conference title while at the helm at McNeese.
“The guys came here on a mission and got the job done,” Gilroy said. “Everyone ran extremely well. We’re going to enjoy this for a little bit, but then get back to work and get ready for [regionals and nationals].”
Rooney’s conference win is the first by a McNeese runner since Tom McGrath of Mullingar, Co. Westmeath turned the trick back in 1988. The Louisiana school has a long history of storied Irish runners, reaching back to the 1960s when Olympian Fanahan McSweeney enrolled there.
Bryant University junior Eimear Black won the Northeast Conference Women’s Championship in Smithfield, R.I. on Saturday. Black, from Glengormley, Co. Antrim, led from start to finish and broke the tape in 17:34.29. Bryant, coached by Irish native Stephanie Reilly, finished third among teams.
Providence College sophomore Shane Quinn was runner-up at the Big East Championship race in the Bronx on Friday. His 8,000-meter time of 24:38.81 was exceeded only by Syracuse’s Martin Hehir, who was in at 24:37.20.
Iona swept seven of the top eight spots in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship race at Walt Disney World in Florida. Jake Byrne, an Iona sophomore from Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, took fourth place with a time of 24:30.78 for 8,000 meters. Teammate Craig Murphy, a graduate student from Cork, came in 62nd. His time was 26:45.46. Iona’s Mitch Goose led the field home in 24:08.08.
There is an old saying that everything comes to those who wait. Well, supporters of St Patrick’s Athletic must be wondering if that is really true. It’s now 51 years since the Saints lifted the FAI Cup. I know of a few Saints supporters who were at Dalymount Park in April 1961 to see Pat’s beat the now defunct Drumcondra 2-1 and they will be in the Aviva Stadium on Sunday to see their team take on Derry City in this year’s final. But the majority of Saints supporters have never experienced a Cup final win.
Over those 51 years St Patrick’s have qualified for six finals, but they have lost all six, including the 1996 final against Shelbourne, which went to a replay. Their other Cup final defeats were in 1967 to Shamrock Rovers, 1974 to Finn Harps, 1980 to Waterford, 2003 to Longford Town and six years ago they were beaten by Derry City in the final. Meanwhile Derry has a good record in Cup finals since they joined the League of Ireland in 1985 and the Candystripes have brought the famous trophy home to Brandywell four times. Apart from that 2006 win over Pat’s, which was the last final to be played at the old Lansdowne Road, Derry were also successful in 1989, 1995 and 2002. This will be the third final at the Aviva and Sligo is the only club to win the Cup at the new stadium so far.
Apart from the long-suffering Saints supporters, Shamrock Rovers fans will also be hoping that the Cup goes to Inchicore this year. A win for Pat’s would mean that Rovers, who finished fourth in the League, would qualify for the Europa League next year. A Derry City win would see them play in the Europa League next season. Derry manager Declan Devine won an Irish Cup medal as a goalkeeper with Glentoran in 1996 and although Liam Buckley never won an FAI Cup medal as a player, he was manager of Sporting Fingal when they beat Sligo Rovers in the 2009 final. Maybe Buckley will be the man to bring a bit of much needed Cup final luck to the ever-patient Saints.
Leitrim are still on track for their three-peat as a blitz of goals in the second half, despite being a man down, put paid to Cork’s chances. Now it is the Kingdom against Leitrim in the senior final next Sunday. Leitrim started in style as Dan Doona showed his unquestioned class with a superb point which was quickly followed with a pointed free from Jamie Clarke, the Armagh man despite being well marshaled by Shaun McNamee would end up with a personal tally of 3-5, naturally with a little help from his friends.
However Cork soon got motoring to hit three points as Ben Brosnan(2) and Jason Kelly hit the target. Leitrim wasted chances before a clever pass from Rory Woods set up Clarke for another score. Cork had a sustained period of pressure that netted two points, one a long range free from Brosnan and the other a chip over from Francie Cleary after Alan Raftery’s shot came back from the crossbar. Still there was little between the sides as Leitrim hit back with two, one from Clarke and the other from Doona with the very constructive runs of Kieran McKeever being the common factor in both.
Tom Hardwick hit a fine point from the wing before a scintillating move involving Johnny Goldrick and Clarke ended with the latter being grounded in the penalty area. Clarke coolly and clinically dispatched the spot-kick to the corner of the net. However Leitrim’s major strike was quickly followed by a major blow as Leitrim’s work horse midfielder Paddy Kelly was issued a red card.
