Admittedly, we knew that Kilkenny – table-toppers in Division 1A – and that Galway, who led the way in Division 1B, were both through to the semi-finals, while Tipperary and Limerick were guaranteed places in the quarter-finals, but after that, confusion reigned.
Following the Cork players’ strike which had seen them concede walkovers in two matches, it had been agreed that points difference couldn’t be used to decide the final placings in Division 1A. But as Cork and Waterford finished tied behind Kilkenny on six points apiece, there was no way of knowing which county would play Tipp and which would play Limerick in the last eight.
Similarily, it couldn’t be decided whether Dublin or Wexford, who finished on three points apiece, would be relegated along with Antrim.
At the time of going to press, it seemed likely that Cork and Waterford, and possibly Dublin and Wexford as well, would have to play off, to determine the final Division 1A placings.
But back to last weekend’s matches for a moment, and as expected, Kilkenny wound up with a 100 per cent record when they thrashed Antrim by 3-22 to 1-8 at Nowlan Park even though manager Brian Cody decided to field an understrength side.
With Antrim soon consigned to Division Two for next season, Kilkenny piled on the pressure with goals from Aidan Fogarty, Martin Comerford and Damien Fogarty, while Richard Hogan hit 0-7 including two points from play.
Cork were made to struggle by lowly Wexford at Pairc Ui Chaoimh before booking a quarter-final place on a scoreline of 0-22 to 1-17. Trailing by a point at the break after playing with the breeze, Wexford looked a beaten team, but they battled bravely during the second half to almost pull off a shock result.
In fact, they were two points clear with just five minutes remaining before Cork levelled the match, and then sealed the victory with a couple of injury-time frees from John Gardiner and Neil Ronan.
After their earlier defeat by Kilkenny, Waterford returned to form to assure themselves of a spot in the quarter-finals by getting the better of Dublin by 3-18 to 1-17 at Walsh Park. With John Mullane in sparkling form – the forward plundered an impressive 3-4 from play – Waterford dominated the opening period, and it was to Dublin’s credit that they made a game of it during the second half.
Meanwhile, in Division 1B, Galway kept their unbeaten record intact and advanced to the semi-finals into the bargain with a convincing 2-24 to 1-16 victory over Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds. Goals from Kerril Wade and Iarla Tannian plus a 0-11 contribution from Ger Farragher which included nine frees emphasised Galway’s supremacy as Limerick have to be content with a place in the quarter-finals.
Anything John Mullane was able to do, Lar Corbett showed he could equal it as Tipperary strolled to a 4-17 to 1-12 win over Laois in Cashel. Corbett hit a first-half hat-trick to set his team on the way, however, Tipp lost out to Galway on points difference for the automatic semi-final place and like Limerick they will have to come through from the quarter-finals.
Offaly will join neighbours Laois in Division Two next season following their 1-18 to 2-13 defeat at the hands of Clare in Tullamore. A couple of late scores by subs Barry Nugent and Brendan Buglar secured the win for Clare.
In the only National Football League fixture of the weekend, Monaghan edged ahead of Dublin on points difference at the top of Division Two following a 1-10 to 0-13 draw at Parnell Park.
While there was enough tetchiness on the pitch – both Mark Vaughan and Bryan Cullen of Dublin received their marching orders – Monaghan later alleged that one of their players, Thomas Freeman, was head-butted by a member of Dublin’s management team.
Paul Flynn scored the Dublin goal with Conall Keaney adding four points, while Freeman kicked seven frees for the Ulster county.