LEINSTER HURLING FINAL
KILKENNY 2-23, WEXFORD 2-12
Kilkenny play a different game to everyone else in Leinster. They have an obdurate halfback line through which nothing passes without a struggle. They have a fullback line that clips and hooks and blocks and filches until their opponents are utterly strangled. They have midfielders who work tirelessly and gracefully and forwards who have languid genius in their wrists. Wexford had a few of these attributes last Sunday. Kilkenny had them all.
This is how good they were: they scored 2-15 in the second half without breaking either sweat or stride. This is how much strength in depth they have: D.J. Carey, Martin Comerford and Eddie Brennan shot nine wides among them and John Hoyne didn’t once trouble the scoreboard operators. A team in trouble? Not a bit of it. Derek Lyng lashed over three points from midfield, Tommy Walsh the same from wing forward. And Henry Shefflin chipped in with his customary 1-8.
If there is a team to stand in front of that sort of class and stare it down, Wexford certainly aren’t it. They put up some opposition here for sure, and in lofting over a trio of fine points on the stroke of halftime, they gave Croke Park hope that the second half might see them kick on. The sides went in level at 0-8 apiece and you got the feeling that if Wexford could possibly come out and snaffle a goal, it would be anybody’s game.
Of course, that’s when Kilkenny decided enough was enough. Within five minutes of the restart, Eddie Brennan had knifed a goal, Lyng, Walsh, Shefflin (2) and Sean Dowling (a 95-meter free) had added points and the game was over. No matter that Wexford managed a couple of goals or that Kilkenny kept totting up the wides (they ended up with 14 in total), there was never so much as a sniff of a chance it would ever be close again.
Kilkenny march on then. As for Wexford, the will meet Waterford in the qualifiers on Saturday, July 19.
CONNACHT FOOTBALL FINAL
GALWAY 1-14, MAYO 0-13
Galway won this Connacht final in Salthill last Sunday with a bit to spare. Maybe not the 4 points the scoreboard would have you believe, but a bit nonetheless. They sent a promising Mayo side packing clinically and professionally and although they didn’t have it won until five minutes from the end or so, the feeling lingered that they could have moved through the gear had they absolutely been required to.
Mayo played some fine football in the first half, and despite playing into a very stiff wind, they were on level terms with 5 minutes to go to halftime. They had a great chance to build a lead for themselves then when Conor Mortimer was poleaxed by Gary Fahey; sadly, Stephen Carolan’s penalty was quite possibly the worst he or anyone in the ground had ever seen, missing the right-hand post by at least 4 yards and the crossbar by about the same. And, of course, to rub it in, Matthew Clancy slotted home a tidy goal about a minute later down the other end. A Michael Meehan points later and Galway had a 5-point lead to take into the dressing room with them.
That was the winning and losing of the game really. Mayo battled well in the second half and with the help of the wind, they managed to get the deficit down to a point, a Maurice Sheridan free making it 0-12 to 1-10 in the 59th minute. But Galway were just too cute, to savvy to let them seize the day. Kevin Walsh moved with stealth around midfield, reading the game like it was a bedtime story. He was playing straight man to Joe Bergin’s bundle of energy, his young midfield partner finishing the day with four well-taken points from play. Clancy flicked two points and the Meehan brother one apiece and next thing you know, Galway were home and hosed.
ARMAGH 0-15, DUBLIN 0-11
Armagh swarmed around Dublin at Croke Park last Saturday and came away not to much with a victory as a suffocation. Some teams kill you off with a single shot, a goal from nowhere; other teams bombard you until you give in. Armagh quietly but forcefully put the pillow over your face and hold it there till you haven’t an ounce of fight left in you. It’s a strangely bewitching sight.
Dublin hadn’t a clue what to do here. There they were, merrily skipping along to what they thought was an easy enough win when, bam, their 4-point halftime lead evaporated. Armagh had Paddy McKeever sent off early in the second half but any advantage Dublin thought they were going to have went marching to the dugout just 4 minutes later when their goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton was sent off for a stupid kick at Steven McDonnell. In the ensuing chaos, Tommy Lyons, for reasons best known to himself, decided to sacrifice Johnny Magee — who up to then had been their best player — so that he could bring on a substitute keeper.
It was the losing of the game. McDonnell and John McEntee owned their half of the field for the remainder. McEntee finished with 4 points from play, McDonnell with 5. Dublin struggled and tried to put up some sort of fight, but their shooting was wayward and as each kick sailed wide, so the pressure increased. In the end, they just couldn’t move the pillow.
FERMANAGH 1-12, MEATH 0-9
Was this really a shock? A surprise, yes, but a shock, a bona-fide giant-killing? Probably not. For all the hushed whispers about Meath waiting in the long grass and Sean Boylan having aces in reserve, the truth is that Meath haven’t looked all that special at any stage this summer, save perhaps for their first-half trampling of a nervous young Monaghan side last month.
It must be said that the good people of Fermanagh hadn’t exactly seen this one coming. Clones was, shall we say, sparsely populated last Saturday. And who can blame the stayaways? Fermanagh had been abject in their surrender to Down in the Ulster semifinal, they’d shown no sign of any sort of form and their season looked destined to be another of broken promise and unfulfilled expectation.
And by halftime here, few had seen anything to suggest otherwise. But then they came out and blew Meath off the pitch. They scored 1-9 in that second half to Meath’s 0-4. They were slick, they were clever and every shot they tried seemed to sail over. Raymond Gallagher finished with 1-5 and it was through him, Barry Owens and Shane McDermott that an unlikely, if not quite earth-shattering, victory was secured.
ROSCOMMON 1-20, OFFALY 1-15
You can say what you like about Frankie Dolan, but boy, the kid can play. He’s an annoying little runt at the worst of times, but last Saturday was the best of times. He was simply awesome in leading Roscommon to victory in this pulsating match, which had to go to extra time after the 70 minutes left the teams at 1-13 each.
Dolan finished the evening with 12 points and he kicked them from everywhere. He kicked close-in frees, long-range frees, a few points on the run and a 45. And then, with the game in its second period of extra time, he went over to take a sideline ball near to where his manager Tom Carr was standing. He looked over and asked could he go for it. Carr gave him the nod. Dolan slotted it over to send Roscommon 4 points clear. It was the kind of performance that wins a man an All-Star.
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DONEGAL 2-19, TIPPERARY 0-15
Donegal won the match but Tipperary’s Declan Browne won all the praise. The Munster side were well in this game — thanks to Browne, who finished with 9 points — up until the hour mark, but they faded badly after that.