Leitrim, who went in leading by 1-5 to 0-6 at the half, got a great start to the second half as midfielder Adrian O’Connor launched a high ball into the square where Rory Woods deftly directed into the path of Clarke for him to plant it in the net. Cork failed to use the extra man effectively while Leitrim defenders Creegan, McKeever Donaghey and Fahey worked tenaciously to compensate for the man deficit.
Both sides would add a brace before Gary Lowney produced a brilliant save from David O’Gara as he was the last link on defense splitting move involving Donaghey, Clarke and Doona. However O’Gara had better luck with his next effort as he fielded a long free from McKeever and in the blink of an eye the net was bulging. Leitrim would continue to dominate as McKeever kept driving forward, thus preempting Cork attacks. Woods tagged on another point as did Brosnan from a free.
Both sides added goals, Clarke got his third with McKeever once again being the critical part of the goal scoring equation. Jason Kelly did manage to land a major for Cork after Rory Stafford laid off the ball, but it did little more than take the bad look of the scoreboard for the Rebels who were well and truly beaten in this encounter.
Cork: Gary Lowney, Shaun McNamee, Gary Hanley, Paddy Harrington, Rory Stafford, Eoin Dillon, Derek Courtney, Alan Raftery(0-1), Jason Kelly(1-1), Mickey Leneghan, Peter Hatzer, Francie Cleary(0-1), Ronan Caffrey, Tom Hardwick(0-1), Ben Brosnan(0-5). Subs. Gerald McCarthy, Brian Argue, Tadgh Foley, John Powers, Mike McSweeney, Sean Kinahane.
Leitrim: Pa Ryan, Mike Creegan, Brendan Donaghey, Darren Walsh, Peter Fahey, Kieran McKeever, Shane Maher(0-1), Adrian O’Connor, Paddy Kelly, Johnny Goldrick, David O’Gara(1-3), Ray OConnor, Jamie Clarke(3-5),
Rory Woods(0-1), Dan Doona(0-2). Subs. Mark Dobbin, Paddy Daly, Ken O’Connor, Kieran O Loughlin, Donal Harnett, Cathal Mathews. Referee Lawrence McGrath, Man of the Match Kieran McKeever
Donegal captured the intermediate title with a superb second half display as a three goal blitz rocked the Rangers. Once again their weapons of destruction were principally Justin Burke who hit for 1-6 and James Moynagh who had a tally of 2-3.
However the overall firepower and superior fitness of the Donegal team were telling factors as they left the Rangers in their wake in the second half. Rangers started well but their early attacks fell short of the mark.
Justin Burke opened the scoring with a goal after he converted a fine cross-field ball from Tommy Moran. Rangers were undaunted by the major strike and by the sixth minute they had wiped out the deficit with four points as Shane Horan, Ronan Caffrey and Dan Lehane hit the target. However Donegal responded with the next three points to lead by 1-3 to 0-5 midway in the period. Donegal continued to edge ahead though the strong running of Shane Horan and the support play Of Liam Hanley kept the Rangers on their tails. Donegal lead by 1-7 to 0-7 at the break as the Rangers wasted a good scoring opportunity right at the buzzer.
Both sides traded points on the resumption, but a goal on ten minutes had the sides level as a defense splitting move involving Hanley, Horan and Kevin Daly ended with Caffrey blasting the ball to the net. Rangers appeared to have the momentum as a foul on Daly ended with a Horan point and the lead. However the lead was short-lived as Moynagh was perfectly placed to finish the ball to the net after Mickey Annette and CJ Molloy set up the chance midway in the period. Burke and Caffrey sandwiched in points before this duo, Molloy and Annette combined well again for the latter to fire to the net. Donegal were now at full throttle as they bore down on the Ranger goal. Moynagh and substitute Vinny Gavin plus Sean Reilly hit the target.
Sporadic attacks from Rangers led to pointed frees from Horan, but Niall McMahon, PJ Flanagan and John Fitzgerald were giving little away at the back. Moynagh did add another goal to his impressive stats but at this stage the game was over as a contest. Donegal had plenty of depth in their ranks as was well illustrated by the return of Eamon Gunn to the team and the introduction of Vinnie Gavin.
Celtics will have to be content with their knockout title as they were well beaten in this game though O’Dwyer, Hanley, Horan, Caffrey, Jusifi and Caffrey certainly gave it their best shot.
