I HAVE often said that in hurling we in Ireland have the best field game in the world.
Last Saturday in Croke Park the season came down on one of the great years in championship hurling. Let it be said that it takes two to deliver such epic games and Cork can take pride in their performance. They upped from the drawn game and still it was not enough. Jimmy Barry Murphy must thanked for his graciousness in defeat, but, in particular, for how he sent his team out to play.
The drawn game was a brilliant game and some times replays don't live up to expectation, but on Saturday evening last another battle of skill and bravery fitness and pride in the county and the game was delivered up by two proud Munster teams.
There is something special about Croke Park on All Ireland football final day, but it can never match the hurling final. There is just something about the hurling people. The atmosphere is like no other.
This year, of course, was special with the Dublin hurlers making the break through and with Limerick winning in Munster, but the year belonged to Davy Fitz and his young band of brilliant hurlers. To win the Under twenty one and the senior All Ireland titles is a huge achievement for Clare.
Some people say that the Banner men could dominate for years they could, but it may not work out just like that. Right now there are a new bunch of brilliant hurlers on the national stage – Brendan Bugler, David McInerney, Pat Donnelan, Colm Ryan, John Conlon, Tony Kelly, the three goal Shane O'Donnell.
O'Donnell, incidentally, was only told an hour before the game that he was starting the final. He was told to go and do what we know you can. You know what happened next by now –the kid went out and delivered three goals and three points. This is stuff of dreams for this young man.
And what about my man of the match Conor McGrath? The energy that this lad showed all day was unreal back in defence helping out around the midfield area and his contribution was out standing.
Lest we forget this was a young rebel team also. Pa Cronin was outstanding at full-forward. Seamus Harnedy, Patrick Horgan, Stephen McDonnell of Glen Rovers had a good game, Conor O'Sullivan, Lorcan McLoughlin all had good games for Cork.
Brian Murphy played like a senior squad man should some of the Cork lads came up against an inspired Clare outfit, but like I said they are young too and the Leesiders will come again of that we can be sure.
Overall I think the game of hurling is in a very good place right now as all the emerging teams are quite young. Tipperary and the Kilkenny will right now be preparing for the next year, then throw into the mix Wexford with their Leinster Under 21 championship winning players and Waterford and their All Ireland minor winners.
There is some thing special about our National Games. Hurling as a sport has no peer and the men that play it with vigour and skill have to be admired . We must work to bring our Gaelic Football back to the top and I think that Dave Fitz has sent out a message to some football managers about guys being too young.
Have we been too loyal to some players in Kerry? Should hould we be approaching each year with more confidence In our young players? We seem to encourage some fellows to keep going when we, perhaps, should be thanking them for there service to the county and the game of football.
The game today is all about pace. I would be of the view you don't have to pick it that way, but if you can't put your own imprint on a style best suited to your panel then one has to look at what is happening in other counties.
I feel that Cork, in particular, and to a lesser degree Kerry will have to adopt to a new young panel and use the National league to give these fellows their heads This wont be easy for Eamonn Fitzmaurice and his team, but in my view he just has to build again.
Supporters in Kerry will have to be patient on this one because – let's not kid ourselves here – we again have a county championship that has failed so far to ignite and to throw up any real automatic county players.
We will have to play our games right through the summer next year to find a few players who can play their way on to the team. We cannot not go down the road of putting a panel together and young players sitting on the bench and playing no football with their clubs.
In my view this is why some of our most promising young fellows have not trained on. You certainly won't improve unless your playing the game and you are taken out of your comfort zone of being a Kerry panellist and under no pressure being on the inside. Play the games and lets see the fellows, who, perhaps, should be inside and let those in side prove they are worthy of the panel. If the Clare hurling management can do it so too can Kerry.
Next Sunday will show some of the talent around when Strand Road take on the favourites Dr Crokes and Austin Stacks play Feale Rangers. Both games will be interesting. Strand Road are strong enough from midfield up, but can their backs hold the Croke forwards?
Feale Rangers might come on a bit from there extra-time last weekend, but it looks like an all Black and Amber final again.