Ciaran McGee in action for Pettigo in the Junior B final at the weekend. Photo Geraldine Diver
As the Galway players looked on with pride as their captain David Burke lifted aloft the Liam McCarthy Cup, inside they must have sighed a deep sense of relief, not because they had finally won the All-Ireland but because two years ago as a group they made a serious stand against their current manager at the time, Anthony Cunningham, and the decision by the county board to reinstate him for another year.
Such was the feeling at the time between the players and the Co. board, independent mediators had to be brought in to broker a deal.
Cunningham to his great credit stood down and brought the saga to a close. Many, especially from the hurling fraternity in Galway, were shocked at the stance of the players considering they were beaten in an All-Ireland final against one of the best Kilkenny sides ever to grace Croke Park.
Cunningham had been successful both as a player and had All-Ireland success at U-21 level with Galway. When he resigned Cunningham said he was extremely gutted and disappointed by the actions of the players.
The players’ actions would have been considered by many as being very dangerous at the time. The fact that players, not for the first time, were taking serious actions to make sure that they got the right man in place to get them past the end line said a lot of the character of the players involved and their devotion to Galway hurling.
Many would have seen their actions as selfish and unfair to the reputation of Anthony Cunningham, all of which has been put to bed after their great win last Sunday.
It would have been a travesty if the likes of Joe Canning never got to taste All-Ireland success, surely one of the most gifted players of his generation.
To be fair to Galway they have been outstanding for the last 12 months; they learned from their All-Ireland semi-final defeat last year and worked even harder in the months in between to make sure they got another opportunity. At no time last Sunday, even after conceding two first half goals, did they ever panic. You got the sense that they were playing within themselves at all time.
It was only fitting that the Liam McCarthy would go west in the wake of the sad passing of the great Tony Keady, one of the most inspirational characters ever to wear the maroon and white.
Waterford will come again; they will learn from the defeat and use it to make sure they get back into contention next year again. Hurling, like football, needs new blood and new counties coming through all the time; dominance by one side only weakens the sport and does nothing for the games.
DONEGAL SENIOR C’SHIP
The Donegal senior championship gets back up and running this Saturday evening with St Michael’s against Burt getting things under way, and you would expect St Michaels to come through. Burt, in Division Three, have done well to come through in their group and will give their all but the gulf between the divisions should make it a must win for the Division One side.
Killybegs will play Naomh Conaill in the evening game. Like the first game you would expect Glenties, the Division One side, to have too much for a Killybegs side who have struggled this year in Division Two. If Glenties don’t approach the game with the right attitude they could get caught. Killybegs will always believe they have a chance when it comes to the championship.
Kilcar and Bundoran get things going on Sunday in MacCumhaill Park. Kilcar have been going well in the league this year and the disappointment of losing last year’s final will be a driving force to get back into the championship decider again. Bundoran have struggled with life in Division One and will need to be at their best to be in contention come Sunday. I would expect Kilcar to come through but Bundoran will give their all and will not hand it on a plate to this year’s favourite’s.
In the final quarter-final Gaoth Dobhair and St. Eunan’s meet in what is most definitely the tie of the round. Gaoth Dobhair have been strong at underage level in the last few years and many of last year’s U-21 championship winning side will have helped push them on this year. With a host of intercounty players and a lot of experience in their side they would be expected to be in with a shout in this year’s championship.
Eunan’s have been quiet for the last couple of years and have a steady stream of players coming through their ranks. They are always capable of putting a side together to have a real go and next to Kilcar have been the most consistent team in Division One this year. It’s a hard game to call with so many good players on either side. Gaoth Dobhair have a lot of scoring forwards in their squad and if they can utilise that potential they could give St. Eunan’s a close run for their money. I don’t see a lot in this and a draw would not be out of the question.