Donegal: Brian Cullinan, Niall McMahon, John Fitzgerald, Ramie Kane, PJ Flanagan(capt), Conor Classon, Peter McNeilis, Alan Molloy, Eamon Gunn, Mickey Annette(1-0), Sean Reilly(0-1), Justin Burke(1-6), Tommy Moran, CJ Molloy(0-1), James Moynagh(2-3). Subs. Vinny Gavin(0-1), Mike Molloy, Kieran Tavey Ciaran Slattery, Brian Sweeney, Daniel Madden, Kevin Purce, Sean McGivney, Liam Deane, Simon Gillespie, Del Ferriera, Brendan Grant, Jack Donnelly
Rangers: Mike Sheridan, Mal McHugh, Donnacha O’Dwyer, Alan Carr, Ben Logan, Liam Hanley(0-1), Derek Courtney, Dan Lehane(0-1), Brian Hanamy, Kevin Daly, Shane Horan(0-6), Conor Hunter, Ronan Caffrey(1-4), Steven O’Shea, Adrian Jusifi. Subs. Sean Moynihan, Patrick O’Driscoll, John Power, Mike McCarthy, Lawrence Kennedy, Phil Kennedy, Mike Bishop, Kieran Moran, Roy Henley, Bernard Madden, Dean Murphy. Referee Alan Hearty, Man of the Match Justin Burke.
DUBLIN have been made favorites to retain their All-Ireland Senior Football Championship crown after a weekend which saw Kerry, Down, Kildare and Laois qualify for the quarter-finals.
It was the quarter-final draw made following Saturday’s round four qualifiers which saw the Dubs overtake Cork as the favorites. Dublin have been drawn against Laois with their three main rivals Cork, Donegal and Kerry all in the other half of the draw.
The full quarterfinal draw is: next Saturday, Aug. 4, Mayo vs. Down, 5 p.m. and Dublin vs. Laois, 7 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 5, Cork vs. Kildare, 2 p.m. and Donegal v Kerry, 4 p.m. All games will be played at Croke Park.
Should they overcome Laois, Dublin will face the winners of Mayo and Down. So, they will undoubtedly be favourites to make their second successive All-Ireland final.
The situaiton in the bottom half is far harder to predict with Donegal and Kerry meeing in what is bound to be an immense tussle. While Cork will start favourites in the remaining match, they cannot afford to underestimate Kildare.
Meanwhile, the only surprise from last Saturday’s qualifiers was Laois’s 1-15 to 1-12 success over Meath at O’Connor Park in Tullamore. Elsewhere, Kerry demolished Clare 2-22 to 1-6, Kildare trounced Sligo 0-13 to 0-4 and Down beat Tipperary 1-13 to 0-11.
In beating Tipperary, Down became only the second side since Dublin to win after a six-day turnaround. Meath could attempt to use that as an excuse for the defeat to Laois but, in truth, they would only be fooling themselves.
While the six-day turnaround obviously didn’t help, the reason that Meath lost is a complete lack of consistency. They have been up and down throughout their campaign and this was one of their down days.
Credit to Laois who have made the quarter-finals for the first time in six years. They effectively made certain of victory with a fine first half performance and looked set for a comfortable victory when 1-12 to 0-5 in front after 38 minutes.
Meath did manage a rally to get within three points but their goal from Peadar Byrne in the 68th minute came too late to change the outcome. Meath look have to look back on the performance earlier in the game when, frustratingly, they gave away a silly penalty.
Ross Munnelly took full advantage to put his shot into the corner. He finished as top scorer with 1-4 in a decent Laois display.
But manager Justin McNulty is fully conscious that they will have to move up a number of gears to have any hope against Dublin. His opposite number Meath boss Seamus McEnaney confirmed that he expects to make an announcement concerning his future before the end of the week.
Having seen off Tyrone the previous week, Kerry took Clare apart at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. The only problem was that Paul Galvin stupidly got himself sent off for a second yellow card in the 49th minute and will now miss the quarter-final against Donegal.
He could have no complaints as his second offence was a dangerous head high tackle. There was absolutely no need as Kerry dominated throughout against a Clare side that never got going.
Colm Cooper (1-4) was outstanding, while Tomas O Se marked his record 82nd appearance with a useful display. But the the performance of the emerging James O’Donoghue (1-3) at corner-forward was perhaps the biggest bonus for manager Jack O’Connor.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s quarter-final against Donegal, O’Connor commented: “I had a sneaking feeling we were going to get them. It will be a great challenge for us as Jim McGuinness has a fantastic system going there at the moment.”
Kildare also have a tough quarter-final to look forward to against Cork. At least though, they were much more like their normal selves in beating Sligo by 0-13 to 0-4.
There had been talk during the week that the Hyde Park venue suited the Connacht side but Kildare need not have worried. Sligo were pretty dismal on the day.
Kildare, by contrast, gave a workmanlike performance, particularly when they were playing into the wind in the second half. Eoghan O’Flaherty was their top scorer with 0-4, all from frees.
McGeeney, predictably, is playing up the strength of Cork, describing them as the favorites to win the All-Ireland. “We’re up against it, but that’s why you compete. That’s why we love it so much.”
Down had to work considerably harder for their five point (1-13 to 0-11) victory over Tipperary at Mullingar but there’s no doubt that they deserved their victory. The key moment arrived at the end of the first half when Benny Coulter scored the only goal of the game.
It was fortunate in the sense the ball broke well for Down after a shot from Kevin Duffin had come back off the crossbar. The goal gave the Ulster side a 1-6 to 0-4 interval lead.
That was extended to 1-11 to 0-7 before Tipperary managed a rally which brought them to within a goal six minutes from time. Down, however, regained their composure with a point from man-of-the-match Ambrose Rodgers to finish deserved winners.
Manager James McCartan was well pleased, stating: Everyone was tipping this as the shock of the weekend but we were determined that this wasn’t going to be the case.”
After a dismal performance at Euro 2012 Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni said changes would be made for the World Cup campaign. And the Italian has lived up to his promise, “resting” four of his senior players for the friendly against Serbia in Belgrade on Aug. 15. Shay Given (125 caps), Richard Dunne (76), Robbie Keane (120) and Damien Duff (100) have all been left out. Whether they will ever return only Trap knows. Also out is Keith Andrews who was our best player at the Euro finals; excluded as he is suspended for our opening World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan in Astana on Sept. 7. Trap has included just one uncapped player in the squad, goalkeeper Darron Randolph, but has recalled: Marc Wilson, James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman, Keith Tracey and Andy Keogh, the player who scored against Serbia at Croke Park in May 2008, Trap’s first game in charge. Kevin Foley, who was dropped from the Euro 2012 squad at the Irish team’s training camp in Italy, was invited back by the manager, but said he has not yet made up his mind if he wants to play international football again.
O’DRISCOLL TO LEAD
Roy Keane will not be returning to manage his former club Nottingham Forest. Last week Keane’s agent Michael Kennedy dropped a broad hint when he said that the Corkman would be interested in the job, if asked. Earlier Forest’s new Kuwaiti owners had spoken to another out of work Irish manager Mick McCarthy. But the job went to a lesser known former Irish international in Seán O’Driscoll. The 55-year-old Wolverhampton native, who won three caps in 1982 and ‘83 under Eoin Hand’s reign, has served his managerial apprenticeship in the lower divisions in England with Bournemouth, Doncaster and Crawley and he coached at Forest last season when Steve Cotterill was in charge.
FANS EXPECT CATS
TO BOUNCE BACK
It’s beginning to look like winning the Munster senior hurling championship might have been a poisoned chalice for Tipperary. They will probably face Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semifinal and nobody wants to face the “scalded cats” right now. On Sunday next in Thurles Kilkenny, who were shocked by Galway in the Leinster final, take on Limerick in the All-Ireland quarterfinal. And with the winners due to play Tipperary in the All-Ireland semifinal we are certain to have a new pairing in this year’s final on Sept 9. Kilkenny and Tipperary have contested the last three All-Ireland hurling finals. Limerick, who put up a good performance against Tipperary in the Munster championship quarterfinal, have done well via the back door route, notching up big scores against Antrim and Laois and then beating neighbours Clare in the third round. But every hurling fan is expecting Kilkenny to bounce back from that shock Leinster final defeat to Galway and Limerick could feel the brunt of the Cats anger on Sunday. The other quarterfinal at Semple Stadium on Sunday sees Waterford, the beaten Munster finalists, take on Cork. Jimmy Barry Murphy, the Cork manager has introduced several young players to championship hurling this year and veterans like Seán Og O hAilpin and John Gardiner have to be content with places on the bench. Waterford are a hard team to break down, but I think this young Cork side can claim a semifinal spot against Galway.
