Sunday 25 September 2016

Let's celebrate a sporting banquet

Published 07/09/2015 | 02:30

Kilkenny players lift captain Joey Holden and the Liam McCarthy Cup in celebration
Kilkenny players lift captain Joey Holden and the Liam McCarthy Cup in celebration

We have been treated to a weekend banquet of sport across all of the four codes which matter to the majority of the Irish nation.

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Croke Park was twice filled to capacity for showcase games of Gaelic football and then hurling; our national soccer team did their Euro 2016 qualification prospects no harm at all; and our rugby side posed many talking points as they went down to the "old enemy" at Twickenham, ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

The hurlers of Galway battled hard to give the Liam MacCarthy Cup its first trip west of the Shannon in 27 years. But, after a fine first-half display, those princes of hurling, Kilkenny, asserted themselves and got the upper hand to retain their All-Ireland title.

The rise and rise of Brian Cody's men just goes on and on. Their victory delivered a stunning 11th All-Ireland win this century, making them truly and simply the best, with a total of 36 titles.

Dublin and Mayo served up a scintillating and sporting game in the All-Ireland semi-final replay. With just 15 minutes left, valiant Mayo were four points up and had the good wishes of most neutral fans.

Then a Dublin whirlwind delivered two goals and two points in two minutes, ending the Mayo dream for yet another year. But sports fans everywhere will hope this Mayo panel persists to deliver more Champagne football. The 'Dubs' again showed their mettle, delighted their loyal fans, and lined up a mouth-watering final tie with the mighty Kingdom of Kerry.

Joe Schmidt's men had a tough errand facing the England XV at home. It is always hard to lose such a game and the result raises many questions about the upcoming World Cup. But it may well prove a blessing in disguise, as it will damp down unrealistic expectations among Irish rugby fans, and sharpen the panel's focus ahead of kick-off in our first game on Saturday week.

Our soccer team notched up a 4-0 win, beating off an extremely courageous Gibraltar side. We got good news as Georgia defeated our key group rivals, Scotland, giving a renewed incentive for our clash with Georgia today.

Most significantly, we have masses of talking points to enthuse and entertain us, after this veritable banquet of morale-boosting Irish sport.

Irish Independent

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