Just when you thought the hurling championship couldn’t get any better, along come the semi-finals last weekend. The two games in Croke Park attracted over 125,000 and delivered probably the best ever semi-final fare.
The new league format for the Munster and Leinster championships had already been a rip-roaring success, but all of those games were trumped by what happened on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon on Jones’s Road.
Galway were nine points up against Clare but the Banner refused to accept defeat, taking the game to extra-time and even then Galway just couldn’t shake them off. It was an epic and in the end everybody was happy with the draw and the chance to do it all over again in Semple Stadium, Thurles this Sunday.
There were many magnificent passages, but the one that stood out was the point scored by the man of the match, Clare’s Peter Duggan. How he managed to control the sliothar, retain his balance and hook it over the bar with almost the entire Galway team on his tail for a 40 yard run was just incredible. It matched what Joe Canning did from the sideline against Tipperary to get Galway the win that secured them an All-Ireland final spot last year.
The aforementioned Canning is a doubt for the replay after injuring his knee late in Saturday’s semi-final, while their other stalwart, centre half-back, Gearoid McInerney, looks like he will miss the replay after hobbling off.
Anyone who thought Galway were going to waltz home in retaining their All-Ireland crown will have second thoughts. Even if they do come through the replay, they have one of the best young teams around waiting for them in the final.
Limerick, just like their neighbours, Clare, were not going to accept defeat in their semi-final against Cork on Sunday. They were six points down with time running out, but got back in front and it was Cork who had to hit a late free to force extra-time. But then Limerick took over and it is hard to believe that they have not won an All-Ireland since 1973.
No matter what the final pairing is, there will be great interest. A Galway-Limerick final would rekindle memories of the Galway revival in 1980 when Joe Connolly made the famous speech ‘People of Galway, we love you’. It was a year after the Pope had been to Galway and Limerick were the opponents.
And as for a Limerick-Clare final. There would be some craic around the borders of those counties for the next couple of weeks.
LIAM MILLER CHARITY GAME
Thankfully, a resolution has been found to put the debacle around the Liam Miller Charity Game in Cork to bed. It was an issue that should never have happened, and the GAA must learn from it and adjust their rules accordingly.
It was embarrassing from a number of standpoints with the Miller family being dragged into something that was not of their making.
But it also raised a number of other issues about the way public opinion is blindly led. The Liam Miller fund will be ultra successful now and the various charities associated will benefit greatly.
But without prejudice, there are thousands of cases of a similar nature all around the country. All of us can point to the death of a young sportsperson and we all have witnessed various fund-raising events being organised to help. Very few of them get any major attention at local or national level. Certainly, not on Joe Duffy or generating a media frenzy for over a week.
Irish people do charity work very well. None ever get the chance of having Croke Park or Pairc Ui Chaoimh or MacCumhaill Park or the Aviva Stadium to stage any events involved in that work. They do their work quietly and successfully at a very local level.
There are many lessons to be learned.
HOT AUGUST DAY
Neil Diamond sang about a Hot August Night, but it will be a Hot August Day in Ballybofey on Sunday next when Donegal meet Tyrone. The forecast is for temperatures to soar to the mid 20s, and that’s off the field.
There was a famous battle between these counties in 1973. On that occasion Donegal were reigning Ulster champions and Tyrone used whatever means they could to get the victory (see opposite page).
On Sunday, while it is not an Ulster Championship game, Donegal are again Ulster champions and it is likely to be another battle, hopefully without the foul methods, and with a different result.
Tir Chonaill abú.