READY FOR LONDON
When the 2012 Olympic Games get under way in London on Friday, Ireland will be represented by 65 athletes and 90 officials. With 14 sports represented, it will be the most diverse Irish team in Olympic history. Our record entry was in 1948, also in London, when the Irish entry officially numbered 100, but only 80 got to compete, as politics, in some cases, interfered. Pat Hickey, president of the Olympic Council of Ireland says that the 90 officials will not be what are commonly known as “blazers” but experts. Normally officials at Olympic events wear blazers, but the Irish back up team will wear casual sporting attire this time round. Hickey said: ‘‘Our back up team will consist of coaches, physios, nutritionists every sort of back-up an athlete could need.’’ All countries send more officials than competitors to the Games. The British Olympic Committee confirmed a final entry of 542 competitors plus a backroom team of 819. Ireland’s best medal hope will probably be in boxing with a lot of pressure on Bray’s Katie Taylor to deliver gold.
PATS WELL PLACED
St Patrick’s Athletic look the most likely of the three League of Ireland clubs who were involved in European action last week, to progress to the next round. Last Thursday the Saints drew 1-1 with Siroki Brijeg of Bosnia in Pecara in the first leg their Europa Cup tie and must be fancied to progress to the next round when the teams meet against at Inchicore tomorrow night. If Pats progress, they will meet German club Hanover in the next round. Sligo Rovers went down 3-1 away to Spartak Trnava of Slovakia in the Europa League and while the away goal is beneficial it’s doubtful if the Bit O’ Red can overcome a two-goal deficit. Steaua Bucharest await the winners. Shamrock Rovers dominated their European Cup qualifying home tie with FC Ekranas of Lithuania in Tallaght last week, but couldn’t convert their chances and the game ended scoreless. The Hoops were in Lithuanian on Tuesday night for the second leg, with the winners playing Belgium club Anderlecht. Meanwhile, Pats have a bye into the FAI Cup quarterfinal, a competition they last one in 1961.
CAVANAN STAYS ON
Former Tyrone star Peter Canavan has decided to stay with Fermanagh for another year. Earlier Canavan had hinted that he might walk away, but has now committed for another year. Canavan said: ‘‘We were involved with the team for six months and we think there was serious progress made. The potential is still there. Fermanagh has a small pool to pick from and everyone has to buy into what we are trying to do in terms of preparation. It was a divided squad that we were working with at the start, but that changed and I would hope that players would be better prepared for next season.’’
There have been very few intercounty managerial resignations so far. Jerry Wallace in Antrim is the only hurling manager to quit, while in football Monaghan’s Eamonn McEneaney last week followed in the footsteps of Luke Dempsey (Carlow) and Paddy O’Rourke (Armagh). Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick is also expected to step down so that he can ease his work schedule; he is also a TD for the Wee County.
EPL CHAMPS FOR LIMERICK
Reigning English Premier League champions Manchester City will visit Limerick on Aug. 5. City will play Limerick in a friendly at Thomond Park on the August Bank Holiday weekend. For the past few seasons Limerick has been trying to organize attractive friendlies against big clubs like Barcelona, but the fixtures have not been ratified by the FAI. Now that Limerick has finally got the go ahead it will be interesting to see what size attendance City will attract. A veteran on the Dublin soccer scene when referring to Manchester’s various trips to Ireland over the years once said to me ’they need only send over the jerseys.’ But I don’t think City has the same pulling power as the red side of Manchester.
NOTHING too spectacular but Tipperary continue to look real contenders for the All-Ireland Senior Hurling crown following their 2-17 to 0-16 Munster final victory over Waterford at Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Sunday.
Predictably, Waterford provided much tougher opposition than in last year’s final. They were right in the mix until the final quarter of a match watched by a crowd of 26,438.
It was around then that Tipperary’s extra bit of class and superior replacements bench began to have an impact. Shane Bourke, one of those substitutes, scored the crucial second Tipperary goal in the 54rd minute.
His opportunist effort gave Tipperary a five point cushion they never likely to lose. As a matter of fact, they extended that advantage to seven points by the final whistle.
That was probably a bit unkind to Waterford, given that they had made a game of it for so long. With the memory of last year’s humiliation still fresh in ther minds, they took the game to Tipperary from an early stage.
