Category: Archive

GAA Roundup: Croker classic

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

They sold 78,514 seats in Croke Park. Only the edges of them were used.
Talk about ebb and flow. Dublin went in at half-time five points up but by no means five points the better team. Tyrone looked to have had the life crushed out of them when Mossy Quinn pounced on a loose ball in first-half injury time and finished jubilantly. But, not for the first time this summer, Dublin withered on the second half vine, succumbing to a torrid fight-back that included one of the greatest goals ever to grace the place.
Owen Mulligan’s goal was one of those that made you feel good to be alive. Even stripped of context, it was breath taking. Add in the pressure wrought by circumstance — by the fact that he hasn’t been and wasn’t playing well, that not one Tyrone voice would have been raised in his defense had he rather than Ryan Mellon been taken off for Peter Canavan a while earlier — add all that in and it is elevated to heavenly status.
Collecting the ball 40 yards out with his back to goal and in the Cusack Stand side of the pitch, he wheeled to his left and set off at speed. In front of him were three Dublin defenders to add to the one running alongside him. He had no support save for Canavan pulling away from him. He looked at Canavan. He looked again. He feigned to play a pass. Paul Casey bought it. He feigned again. Stephen O’Shaughnessy looked around like a man in a subway station patting his jacket for his wallet. Mulligan carried on and hammered a shot high into Stephen Cluxton’s net. The game was level.
Tyrone pushed on from there and got as far as two ahead before Quinn reeled them in with two late points, the final one a stunning test of nerve after he’d screwed a couple of frees wide earlier in the half. Tyrone didn’t help themselves in the dying seconds by kicking away an amount of possession and generally failing to kill off a game they’d exhausted themselves in hauling back. But that’s a grumble, a niggle. For once, nobody was slandered by the draw.
And to nitpick in these circumstances would be to apply unnecessary computer science to a game more suited to being hung on a wall somewhere. Stephen O’Neill may have kicked eight wides but he also scored three of the day’s five most gorgeous points from play and another three from frees. Ciaran Whelan may have been anonymous for the second half but in the first he was Jack O’Shea and Brian Mullins all rolled into one for 35 minutes. Brian McGuigan, Brian Dooher, Enda McGinley, Sean Cavanagh, Jason Sherlock, Alan Brogan and Conal Keaney all scored towering, rousing points along the way.
McGinley was the man of an incredible match. He worked so hard and reached so high when at times Tyrone looked to being going out at the quarterfinal stage for the second year in a row. There are classier players in the Tyrone side and there are quicker ones too. But on Saturday, there was nobody who looked more a winner, nobody whose every action more suggested a complete refusal to be beaten.
In the end, of course, nobody was beaten. Only fair, only just.

Cork 0-16 Clare 0-15

And just when we thought the football was going to save the summer, along came the hurling to ratchet it up another notch. Cork flopped over the line at Croke Park 24 hours after Tyrone and Dublin played out their bubbling draw. Nobody would have left the stadium carping had this one also finished level.
As it was, everybody — yes, even Cork folk — left feeling sorry for Clare. They came to Dublin utterly convinced they would beat the All Ireland champions to secure a final berth and by thunder, they didn’t fall far short. In the end, they just missed too many chances. They were the better team; they just weren’t the better scorers.
Cork put their hand in the fire and somehow came out with nothing more than the hair singed off the back of their fingers. With 20 minutes to go, they were six points behind and they hadn’t raised a single white flag in the second half. Clare had scored four points and were rampant. Brian Lohan was giving one of his greatest ever displays at fullback and was cleaning Brian Corcoran out at every turn. Center-forward Tony Carmody was flicking over points from everywhere and Colin Lynch was steaming through immense work at midfield.
The Cork sideline had to act. Boy, did it act. Up until yesterday, John Allen hadn’t done anything wrong as Cork manager. He?d steered his squad through the post-Donal O?Grady area with level-headed calm, never getting too excited, never carried away. The one fear for him was that he was perhaps a bit too calm, a touch too slow to ring changes for fear it would look like panic.
Well, if this is how it goes, he should panic more often. With 50 minutes gone, he took off Corcoran and Ronan Curran — two All Stars, forget ye not — and sent on Wayne Sherlock and Neil Ronan. Sherlack went to wing back and John Gardiner moved to the center. Neither Carmody nor Lohan were as dominant again. Ronan scored a point and was centrally involved in three more. Those switches won the game.
“We had to make the call,” Allen said afterwards. “We would have been lacerated if we didn’t. We were five points down and the game was slipping from us. We have 29 people on our panel. I mean, it was a case of what do we do here? Do we throw in the towel or do we try and do something to stem the tide?”
And stem it they did. But oh, how the heart went out to Clare. They fell short in only one category on Sunday and sadly, it was the one that mattered most. Eleven wides doesn’t sound like the worst of returns, but when you add in the four shots that landed softly into Donal

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