The championship this year seemed a three-horse race: Limerick, Tipperary and Galway in that order. Kilkenny are in a period of reconstruction and Waterford are a bit behind these. However, the vagaries of the draw and a freakish Leinster final result have thrown the three strongest teams into one half and left Kilkenny and Waterford easier routes to the final. As a Tipp fan the one quarter-final opponent I didn’t want was Galway - a week after a tough match against Cork on heavy ground. Inevitably they got pipped at the post in a match where Cathal Barrett’s sending off and Tipp’s tiredness towards the end were both factors. Galway will now have to contend with this tiredness and a raring to go Limerick in the semi-final. Limerick to prevail easily. The other semi-final is hard to predict. Will Kilkenny get dragged over the line by T. J. Reid and the canny Cody - or will a resurgent Waterford have enough to finally put them down and send that cursed Cody into retirement? I suspect so but wouldn’t bet on it. Whoever gets to the final from that match will be eaten by Limerick in the final. If the two teams who didn’t have to play on consecutive weekends get to the final (Limerick and Kilkenny) it will confirm that the dice were loaded against the others. You could say that winning their provincial championships meant they deserved this preferential treatment.
I was still in deep mourning for the Tipp hurlers when the unprecedented occurred and our footballers beat Cork comprehensively in the Munster final. Over the years they’ve got to the occasional final but then always fell at the Cork or Kerry fences. It was a treat to see them in their anachronistic jerseys play some lovely open football and defend with such passion. They seem to have couple of real stars too in Michael Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney. The latter’s speech at the end was one of the most coherent and articulate I’ve heard from any sporting figure in a long time. Give that man a political career. He’s a teacher so well-equipped to join those ranks.
Rugby in Limbo
Our rugby team is in transition and despite the heroics of the young Leinster lads it’ll be a few years before we are back threatening the big boys. Sexton and Murray are over the hill and Kearney is gone. Our two best centers are injury prone and while we have a super abundance of good wingers they are not getting the opportunities they need to thrive. The lack of creative flair against England was evident - only when Burns came on did something happen so maybe we need to give him an extended run. Ross Byrne is not up to it. We also need more options at second-row and someone more explosive in the back row. Maybe Leavy will come back to his former self and add that element. So for now we’ll always struggle against England and France (especially away) and usually beat the others. But where’s the fun if we’re not beating England.
Thanks be to God for Horse-racing
Horse racing doesn’t really need an audience in terms of the spectacle and atmosphere so it’s suffered least of all sports in this regard. The jumps season is cranking up nicely and our thoughts are inevitably turning towards Cheltenham in March. I have already decided that my old favourite (and former 50-1 Cheltenham winner) Minella Indo is going to win the Gold Cup. He’s had two very smooth wins already and a Christmas run at Leopardstown will set him up nicely. And Saint Roi looks a likely lad for the Champion Hurdle - he’s at a decent price currently.