They started much the better, leading by 0-4 to 0-1 after eight minutes. John Mullane and Shane Walsh were both causing the Tipperary defence real problems.
But when the going gets tough, there is usually someone in the Tippeary attack who delivers. On this occasion, it was John O’Brien who rattled home a superbly taken goal and point to keep his side in touch.
At half-time the sides were level (0-11 to 1-8) and Waterford were undoubtedly in with a chance of causing an upset. There wasn’t much in it for the opening period of the second half but then the Tipperary bench really began to have an impact.
Substitutes Eoin Kelly and Shane Bourke were to contribute 1-4 between them. Waterford may, however, feel that the free just prior to Bourke’s goal was a bit harsh.
Either way, the Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe failed to deal with Kelly’s long range free and Bourke was on hand to sweep the ball into the net.
His effort put Tipperary 2-13 to 0-14 ahead. Sadly for the big Waterford following, their team subsequently lost their way a bit, shooting some bad wides and Tippeary saw the game out reasonably comfortably.
O’Brien gave an outstanding performance to contribute 1-3 from play. Surprisingly, Lar Corbett did not figure on the scoresheet after being named in the starting line-up.
At times, he should have taken the scoring opportunity instead of looking for a colleague to pass too. But the man whose goals demolished Waterford last year is getting there, some of his distribution and positional play was excellent.
Manager Declan Ryan was reasonably satisfied, stating: “Lar ghosts around the place and he got some lovely ball. He uses it very well.
“I suppose he could have taken a couple of his own scores, but that him, he’s always been a team player.”
Overall, Ryan felt that his team did well enough, although there was some criticism that they went for goals too often when they should have taken points.
Mullane (0-3), Walsh (0-2) and free-taker Maurice Shanahan (0-8) showed up well for Waterford but defender Kevin Moran was undoubtedly their star man. Thirty-nine-year-old Tony Browne also did a lot of good work in defence before being substituted late on.
Manager Michael Ryan was proud of the way his team performed. He said: “Tipperary deserved their victory, they took their chances.
“But I’m proud of our lads. Last year, the crowd was leaving 10 minutes into the second half, but we have come on a long way since then.”
Cork and Limerick came through the two Phase Three qualifiers. Unsurprisingly, Cork had too much class for Wexford, winning the first Semple Stadium encounter 3-24 to 2-17.
But the meeting of Limerick and Clare was every bit as close and exciting as pundits had predicted. Previously this year, Clare have held an edge, winning their three meetings, but Limerick came good last Saturday night to get home by 3-18 to 1-20.
They did so because of their ability to get goals. It was a cracking game played between two talented young sides.
Davy Fitzgerald’s Clare had the better of the first half, scoring some magnificent points. But they went in at half-time 2-9 to 0-14 behind.
Importantly, Limerick secured two goals from Wayne McNamara and Seanie Tobin, the second of which was just before the break. Declan Hannon subsequently got a third goal as Limerick picked up the tempo in the second half.
Surprisingly, manager John Allen had opted to name Hannon and Kevin Downes in the replacements but Hannon, in particular, was to make a big impression after he was brought on as a 29th minute substitute. The accurate free-taking of Shane Dowling (0-8) was another important factor in Limerick’s success.
But the excellent Niall Moran was deservedly named man of the match after scoring 0-5 from play. Undoubtedly, Clare’s tough battle against Dublin the previous weekend didn’t help them as they ran out of steam in the second half.
Manager Fitzgerald made that point but agreed that Limerick deserved their success because of their second half effort.
Full-forward Luke O’Farrell (2-2) was the star for Cork as they beat Wexford by 10 points in the opening game. Cork’s ability to get three goals in a total of 3-24 was one of the most pleased features for manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy.
“We failed to score goals against Tipperary and paid the penalty. So it was pleasing that we should nail those chances in the first half.” he stressed.
Limerick to face Cats
LIMERICK drew the short straw after they were
pitted against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship quarter-finals to take place on July 29.
The other quarter-final will see Cork facing Waterford. Intriguingly, should Kilkenny get the better of Limerick, they will then take on Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final with Galway meeting the winners of the Cork-Waterford quarter-final clash.
Some surprises in qualifiers
MAYO claimed another Connacht Championship on a weekend which saw plenty of surprises in Round Two of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship qualifiers.
Leitrim, Limerick, Tipperary and Antrim were all shock winners but the biggest surprise of all very nearly came at Cusack Park in Mullingar.
