I HAD an extremely pleasant trip to Tralee at the weekend, commuting in the passenger seat of Mr. Spratt’s Jag, and for readers’ future information the travel time down to the Kerry venue is approximately three hours 45 minutes to four hours.
Sadly, the journey home brought problems, with the Bree man’s insistence that we follow the directions of his state of the art sat nav. Leaving the Kerry town at ten past six, I had no idea that I would not be safely home until 11.30 that night.
One of our problems was leaving Mallow and circling the town three times before driving out the country for a half-hour, only to arrive at a signpost kindly informing us that we were three km from Mallow. Whatever about his commentating, a sense of direction is something sadly lacking in the former Ballyhogue great’s armoury.
In truth, I never really doubted our men’s ability to comfortably account for the Kerry men (despite an assertion from my Clare friend Fergal Hegarty that even without a couple of players the Banner would still have enough for Kerry next weekend), and I felt a great calm leaving the Sportsman’s Bar for the nearby stadium at about 1.30 p.m.
I encountered great friends Eamon Cleary and Davy Morris during my pre-match refreshments and enjoyed a lovely hour of nostalgia. They were accompanied by Natalie and Theresa whom I think are daughters of the former Wexford greats. I say this, given the obvious age differential that exists between the two ladies and the two men.
There was a lovely welcoming atmosphere in the ground and in truth I got the sense that the Kerry people saw this as an occasion rather than an opportunity to create an upset.
So it proved to be and despite good early signs from the green and gold, the superior class and technique of Lee Chin and his men had transformed this game into a practice match pace early in the second-half.
There were some fine performances from Kerry players, with Eoin Ross who operated in the half-back line particularly catching the eye. Mikey Boyle played the extra man very effectively, limiting goal chances in the opening period, but when this tactic was continued with the wind it summed up a damage limitation approach rather than any real belief of victory.
Our Harriers captain was unerring in his shooting with 14 points in total and this, allied to Conor Mac, Rory O’Connor and Conor Hearne majors, underlined the gulf in class that existed between the teams.
My gut feeling is that while we need to support and promote hurling in Kerry, Carlow and Kildare amongst others, there should be a pre-requisite that they at least win their own grade to be allowed to compete in the top tier championship, and that is in no way demeaning the efforts of the Kerry team who have some top-class performers.
The only downside for Darragh Egan was the injuries to Cathal Dunbar and Mikie Dwyer as we will need all hands on deck for the Banner juggernaut next Saturday.
Brian Lohan’s men, for their part, have a bit more to occupy the minds in the week ahead. First on the agenda will be the appeals against the Rory Hayes and Peter Duggan bans.
I must confess that I have not been a fan of the ‘Sunday Game’ analysis of late, and I move quickly to exempt our own Ursula who I feel is at a level of insight and knowledge much superior to some of her colleagues.
Call me a dinosaur, but I am happy to hear the relevant points of a game discussed without the use of an iPad to tell us where the corner-back was standing for the puck-out.
In relation to the Munster final, there cannot be a huge defence for what the two Clare men have been cited for. Rory Hayes, although a brilliant corner-back, just lost his head momentarily, and the defence possibly will be around Seamus Flanagan’s response as he didn’t go to ground. Perhaps Seamus is made of iron, which would not surprise me either.
Peter Duggan’s first issue was a yellow I feel, and the second will need a good defence. This is where the matter gets a little complicated.
The Munster final was contested and refereed in a manner we applauded. If we are going to allow an environment of ferocity, there will be incidents, but if we are going down the forensic route, then the disciplinary committees will be busy.
When highlighting incidents, we need to get context. Many reds are retaliatory, so we need to look more comprehensively at the lead-up. This, however, will lead to more dismissals and that will not be good.
In rugby for many of the elite games they have an independent citing commissioner who reviews the full game, and I am not sure if the GAA has a similar process.
We could end up going down a long and winding road if we adopt the rugby approach and overall, from club to county, I do not think we have the resources to carry this out. It is a road I would prefer to avoid.
An undeniable fact is that the ‘Sunday Game’ is hugely influential at present, so balance is an important requisite for these ‘modern-day’ hurling experts.
Can we beat Clare? It might be best to see what unfolds over the next few days before I make an outright prediction, but all I know now is that all we have to do is focus on Saturday, and we are two games away from an All-Ireland final.