It was a manic weekend in the GAA calendar as the final four teams to join the provincial champions in the Super 8’s were decided while the hurling quarter-final line up was also completed. We look back at the winners and losers from all the action.
Will any team be able to stop Galway this summer? If there were any doubts about their abilities after last week’s drawn game, Micheal Donoghues’ team certainly set the record straight. They were almost unstoppable in that first half with Cathal Mannion, Johnny Glynn and Joe Canning running riot.
What was also telling was the fact that they never panicked when Kilkenny sparked a revival. Although Galway stormed into an early lead, TJ Reid, Richie Hogan and Ger Aylward were all pivotal in reducing the deficit to just four at one stage, yet Galway just continued to go about their business. Conor Cooney and Jason Flynn were introduced, proving the remarkable depth they have in their squad.
They now have another Leinster title in the bag as they eye up the next trophy up for grabs – the Liam McCarthy.
They’re a team that haven’t garnered much attention up until this point but they have been quietly going about their business and Mickey Harte will be delighted with the position they are now in, a place in the Super 8s with games against Roscommon, Dublin and Donegal to come. Few will give them a chance of getting out of the group but they will be craving the opportunity to have a crack at Dublin in Omagh and will 100% back themselves.
Their win over Cork was widely predicted but it was the ruthless nature in which they disposed of the Munster finalists that was particularly impressive. With attack-minded players such as Conor McAliskey, Ronan O’Neill and Niall Sludden, they are closer than ever to becoming the complete package.
And so the Kildare rising continues. They are the only team from outside Division 1 to progress to the Super 8’s. Granted, they topped that division but if you were to look at the team that lost to Carlow earlier this summer, they wouldn’t have given them a hope of making it this far.
They are playing with phenomenal confidence at the moment. Their list of scorers and leaders is growing every week with players like Daniel Flynn, Peter Kelly, Fergal Conway and Kevin Feely really setting the standard. Monaghan are the next opponents on the list and Kildare will fancy their chances in that game. While their chances of getting out of the group may be slim, Cian O’Neill will have to be delighted with the way his team have bounced back this summer to be one of the most enjoyable stories this season.
It’s a question on everyone’s mind today. Where on earth do Cork go from here? It was only eight years ago that Cork won the All Ireland. Today, Donncha O’Connor, a member of that team, stepped away from the panel. Another sad reminder that the glory days have well and truly faded into the distance.
They were appalling in the Munster final against Kerry. They lacked urgency, heart, physicality and a clear game-plan. If you were a Cork football supporter who had hoped for a revival against Tyrone you would have emerged bitterly disappointed for it was nearly a worse performance. Tyrone annihilated them and did it without too much effort.
Many will look to the County Board and ask why there is such disparity between hurling and football in the once proud duel county. Whatever answers they come up with, there will be no quick fixes for their problems.
Westmeath are not in the losers column this week because of the fact they lost to Wexford, but because their talismanic manager Michael Ryan has decided to step aside in a huge blow to the county. It has been a fantastic season for the Westmeath hurlers, culminating in them reaching the inaugural Joe McDonagh final last weekend and Ryan must take huge credit for that.
In a statement, Ryan, who has been in charge for four years, heaped praise on his players saying,
“They’re a fantastic bunch of human beings who are so proud to play for Westmeath. Every day they’ve gone out they’ve given 100%. They’ve always fought an honest fight and put Westmeath hurling first. I am just delighted and proud to have been associated with them”
Whoever comes next will have massive shoes to fill.
It was a spirited performance from the Cats on Sunday as they fought their way back into contention in the Leinster final replay against Galway. Cillian Buckley, Padraig Walsh and Richie Hogan were all immense as usual but it was once again, TJ Reid who dragged them back into contention and it is that over-reliance on the Ballyhale Shamrocks man that sees them drop into this column this week.
There’s no denying that Kilkenny are in transition with Brian Cody trying to find the ultimate blend of youth and experience and so it is no wonder that they rely on the likes of TJ Reid but they will not progress if they don’t spread the weight of responsibility around in the forward pack.
Not only is he their go-to man for scores (with 0-9 yesterday) but the onus is on him to create the play and that must change going forward or else they will become far too predictable and easy to dismantle.