Unbelievably, Westmeath led Kerry by 0-8 to 1-3 at half-time and then extended that advantage to six points early in the second half.
A goal from Darran O’Sullivan, however, brought Kerry back into the game and at they went on to edge a 2-10 to 1-12 victory. Hardly the form of potential All-Ireland winners.
They now face a tough Round Three qualifier at home to Tyrone. Mayo, meanwhile, are straight though to the quarter-finals having defeated Sligo 0-12 to 0-10 in a tough Connacht SFC final at Dr Hyde Park.
It wasn’t exactly pretty with both teams adopting a defensive approach but Mayo manager James Horan feels that his side will improve. Presumably, their preparations weren’t helped by the decision of a disgruntled Conor Mortimer to withdraw from their squad earlier in the week.
Horan argued that the saga didn’t affect his team. Whatever about that, Mayo missed a lot of chances and only managed to get the better of a dogged Sligo outfit very late on.
“It was a dog fight and a horrible match to watch from the sidelines but we showed a lot of fighting character. Our substitutes made a huge difference for us,” Horan emphasized.
Sligo will feel disappointed that some crucial decisions went against them. With the score a 0-9 apiece, Colm O’Boyle gave Mayo the lead with a shot which many observers felt had drifted wide.
That said, Mayo just about deserved their victory. Barry Moran had a huge game in midfield while substitute Aidan O’Shea was also very prominent.
Sligo led 0-5 to 0-3 at half-time but that was never likely to be enough playing into the wind in the second half. Mayo gradually wore them down in front of a crowd of 23,257 to claim a second successive Connacht title.
Elsewhere, there was plenty of action in Phase Two of the qualifiers. Besides Kerry’s narrow victory over Westmeath, there were victories for Tyrone, Limerick, Antrim, Tipperary, Leitrim, Laois and Kildare.
If only because of the Seanie Johnston transfer saga, the meeting of Cavan and Tyrone at Breffni Park probably drew most of the attention. Understandably, in the circumstances, Kilkdare manager Kieran McGeeney chose not to start Johnston against his former colleagues.
By the time he brought him on as a late substitute the match had long since finished as a contest. In the event, Johnston contributed a free as Kildare strolled to a 3-20 to 1-9 victory.
This was Kildare back to something like their best after the surprise Leinster semi-final defeat to Meath. But Cavan, it has to be said, didn’t provide a real test.
Few could have predictated that of the three Connacht sides involved in the qualifiers, Leitrim would emerge as the only winners. Galway suffered a shock 0-11 to 0-10 loss to Antrim at Casement Park, two injury-time points from Tomas McCann and Deaghlan O’Hagan giving the Ulster side victory.
Roscommon were no match for Tyrone at Dr Hyde Park on Saturday, losing by 1-16 to 0-8. Owen Mulligan was outstanding for Tyrone, contributing 0-5.
But Leitrim ended a long period of disappointment with a fine 0-13 to 0-10 home victory over a Wicklow side which hit 16 wides. In contrast, Leitrim made the most of their opportunities with Emlyn Mullingan finishing with 0-6 and James Glancy getting 0-5.
Elsewhere, Tipperary surprised Wexford 1-13 to 0-15 at Semple Stadium. It was an outstanding achievement, given that Wexford had run Dublin so close in the Leinster semi-final.
There’s no doubt Tipperary football is in good hands. Only last week their minors beat Kerry in the Munster Minor Football final to claim the title for a second successive year.
Limerick got the better of Longford by 1-21 to 1-15 after extra-time. It was a big disappointment for home side Longford after what has been a very promising season.
But they ran out of gas in extra-time. Another Leinster team Laois had no such problems as they beat Monaghan 2-12 to 0-12 at O’Moore Park. Goals from Colm Kelly and Brendan Quigley proved crucial. Afterwards Monaghan manager Eamon McEneaney announced his resignation.
Good enough for FIFA, but not for the GAA. That’s the situation with the Hawk-Eye goal line technology. The GAA has been trialing Hawk-Eye this year, but there were problems with the wind shaking the goalpost at Croke Park. No such problems in soccer and FIFA will introduce Hawk-Eye and another system called GoalfRef at their World club championship in Japan in December. The technology will then be extended to next year’s Confederation Cup and to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Meanwhile the GAA is still hopeful of having a further Hawk-Eye trial at Croke Park in August.
