The weekly GAA Talking Points return this week, with a reflection and a look ahead to some of the stories that have been in the news.
All-Ireland Hurling Final Pairing Decided
The All-Ireland hurling final is a return to order, as some might say, as Tipperary will now face Kilkenny having disposed of Cork. Last year saw many new faces in the business end of the championship and now it could be suggested that Kilkenny and Tipperary have regained their places as the two best teams in the country.
Nobody can begrudge either side their place in Croke Park on Sunday the 7th of September. Kilkenny have beaten every team that has stepped on their path, despite two struggles against Galway and Limerick. Tipperary have fought back strongly after encountering a number of stumbling blocks throughout the year.
The final promises to be yet another fascinating battle in this age old rivalry. In recent times Tipperary and Kilkenny have provided some of the best hurling matches of all time. Neutrals will hope for another classic, while Tipperary and Kilkenny will hope for any win of any sort at all costs. Roll on the 7th of September.
Under-21 Hurling Semi-Finals
Both All-Ireland under-21 semi-finals are down for decider. Reigning champions Clare are ready to put their title on the line against Antrim, in a repeat of last season’s All-Ireland final. The other semi-final sees Wexford take on Galway. This stage last year provided one of the greatest shocks in hurling history when Antrim defeated Wexford.
Clare are going for their third consecutive title at this grade and very few would back against them. They are an awesome outfit and a lot of their players already have a senior All-Ireland medal to their names to add to two under-21 triumphs. The likes of Tony Kelly, Colm Galvin and others could possibly claim four All-Ireland medals before the age of twenty-one.
Antrim upset all of the odds last season even their own manager, Kevin Ryan. Ryan made no secret of the team’s poor preparation last year and his planned holiday for the following week, that he then had to cancel, such was his shock at their win over Wexford. It is very hard to imagine lightning striking twice here and a Clare victory should be relatively straight forward.
The game between Wexford and Galway should be an interesting clash. Wexford are improving. They were very impressive on their run through Lenister and a number of their players have made the move to the senior ranks. Conor McDonald, Jack Guiney and Liam Ryan were all prominent members of this year’s senior team.
Galway as ever are an unknown quantity. The non-existence of the Connacht provincial title means they enter at the semi-final stage each season. They reached the final in 2011 and won the title in 2012. This year they face a good Wexford side but boast some senior players in Cathal Mannion and Jason Flynn who could cause trouble for the Yellow Bellies.
Marty Clarke To Return From Australia?
Cork native Ciarán Sheehan has been in the news recently having made his Australian Rules debut for Carlton Blues in the AFL. The press has been good as himself and Laois man Zach Tuohy begin to line up on the same field as teammates. But news of a return home has circulated this week which should bring joy to certain people.
Down’s Marty Clarke is being heavily linked with a return home which will be a huge boost for the game of football, and in particular Down and his club An Ríocht. Clarke was one of the first players since Tadhg Kennelly to make a real name for himself Down Under before he returned to play Gaelic Football in 2010.
That year, Clarke lit up the championship and was instrumental in leading Down to the All-Ireland final where they lost to Cork by a single point. He played again in 2011 but returned to Australia at the end of the year. Down’s fortunes have since taken a fall and Clarke’s return could be a very timely boost.
Clarke is returning home to get married and there appears to be a real possibility that he is seriously considering remaining in Ireland. His contract with Collingwood is due to expire and a new deal or a move elsewhere in the AFL is also an option. But reports are now emerging that he will return to Down for good, what a lift that would be.
Cork Look Set To Keep JBM
Cork’s defeat to Tipperary spelt the end of their 2014 championship season. It also spelt the end of Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s three year term of charge of the Rebels. The early talk is that he is set to be offered another term. His transformation of Cork hurling has been remarkable and JBM will no doubt decide himself what he thinks is best for him and the Cork team.
Cork hurling was at a very low ebb at the end of 2011 before probably Cork GAA’s biggest icon was asked back to the helm. He transformed the team and got them to two semi-finals as well as an All-Ireland final in his three years. Progress was made in each of the three season, despite a poor showing against Tipperary.
The initial indication is that the Cork County Board want JBM to stay on as manager. Chairman, Bob Ryan, was quick to point out that they want him to remain in charge. This would indicate that he will be offered another term. Barry-Murphy himself is yet to comment on his position, but signs are that he will remain at the helm.
Kerry have made three changes to their team ahead of their game with Mayo. Kerry defeated Galway in the quarter-final and now the Connacht champions stand in their way. Bryan Sheehan, Declan O’Sullivan and Killian Young all make way for David Moran, Stephen O’Brien and Peter Crowley respectively.
Kerry – Brian Kelly; Marc Ó Sé, Aidan O’Mahony, Shane Enright; Paul Murphy, Peter Crowley, Fionn Fitzgerald (capt); Anthony Maher, David Moran; Michael Geaney, Johnny Buckley, Donnchadh Walsh; Stephen O’Brien, Paul Geaney, James O’Donoghue.
Mayo have named an unchanged team from the side that defeated Cork by a single point at the same stage. Donal Vaughan is named at midfield, and Aidan O’Shea is given the number eleven jersey.
Mayo – Robert Hennelly; Chris Barrett, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Lee Keegan, Tom Cunniffe, Colm Boyle; Donal Vaughan, Seamus O’Shea; Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O’Shea, Jason Doherty; Cillian O’Connor, Andy Moran, Alan Dillon.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena