Category: Archive

Fit to be tied

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

There were eight goals, a penalty save, a 100-meter Paul Flynn free that looked to have won Waterford the game at the death, a referee once more in the spotlight, and a last-second equalizing point by Limerick’s Eoin Foley. If Saturday’s replay at the same venue is half as good, it will still be unmissable.
In the end, reigning provincial champions Waterford were the more disappointed at the result. Starting with a frenzy of scores, it seemed they would simply sweep a young Limerick side off its feet, but the way Dave Keane’s inexperienced players coped with the early onslaught and then worked their way back into a contest of relentless action will surely stand them in good stead for the next game.
With referee Pat Aherne of Carlow twice overruling his umpires, once to rub out a point by Clem Smith and on another occasion to allow a shot by Conor Fitzgerald, his performance was not to Waterford’s liking.
“We have excellent referees in Munster and they’re not getting games; the system is crazy,” spat county board chairman Paddy Joe Ryan. “Referees from non-hurling counties are getting big games. You put your whole life into the GAA and you have to put up with that. I’m not saying any more.”
Waterford’s anger was justified as Aherne hesitated over several key decisions and allowed some foul play to go unpunished, but it probably had as much to do with their frustration had not finishing off a game that appeared at one stage to be in the bag. Early goals by the excellent Flynn, who wound up with 3-3, and John Mullane helped to establish a 2-4 to 0-1 scoreline after just 15 minutes.
However, two years ago they had jumped 11 points clear of Limerick and lost, and a similar pattern began to unfold as Keane’s side, inspired by Fitzgerald, recovered their composure. Their emerging teenage forward, Andrew O’Shaughnessy who is currently sitting his Leaving Certificate exams, confounded the Waterford defense for a superbly taken goal, and then when the same player was fouled, Mark Foley crashed home the resultant penalty to leave Waterford just 2-8 to 2-7 in front at the interval.
The problem for Waterford was that while Flynn was outstanding throughout, Tony Browne and, to a lesser extent, Fergal Hartley, though they had brilliant spells, didn’t exercise enough influence for the champions to open up another gap. Flynn fired home a penalty after Browne was fouled, but then Niall Moran suffered the same fate only for Limerick to inexplicably change their penalty taker and this time Eoin Foley’s shot was deflected away to safety.
Yet there was no end to the breathless action. Back came Limerick. After what seemed to be a clear foul on Flynn, referee Aherne waved play on and Fitzgerald poached a goal. Waterford replied with a kicked goal from Flynn and while they piled on the pressure, a couple of frees were missed and Flynn squandered two more goal chances before Niall Moran give Limerick a lifeline with his team’s fourth goal.
In fact, Limerick were in front with 10 minutes left when O’Shaughnessy showed his class with a stunning point, but Flynn boomed over that remarkable long-range free and then Ken McGrath had the opportunity to seal the game for Waterford. There was one more twist to an eventful contest as Eoin Foley kept his cool to send the equalizer over.

DUBLIN 3-11, LAOIS 0-15
Following a drawn game in which they had two players sent off and in which their tactics were suspect, Dublin got this Leinster hurling championship preliminary round replay at Nowlan Park exactly right. The upside from last Saturday was a convincing performance, the downside is a semifinal meeting with All-Ireland champions Kilkenny.
Still, Dublin are only beginning the rebuilding program. If some of their shooting left much to be desired, they were off to a quick start with a Tomas McGrane goal after 9 minutes. If McGrane’s accuracy from dead-ball situations deserted him on this occasion, he added a second-half goal to his tally and got impressive support from wingback Stephen Hiney and Conal Keaney.
Despite hitting 13 wides, Dublin were 1-4 to 0-6 ahead at the changeover, and although Laois were driven forward by James Young at midfield, a passage of six unanswered points midway through the second half was the only time they were in charge of proceedings.
Dublin’s third goal, 12 minutes from the end, was the game’s vital score. However, Laois had good reason to be angry that the Ger Ennis’s effort was allowed as he clearly took too many steps before finding the net.

While some of the big guns have yet to fire, hurling’s bottom-feeders were getting down to business in the preliminary round of the All-Ireland qualifiers. Kerry were much too strong for a disappointing Westmeath side in Nenagh last Saturday where goals from Paul O’Connell, Shane Brick and Michael Slattery emphasized the gap between the teams.
Four points apiece by Andrew Mitchell and John Shaw kept Westmeath in the game, but they never threatened to unsettle Kerry who now meet Carlow in the next round.

Westmeath looked as if they were going to accomplish something they have never accomplished in their history, and that’s beat Meath in a Leinster football championship game, when Meath produced one of their trademark recoveries that by now seem to have been passed on to a new generation of players.
If Meath somehow contrived to pick themselves off the floor and claw back from a 5-point deficit, the closing sequence to this dramatic quarterfinal at Croke Park threw up a moment that will live forever in the memory of the Westmeath supporters who witnessed it. With the scores level and just seconds remaining, Westmeath were awarded a free 20 meters out and straight in front of the Meath goal. At last, that championship hoodoo was about to be ended.
And who better to give the free to than Dessie Dolan? Having already contributed 1-7, and having already emerged as the game’s most influential performer, this kick was meat and drink to the Westmeath forward. He stepped up in front of 63,000 people who didn’t just expect him to kick the point that would earn him a place in his county’s sporting lore, they knew he’d earn himself a place. Boot met ball, ball ballooned high and to the right of the upright, and the umpire didn’t move for this flag.
Devastation all around for Westmeath, and jubilation in the Meath ranks to the extent that you’d have thought they’d won the Sam Maguire Cup. Sorry, Dessie, but this was one of the greatest misses every witnessed at Croke Park.
“Had it not been for Dessie Dolan, we wouldn’t have been in a position to win the match,” said Westmeath’s manager, Luke Dempsey. “If you look at some of the scores he got, he couldn’t seem to do anything wrong, but the ones that seem easy are anything but. I suppose that everybody in the place might have thought that they could put it over, but he didn’t, and that’s what championship football is all about. It’s rough on Dessie because it was a great opportunity.”
If this new-look Meath side once again produced a Houdini act, it appeared for most of the first half that it wouldn’t be needed. Hank Traynor pointed after only a minute, and some promising play by newcomers such as Shane McKeigue and Charles McCarthy meant that Sean Boylan’s team’s 1-10 to 0-8 advantage at the break was fully deserved.
But it all changed as Rory O’Connell and Martin Flanagan suddenly came into their own at midfield, and with a quarter of an hour remaining, Westmeath had turned the game on its by converting that 5-point deficit into a 5-point lead. An error by Meath goalkeeper Cormac Sullivan opened the door for a Dolan goal, and then moments later more confusion in the Meath defense allowed Shane Colleary’s shot to trickle over the line.
But then Meath did what Meath are good at. Frees from Daithi Regan and Trevor Giles sparked the recovery, and then Traynor added a point. Now the gap was two and Graham Geraghty took center stage to fist home a priceless goal to give his side a 1-point lead.
As tempers became frayed, Donal Curtis was sent off for a head-butt on Flanagan, and Dolan leveled the scores with a sumptuous free from out on the right hand sideline. His next opportunity was much easier, but alas, there will be a replay on Saturday at Portlaoise.

DUBLIN 1-19, LOUTH 0-9
Dublin’s defense of their Leinster football title was expected to begin with serious examination from Louth, but that’s not how it panned out at Croke Park last Sunday. In fact, Louth appeared to have been guilty of leaking the questions in advance as there was only one team in this flat, rather featureless game.
Dublin didn’t have to be anywhere near their best and manager Tommy Lyons was able to supplement his three newcomers who made the starting lineup with a host of substitutes in the closing stages. Already bothered and bedraggled, Louth didn’t exactly help their ailing cause when midfielder Seamus O’Hanlon got himself sent off 10 minutes into the second half for kicking out at Johnny Magee.
Once Alan Brogan settled his team with an early goal, Dublin were never really challenged. Ciaran Whelan muscled his way around centerfield with three points from play, while Brian Cullen, Ray Cosgrove and sub Tomas Quinn finished with the same total.
“First round, lads, it’s just getting us off the ground,” was Lyons’s verdict to the assembled media afterward. “If we won by a point I’d be as happy as I am now. The subs? The game was won when we put them on. We were just bloodying young lads in Croke Park.”
Armed with a 7-point lead at the interval, Dublin could afford to cruise home following O’Hanlon’s dismissal and Quinn and another sub Tom Mulligan caught the eye with some impressive scores. Louth had hoped that their full forward line of Ollie McDonnell, Mark Stanfield and J.P. Rooney would make an impact, but with Paddy Christie in outstanding form at the back for Dublin, the threat never materialized.

The Ulster championship may not always be a thing of beauty, but last Sunday’s mean-spirited quarterfinal at Enniskillen will be quickly confined to the nasty file. A litany of fouls, of lunges, of dangerous challenges and occasional fisticuffs was the highlight of this depressing contest.
It was a pity for Fermanagh, because the result marks a trend as the power shifts away from its traditional base. They were tough, rugged and highly competitive, a prosaic performance decorated only occasionally by Raymond Gallagher and Stephen Maguire who scored 6 points between them.
However, Donegal were a disgrace. Flat, featureless and without any threat when Brendan Devenney was forced out of the action with an injury after 10 minutes.
“It was the worst display ever seen by a Donegal team,” said manager Brian McEniff. “We had some angry words at half time because I think the lack of spirit showed. Fermanagh might have put us away a lot earlier, and if we’d come back, it would’ve been a steal. I have no excuses.”
Now Fermanagh have a genuine chance of landing an Ulster title with Armagh, Derry, Cavan and Donegal all out of commission for the moment. Tyrone lie in wait.

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It wasn’t quite as one-sided as the scoreline suggests, and Galway had to work hard to see off the challenge of Leitrim in last Sunday’s Connacht football semifinal at Carrick-on-Shannon.
In fact, following an early Seamus Quinn goal, Leitrim held the lead for much of the first half, but the scoring prowess of Padraic Joyce eventually had Galway taking control. A goal by Michael Meehan early in the second half, and then a penalty from Derek Savage after Paul Clancy was dragged down put the result beyond any doubt.
“Who better than I to be aware of the pride and passion that Leitrim players can produce?” said Galway manager John O’Mahony, who guided Leitrim to a Connacht championship success in 1994. “Our workrate was certainly not up to scratch during the first half and Leitrim showed us the way by battling harder. In fairness to the lads, they put in more effort in the second half, but it won’t be any use waiting that long in a Connacht final.”

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