When they took on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim up in the Bronx last Friday, the New York Yankees were playing their 86th Major League Baseball game of the year. That left them with just another 76 matches remaining between then and Sept. 30, the date the regular season ends and the play-offs begin. The 162 game schedule yields 162 live broadcasts, 162 game reports in all the major newspapers and 162 days of guaranteed radio and television headlines. One of the main reasons the sport can claim to be America’s national pastime is because from April until October baseball is with us every single day and night.
If so many people in America measure out spring and summer in baseball fixtures, the other sports offer similarly lengthy campaigns. Apart from seasons pockmarked by strikes, the NBA demands players tog out 82 times before the knock-out stages of its competition begin and those play-offs subsequently take another two months to run off. Nobody complains about too many matches. The NHL has the same amount of games and equally elongated play-offs. Even the NFL, a sport so punishing that some reckon a 16-fixture regular season takes too much of a physical toll, has lately been lobbying its players to increase their workload by two games.
All of the above puts the bizarre nature of the GAA championship schedule into some perspective. Even allowing for the fact the major American codes are professional, the contrast with Gaelic football and hurling is stunning. Following their victory over Clare last Sunday (a game which underlined how devalued the provincial championship is now), Cork are back in action on the first weekend in August. If they go on to win the All-Ireland, Conor Counihan’s team will play five championship matches in exactly four months. And, with all due respect, one of those outings was a glorified training spin rather than a competitive encounter.
“I think the season is very drawn out,” said Colm Cooper last year. “When you have a situation where you play your first round of the championship and don’t play again for two months it’s ludicrous.”
While the Kerryman’s main problem with the huge gaps between games concerns the difficulty for players trying to find and maintain form, there’s something else for the GAA to consider here too. The biggest stars don’t get anywhere near enough exposure to draw in casual sports fans. Cork currently boasts its most exciting collection of footballers to emerge from the county in generations yet they’ll be headlining a maximum of four serious gigs this summer. If Sligo triumphed in Connacht and got to Croke Park in September, the six matches they’d play en route will have taken closer to five months because they started the campaign in New York on May 6.
What other sport, amateur or professional, puts the spotlight on their star performers so few times in a calendar year? Well, probably the closest equivalent to the GAA in the world is American college basketball and grid-iron, where amateur athletes play at a professional level in world-class stadia before enormous crowds of paying fans. In both those sports though, teams play every week (more than that in the case of basketball) during seasons that last for four and five months respectively and almost every match is on television.
The ubiquity of the fixtures is part of the reason college basketball and grid-iron are two more national obsessions in America. A rookie quarterback can make his debut for a university in early September and be a household name by the end of that month. In the GAA world, it can take years to achieve any sort of wider recognition. Cooper may well lament the haphazard championship set-up playing havoc with form but having a regular schedule would also make it easier to grow the profile of Gaelic footballers and hurlers.
For an example of how a limited schedule impacts the marketing of a sport, the GAA can look closer to home too. Is it any coincidence rugby broke out of its middle-class ghetto and took off as a national sport when the best players went from being seen a handful of times every January, February and March to playing 30-odd meaningful games over nine months, all of them on live television? The GAA’s biggest issue would be how to increase the number of serious inter-county matches without killing off the club game, the price rugby paid for expanding the profile of its elite.
In this respect, there should be much less carping than before. The Seanie Johnston affair has shown us that, whether we like it or not, there are different strata in the GAA now. The inter-county players are on one level and everybody else is on another. It might be time to consider something drastic like devoting three months of the year to the All-Ireland series, having county teams playing on an almost weekly basis with midweek replays if needed. That way, they are on show more and in such a way that still allows them be available for their clubs outside those times.
The American business model for sport demonstrates less is not more and, in reality, putting the best hurlers and footballers on show so few times each summer actually makes very little sense at all.
The biggest boon the GAA has received in years is Kilkenny’s defeat by Galway last Sunday week. Aside from suddenly making everybody believe that Brian Cody’s side may not be invincible, there’s the matter of spicing up the All-Ireland quarterfinals by their very presence. The greatest team of all time now has to play an extra game this summer, meaning they get one more day of exposure instead of their usual four outings.
Imagine any other sport where they’d have a squad reckoned to be the finest ever assembled and they put them on show four times in the competition that matters most. And still there are people in Croke Park wondering why hurling is the best-kept secret in the world.