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Cork hurlers reach final

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

For all the carping after this one-sided fiasco about the deficiencies of the system, few can argue that it hasn’t provided a final in which the two best teams in the country will compete. Which is all you can really ask of a competition structure.
This was a match for all of 9 minutes. As the clock clicked on to the 10th, Cork scored their third point to put them one ahead. And from there to the end of the first half, they scored 1-10. Wexford could manage only two points in return. In those 25 minutes, they were blown away like litter in a gale. The six-week layoff after their Leinster title win over Offaly obviously had something to do with it, but it can’t take all the blame. Some days, it’s just not there. Wexford had what they refer to in the Tour de France as un jour sans: a nothing day.
Cork, to give them their due, were an awesome force. Their halfbacks Sean Og O hAilpin and Ronan Curran formed an impenetrable shield in the first half and considering the havoc that was being wreaked farther up their field, their every hook, block and clearance must have been utterly dispiriting for the Wexford forwards. It certainly seemed that way — not one of those forwards put in a performance worth a mention.
As for the Cork forwards, they played like men who knew that by the 20th minute, the game was little more than a trial for All-Ireland final selection. Only Brian Corcoran failed to score, but he need lose no sleep over his place for the final — the donkey work he did was vital and ceaseless. Jerry O’Connor scored six points from play from midfield, his twin, Ben, knocked over eight from wing forward. They all got in on the act — Joe Deane with four points, Timmy and Niall McCarthy two apiece.
Only Damien Fitzhenry in the Wexford goal made any shape at stemming the Cork flow, pulling off three exceptional saves in the course of the afternoon. He must have felt like a water carrier with a hole in his bucket, however. Cork were dominant in every position across the field. Short of racing forward to catch his own puck-outs, there was nothing Fitzhenry could do. Wexford were slinking out of the championship as spiritless as ever, their Leinster title enough to balm the wounds for another winter.
Celebration in the other dressing room was muted enough. As has become their habit, the Cork players and management fell over themselves afterward to point out that Kilkenny would be raging favorites for the final. But they were fooling nobody. One of them even said it with the hint of a smile.

FOOTBALL QUARTERFINALS
KERRY 1-15, DUBLIN 1-8
So for yet another year, Dublin are hunted out of the house while the party’s only getting started and this time it’s because of nothing more sinister than the fact that they’re not good enough. This wasn’t down to a player getting sent off at an injudicious time nor even the lack of a free-taker (Senan Connell missed only one all day and ended up with 0-5). No, this time it was because when they came up against a team who decided, however briefly, to turn on the style, they crumbled, crumpled and crashed.
Dublin will rue last Saturday’s first half. With Ciaran Whelan and Ian Robertson dropping deep to crowd out the center of the pitch, young Paddy Kelly was given a tortuous debut. But Dublin wasted the space they left up front. First Jason Sherlock and then Alan Brogan fashioned and wasted decent goal chances, Sherlock pulling badly across goal and Brogan drawing a smart save out of Diarmuid Murphy. And even though Darren Homan did his best to make up for his forwards’ mishaps with two driven points, it wasn’t hard to see that Dublin would likely come to regret the misses.
For much of the first half, the Kerry fullback line was creaking badly. Sherlock skipped through again on 26 minutes and it was only a borderline intervention from Marc O Se that put him off. Five minutes later, Whelan strode into open country but his shot clattered high into the air off the crossbar. In the end, all Dublin had to show for the last 20 minutes of the first half was a Connell free.
And so despite pretty much owning midfield, despite happening upon four all-you-want goal chances, Dublin went in at the break level at 0-5 to 0-5, with Colm Cooper and Dara O Cinneide keeping Kerry in the hunt. Worse, in the 10 minutes that came the other side of it, Dublin ceded momentum, gave up possession and lost the game. O Cinneide was tapping over frees with metronomic ease by this stage and when, on 46 minutes, he accepting the gift of a ball that dropped down when a Cooper attempt came off the post, his finish to the top corner put Kerry 1-7 to 0-6 up.
Not only that, but they rattled off five of the next six points. Liam Hassett came on and launched one with his first touch, William Kirby came on and swung over two in a minute, both the result of more heavenly play by Cooper. When the corner-forward scooted out onto a Hassett ball on 57 minutes, his shimmy, turn and shot put the Munster champions 1-13 to 0-7 in front. The stadium started to empty. A late Sherlock goal — the first score from play the whole afternoon by a Dublin forward — staunched the flow but only briefly.
As for Kerry, they still haven’t found Darragh O Se a partner at midfield and they won’t get away with some of the ball they were sending into their full-forward line yesterday for long, but they’re ticking over nicely enough. In a year when plenty of the big names are already kicking their heels and twiddling their thumbs, that might well do the trick.

Derry 2-9, Westmeath 0-13
It’s as if May 9 never happened. It’s as if the worst display Derry football had seen for a couple of decades was just a dream, their feeble capitulation to Tyrone in Clones that day an urban myth. Anyone who walked out of St Tiarnach’s Park after the hiding Derry received that afternoon claiming that Mickey Moran’s men would be in an All-Ireland semifinal come the middle of August would have been told to get in out of the sun. And yet here they are, a game away from an All-Ireland final.
They ended Westmeath’s joyous summer last Saturday in a curiously fitful game at Croke Park. Ahead thanks to first-half goals from Paddy Bradley and Enda Muldoon, they did everything they could to leave the game behind them, kicking seven wides from silly angles. Muldoon, despite walking away with the Man of the Match award, was as guilty as anyone, responsible for four of them. And yet when the winning of the game needed to be done, it was he who did it.
The goals had given Derry a 2-5 to 0-7 halftime cushion, but the wides had given Westmeath a way back. And even though they made hard work it, Paidi O Se’s side took advantage. Dessie Dolan was involved in everything they did, scoring five points and giving the last pass for three more. Joe Fallon came on and kicked two frees. With 61 minutes on the clock, the edged in front, a massive Dolan point putting them 0-13 to 2-6 up.
From there, it was anyone’s game. Muldoon made it his. After substitute Eamon Burke scored a beauty to level matters 10 seconds after stepping off the bench, Muldoon made sure the next two attacks were Derry’s and that they both ended in an umpire’s white flag. Westmeath, tired after clawing their way back and clearly mentally jaded after a heroic summer, couldn’t bear to rouse themselves again. Their summer was over.
Derry’s, on the other hand, has really only begun.

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