Friday 17 January 2020

Weekend Takeaways: Monkey off Limerick's back

Cliona Foley

Limerick hurlers were arguably the happiest team after the weekend's resumption of the Allianz Leagues.

Promotion from Division 1B has been their holy grail for eight years so achieving it with yesterday's defeat of All-Ireland champions Galway saw some well deserved celebration.

To go and win in Salthill and the manner of their victory - they trailed by eight points at half-time - understandably quickened the pulse. They harried and blocked brilliantly in the second-half. Kyle Hayes' goal in the 48th minute was vital as were late points from Cian Lynch and Pat Ryan.

After getting relegated in 2010 Limerick won promotion back to hurling's top tier in 2011 only for the league restructure to put them in Division 1B since and they've always regarded that as a disadvantage come Munster championship time.

Galway famously won the league and All-Ireland from 1B last year so it remains to see if Limerick can kick on from here, especially as they still have players to return from All-Ireland club finalists Na Piarsaigh.

But they'll still get nothing easy. Next up is a Munster league derby quarter-final against Clare.

Cluxton's run sparks charge

Meanwhile Dublin's place on their football throne looks unassailable.

Kerry-Dublin clashes always have an added cachet and attracted 24,026 to Croker yesterday.

Yet few could have predicted such a damp squib when the Dubs obliterated the defending league champions with their trademark third quarter-surge.

Kerry's young side lived to rue three missed first-half goal chances but there was a particularly telling response from Stephen Cluxton (pictured)which underlined why he is such an influential captain.

Under pressure at one point the Dublin goalkeeper sallied right up into the Kerry half with the ball and his team-mates seemed to immediately get the message,

Outscoring the Kingdom 1-9 to 0-3 in the second half while running their bench again underlined the Dubs' phenomenal depth.The only downside was the sight of the returning Cian O'Sullivan driven off on the injury cart with a concerning shoulder injury.

Síofra goes super-Nova

Irish athletes like Ronnie Delany, Sonia O'Sullivan, Eamonn Coghlan and Marcus O'Sullivan are legendary graduates of Villanova University.

The latter is still there as head of its track and field programme and another Irish talent who has been there for the last four years had a breakthrough moment at the weekend.

Síofra Cleirigh-Buttner (22) posted a new Irish indoor record of 2:02.46 when she took 800m silver in the US Collegiate (NCAA) Indoor Championships in Texas.

The Dubliner had a memorable unbeaten run during her time in Irish schools athletics, the bed-rock of future stars, both at cross country and track.

Cleirigh-Buttner won six schools' cross country titles in-a-row (two each at junior, intermediate and senior) yet that feat has just been outdone by teenager Sarah Healy of Blackrock AC and Holy Child Killiney. She's just become the first athlete to ever win Irish schools Cross-Country titles at minor, junior, intermediate and senior as the minor category has since been added to the All-Irelands.

Rising sun in Spain's sights

IT may seem surreal to have won the Six Nations with a game in hand and be heading to Twickers to try to add the Grand Slam but Spanish rugby fans will also be getting a bit giddy this week.

That's because Los Leones' 84-10 victory over Germany has left them just one win away from a place in the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Qualification for second-tier teams is decided by an overall table from the 2017 and 2018 Europe Championships, excluding all games against Georgia who are automatic World Cup qualifiers.

Victory over Belgium next weekend would see Spain qualify for only the second time.

The last was in 1999 and the crucial win for them this time was last month's surprise 22-10 defeat of Romania in their 16,000 home stadium in Madrid.

If they qualify they will be in Pool A, alongside Ireland, Scotland, hosts Japan and one more team decided by a playoff.

Para snow in short supply

We had too much of it but over in South Korea they haven't got enough of it at the Winter Paralympics.

On the opening days temperatures started at minus-three in the mornings but rose to eight and the blue borders on the PyeongChang slopes started to melt.

But the venues used a lot of manufactured snow anyway during the Winter Olympics and will surely use more of it to keep things on track until March 18.

Irish Independent

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