Category: Archive

GAA Roundup: Galway top Cats

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

And all this after Eddie Brennan had bludgeoned the victor’s tentative hopes in the opening minutes. A defensive error left the corner-forward in the open and he was never going to miss the net. But what made the win even more special was that the Connacht side were sloppy in spells, conceding goals when they looked to crawl beyond Kilkenny’s grasp.
Yet they had enough craft and flair in attack to beat anybody and everybody. With all eyes on Damien Hayes, the threat came from the opposite flank. Ger Farragher was flawless from frees but as the game ebbed and flowed, Galway always slightly on top, it was two goals in the space of a minute that gave the first indications of what was to come. Farragher got both. The first was a fantastic finish as David Tierney continued to excel in the middle; the second a rebound after James McGarry had denied Hayes.
Soon eight points were between the sides, 2-10 to 1-5, but the hands were removed from around Kilkenny’s neck before the half was out as twice the Galway full-back line creaked and quivered. Henry Shefflin drilled home the first opening, John Hoyne did likewise. There was no let up after the interval and for all Galway’s sparkle, the game was level by the 43rd minute. The Leinster champions were back breathing.
Up stepped Niall Healy and if Farragher’s double had stunned onlookers, he was to go one better – delirium. Ritchie Murray was denied by the unfortunate McGarry who saw another impressive stop fall to the waiting Healy. Meat thrown to the dogs. A throw-in produced yet another goal. Kilkenny had been initially awarded the free only for Peter Barry to continue on his conversation with referee Seamus Roche for a few words too long. Suddenly the ball flashed down the field to Healy who turned John Tennyson inside out and buried the best of the lot.
Kilkenny were rocking and Healy completed his hat trick before turning in celebration to the Hill. But a fluid Galway then realized where they stood. They became edgy and Kilkenny came at them with a flood of points at the death. They needed a goal but when they turned to DJ Carey he had been swallowed. It summed up the afternoon, with Ollie Canning the one who has more than likely ended the career of a legend.
He may not be alone, as a Kilkenny that had been running on empty for far too long chugged to a halt. But with their probable passing, something magnificent has been born. “It was a question of belief, it really was,” said a delighted, stunned and relieved Galway manager, Conor Hayes. “A lot of people rang me and text me and spoke to me this week and all said if we can get them to believe we are definitely good enough.”
Belief will not be an issue after this but questions over a defense prone to untimely errors may have been smothered by one of the great games. “Well, we’ll just prepare for the final now,” continued Hayes. “It’s the last game of the championship. We are there now with Cork. Obviously they are a very good side, but there’s a hunger building in this team now, and growing all the time. I think this will be a big turning point.”

Armagh 2-17 Laois 1-11
All Ireland Senior Football quarter-final

They came to Croke Park in expectation of another classic. After months of mismatches and forgettable encounters, footballing folk had been getting used to the edge of their seats of late. Not here. But despite the lack of bitten nails they were left grinning. They had just witnessed Armagh at their best.
The mould had long been cast. Laois ghosted through the door with hope and attractive football. Armagh arrived through the wall with brute force. But one and all in the sparse crowd of 32,187 got it wrong. The Ulster champions left the physicality back home. They outplayed Laois; they outshone them too. They were devastating across the park, looking like men who won’t let themselves be halted between now and the far reaches of September. And all this without Kieran McGeeney who was ruled out just before the start.
That same start was slow however. After early exchanges, Mick O’Dwyer’s side pushed ahead. They should have surged ahead only to be wasteful and as Armagh finally clicked, the lead the Leinster side desperately needed wasn’t there to cushion their fall. A three-point advantage quickly vanished before the break and with half-time approaching the sides were level at six points apiece. Suddenly Ronan Clarke shot over twice but it was the next score, and more significantly it’s scorer, that will have provided the greatest pleasure for Armagh manager Joe Kernan.
Aidan O’Rourke played a long ball into the forward line, Clarke brilliantly flicked it behind him to Steven McDonnell and he shot beyond Fergal Byron. Brilliance, and it summed up McDonnell who looked back to his devastating best. The rest of the country took notice. Laois heads hung as they returned after the interval like boys who’d realised they just weren’t good enough. That was an understatement. Further points killed any contest that was left and even when Barry Brennan squeezed the weakest of shots under Paul Hearty, the big ‘keeper didn’t look worried.
There was no need. Oisin McConville, McDonnell and Clarke were all picking off scores and the former put a more realistic face on proceedings as he goaled six minutes from time. Job done.
“It was very comfortable in the finish but if somebody had been watching the first half and went for a cup of tea and came back in and seen the second half, you’d have said it was too different teams out there,” said Kernan, clearly keen to play down the performance. “Some of the things we did wrong were our own fault but we rectified it on the field and the boys used their heads. And when we settled and started to play the football we know we can, we answered a lot of the critics.”
But while Kernan can plot his superpower’s next move, Mick O’Dwyer will have other thoughts to consume the months ahead. For a long time now he has been a successful nomad of the game and it’s more than likely that he’ll wander again.
“We tried to work on our start today and we started well and finished badly,” said a bemused O’Dwyer afterwards. “So where do we go from here?” Even he had no answer.
But the day was all about one side. A side who have now gone 15 games unbeaten since early in the year. In the bookmakers Kerry remain favourites. If Armagh continue to glide like Gods, that faith has been misplaced.

London 5-8 Louth 1-5
Nicky Rackard Cup Final

GAA President, Sean Kelly, touted it as a victory for Gaelic games abroad. Eight counties were represented in London’s starting line-up, and they increased by two as they gave their bench a run, having secured victory well before the finish.
It was clear they would be the dominant force from early on but a plethora of wides left them trailing after the opening quarter. But goals from Barry Shortall and Kevin McMullen turned the game. There was no way back for Louth after that. They picked off the occasional score, but London were unforgiving in their dominance.
Tom Simms added a third goal after the interval as Louth tired dramatically in the closing stages of a disappointing contest. McMullan then netted his second before Dave Bourke went on a solo mission and hit 1-3 in the dying moments. Easy for London but the 21 wides they amassed suggested there’s quite a bit of improvement required if they’re to be competitive in the Christy Ring Cup next season.

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