Category: Archive

Sligo’s title

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

And in an era when there are justifiable calls to abandon the provincial system in favour of an All Ireland open draw format, their tremendous Connacht final victory over Galway reminded us what is so right about the status quo.
Sligo only edged the verdict by a single point, but they were infinitely better than their more vaunted rivals. Full of desire, ambition and organisation, it was only the fact that no one in the black and white colors had held the Nestor Cup for so long that compromised their self-belief.
None of the current panel was born when Barnes Murphy last lifted the historic piece of silverware back in 1975, so there was an intoxicating mix of relief and joy when Noel McGuire brandished the cup last Sunday.
The last time Connacht had witnessed such emotion on a football pitch was when Leitrim made their overdue breakthrough in 1994. “This hasn’t sunk in yet at all,” said Sligo’s outstanding corner back, Ross Donovan. “I’d say it’ll be Wednesday before any of us know what is going on.”
Perhaps one man will have absorbed the significance before then. For Eamon O’Hara, the team’s spiritual leader who made his inter-county debut 13 years ago, the wait in the wilderness has probably been more frustrating than for anyone else.
When he limped out of the action midway through the second half, O’Hara’s role became a sideline mentor, but it wasn’t as if he had failed to leave his mark on the contest. In fact, it was right and fitting that this loyal servant graced a feverish occasion by scoring one of the goals of the season.
Engineered initially by Michael McNamara and David Kelly, the interchange of passes led to O’Hara’s perfectly-timed charge down the middle of the pitch which he rounded off with a thunderous shot into the roof of the net. The goal gave Sligo a one-point cushion going in at half time, as well as the confidence to finish the job.
“We said at the start that it wasn’t going to be about heroes,” O’Hara explained, “it wasn’t about a fella getting 10 or 12 points on the board or about personal vendettas. It was all about working as hard as possible for the Sligo team, putting your neck on the line. That’s what it took, and we hadn’t done that completely for 32 years.”
When Sligo came through the qualifiers and took Armagh to a replay in the 2002 All Ireland quarter-final it seemed as if they were at last on the cusp of a more permanent rejuvenation, however, the players failed to build on their one or two days in the Croke Park sun, and when they lost to Waterford and Tipperary in the league just over 18 months ago, the low was even lower than usual.
The county board took remedial action by dispensing with the services of Dominic Corrigan, and backing one of their own as the new coach. At the outset, Tommy Breheny was reticent, but once he sensed the players’ appetite for some hard work, he took on the job with enthusiasm. And last Sunday was the pay-off.
“We always believed we would win this game. The players had no doubts coming here,” Breheny revealed “There’s a lot of work going on now with young players, and this will be a great boost to them.”
For some of the older guard, like Mickey Kearins who scored points for fun in that long, lost summer of 1975, it was an overdue boost as well.

Waterford faces tough games
DOWN in Munster, where Waterford and Limerick made up a novel pairing for the provincial hurling final, there was nothing compared the delirium that had swept through Hyde Park like a bush fire. It wasn’t that Waterford’s third title in six years failed to engender some deep satisfaction, it was just that the county’s hurlers now expect more than a trophy in July.
They enjoyed the 3-17 to 1-14 victory over Limerick, savored it and stored it away, because no offense to Limerick, whose epic battles with Tipperary have defined the championship to date, the road ahead for Waterford is more demanding.
When the draw for the remaining stages of the hurling summer filtered through to Semple Stadium last Sunday, Waterford were looking at having to jump three daunting hurdles in the likely shape of Tipp, Cork and Kilkenny if they are to grab the McCarthy Cup and run for the first time since 1959.
Still, no one said it would come easy, but after winning the league and after winning in Munster you would think there might be just a little respite down the line. And yet, Waterford are now hardened, experienced, and they might just be in the mood to take out Kilkenny.
“Of course a Munster title means a lot to Waterford people,” said Eoin Kelly who scored four points. “You’d never get tired of winning Munster titles, but Waterford people would get tired of winning them if an All Ireland doesn’t come. This is a good day, but there’s an All Ireland to be won. It’s a match on the road to somewhere. We’ll enjoy it and get back to work.”
On the subject of work, Dan Shanahan epitomised Waterford’s ethic with a wristband that had the word written on it no fewer than three times, perhaps as precursor of the three second-half goals he would score to destroy Limerick’s hopes for good.
Under the tutelage of Justin McCarthy, Shanahan has morphed from a big, lumbering forward, into big, fast, skilful forward who has one of the sharpest eyes for goal in the game. Last Sunday he gave thanks for the supply line behind him as he smashed the ball past Brian Murray on those three occasions, but there were also three points from play which would not have been possible in the early days of his career.
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I’m not getting carried away, I’m too long in the tooth to be doing that,” said the 30-year-old. “To be honest, there wasn’t much talk about Waterford during the week and I don’t think certain people were giving us the respect we deserve. It was a tough game, but the serious stuff starts here.”
Limerick, meanwhile, are likely to face Clare at the next stage, and who’s to say they won’t regroup and make it to an All Ireland semi-final. But this Munster decider was really about one team, and their simmering ambition.
For Justin McCarthy, a Corkman who saw his reflection in the Liam McCarthy Cup as a player, he might never get Waterford closer to the Promised Land than this summer.

Montgomerie wins European Open
IN the end, there was a smidgeon of good news from the European Open at the K Club last weekend. With the tournament already on the back foot in terms of publicity as several of the European Tour’s leading players either had injuries, or family commitments, or other excuses for staying away, a marquee name left county Kildare with the main prize.
Colin Montgomerie mightn’t be everyone’s cup of tea with his eloquence when things are going right and his foul temper when they aren’t, but he remains box office. And as at one stage, the likes of Robert Rock, Soren Hansen, Peter Hanson, Anthony Wall and Gregory Havret all could have stolen the honors, Montgomerie’s 31st European Tour victory was timely.
But once again, the heavens opened on top of a high profile Irish golf event, and if the awful conditions were understandably no deterrent when the Ryder Cup rolled into town last year, on this occasion, spectators voted with their feet.
When there was free admission for the first round, a respectable 23,000 showed up, but when hard cash had to exchange hands, the K Club was pretty deserted under its almost permanent ceiling of black cloud. Perhaps this time the faithful didn’t want to risk a dose of trenchfoot.
With Padraig Harrington struggling to find his best form on a course he has never liked, and with Graeme McDowell fading badly down the stretch as the final round was twice disrupted by storms, there wasn’t much home interest into the bargain.
The point here is that with the Irish Open struggling for recognition – only two players from the world’s top 50 deigned to grace Adare Manor with their presence – and now with the European Open clearly not regarded by many of Europe’s finest as a key event on the schedule, these are difficult days for tournament golf in Ireland.
Sponsors see low-rent fields, rain, wind and deserted walkways, and they might think about taking their business elsewhere.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese