Thursday 18 January 2018

Brilliant Banner really do deserve a second chance

IT'S an over-used cliché in the GAA, but a draw really was a fair result for Clare and their colourful leader Davy Fitzgerald on Sunday.

Cork blood runs through my Blue veins, but had Domhnall O'Donovan not popped up from his corner-back berth in the third minute of injury-time to force a replay, it really would have been an injustice.

But not for any of the whiney reasons Fitzgerald referred to afterwards.

I just don't buy the small man from a small county persecution complex, but maybe Davy had an ulterior motive for his post-match outburst.

His young team looked home and hosed at different stages of Sunday's thrilling showdown, but leaked goals and penalties at the wrong times, and in the end it was the Banner who were fortunate to leave Croke Park clinging to a second chance.

Perhaps Davy wanted to take the attention away from his players, and despite saying that he didn't want to talk about the referee, he ensured everyone else would be with his cryptic barbs at Offaly's Brian Gavin.

Still, some of Clare's play and in particular their long-range shooting, meant that even the most ardent Cork fan would have had trouble begrudging them a replay.

It was an absorbing contest from start to finish and a hurling championship that keeps on giving refuses to go quietly into the night.

The question now is who holds the upper hand going into the replay.

I remember in 1983 when Barney Rock scored his famous injury-time goal in our semi-final clash with Cork. Escaping by the skin of our teeth definitely stood to us in the replay. That and Frank Murphy's insistence that the game be played in Pairc Ui Chaoimh armed us with all the motivation we needed heading down to Cork.

Usually the team that gets out of jail like that has the psychological edge second time around, but identifying just who got out of jail on Sunday is the first challenge.

Clare forced the draw with O'Donovan's last-gasp point, but Cork only led for the first time in the match a minute earlier and must feel they didn't play to their potential overall and have the biggest scope for improvement.

Despite a barnstorming 70-minute showdown the destiny of Liam McCarthy looks as hard to predict as ever.


In the meantime, there's the small matter of Sam Maguire to resolve.

The ticket scramble always starts in earnest after the hurling final and this week will be no different. The feelers have already gone out far and wide, but the serious business will be done over the next 7-10 days as the desperation sets in.

While the semi-final masterclass served up by Dublin and Kerry is unlikely to be repeated, I think the quality on show that day has added to the demand for tickets for Sunday week.

Dublin in an All-Ireland final is bad enough, but throw in a county who truly believe they can finally end their Sam Maguire famine and it's easy to see why tickets are like hen's teeth.

As a former county player I get my fair share of requests, but I'm no different than anyone else, so if you have a spare ticket burning a hole in your back pocket give me a shout!

The ticket race aside, it really does have the makings of one of the great finals and let's hope both panels get through the next couple of weeks without picking up any fresh injuries.


Speaking of Kerry, their eyes were barely dry last weekend by the time my son Fionn and his Skerries teammates hit Killarney for a superbly organised U-13 tournament. They had victories over Castlehaven (Cork), Clonmel Commercials (Tipp) and Monalea (Limerick) in their group section.

The Harps lads beat the Gooch's own Dr Crokes team in the semi-final and while they lost the decider to Corofin, they can already boast a 100% record against the Kingdom!

Fingal Independent

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