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Munster Championship but not as we know it

Thursday, 29th October, 2020 10:14am

I have lost count of the number of times I have been in, and games I have covered in Semple Stadium Thurles; it really is a special venue, but last Sunday was so so different.

I left home around 1.45pm and just over an hour later (all within the speed limit) pulled up right outside the venue. No crowd, hawkers, flags and the famous Thurles Sarsfields pavilion closed.

Even on days or evenings of minor and under 21 games there’s an atmosphere, but not on this occasion. There was an eerie silence around the venue, a far cry from the Munster championship days we are all so used to, and long for.

The match itself reflected the lack of atmosphere; no question but Limerick were clearly the better team, and were it not for Tony Kelly’s master class, one wonders what the eventual winning margin would have been.

While not taking from Limerick’s win, it was more akin to a challenge game than a Munster Championship Quarter Final or the League Final it doubled as; credit the players on both sides for their efforts, but it was so surreal.

It lacked the bite and intensity you would normally associate with such a fixture, a local derby, and it’s hard to see the coming games been any different.

Laois Manager Eddie Brennan made an excellent point with his comment that when the teams ran onto Croke Park on Saturday night, they were greeted with a silence that took from the game. You feed off the supporters and that’s what makes the championship so special.

Munster Senior Hurling semi-final

Cork v Waterford

A semi-final that despite it being so late in the year has a certain appeal about it and Cork manager Kieran Kingston is just glad it’s actually been played.

“Absolutely given the circumstances of the season, we feel privileged that we are in a position to play, okay it’s late in the year but at least it’s going ahead.”

Planning for a Munster semi-final in October is so different than June when it’s normally played.

“Very much so, but then it’s the same for Waterford. We would have liked a little bit more time with the players, but it is what it is and since we have had the group together, they have worked very hard.”

Unfortunately injury rules out two key players in Eoin Cadogan and Darragh Fitzgibbon and they are a loss, as Kieran explained.

“Without doubt, (they are) two very experienced players who both showed great form with their clubs in the county championships, but we have had time to adjust and it affords others the opportunity to put their hand up, hopefully as the season goes on they can get back, but Saturday’s game has come just a bit too soon for both of them.”

As for the county championships, Kieran having watched a lot of games in all grades was delighted with the form shown by the inter-county players.

“It was excellent really, they were all leaders for their clubs and the fact that the players could concentrate solely on their clubs helped, now they are full focussed on Saturday.”

Looking to the game, there is no real advantage for either side as it’s all of nearly seven months since they last played a competitive match.

“None at all, Waterford had their championship over early and have been together a bit longer; we are both going in cold in terms of championship pace, and it has the makings of a real battle with a very big prize at stake.”

Cork have had a number of games under their belts in an empty Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Wexford, Galway and Clare provided the opposition, and that will have allowed them adjust to the strange surroundings that Saturday will present.

“It will I suppose but once the game gets underway, the players will just get on with the game. Look we are happy with our preparation, looking forward to the match and if we can deliver a consistent 70 plus minutes I would be confident that we can get the job done, but this is a very experienced Waterford side and we know it’s going to be a real battle, but one we are ready for.”

And a battle it will be, Waterford don’t fear Cork and they did win the last meeting back in March in Walsh Park, but Cork have won the last three championship games, but they were summer hurling and this is different - more like national league hurling.

Pauric Mahony is a huge loss due to free taking alone, but Kevin Moran, Austin Gleeson, Darragh Fives, Conor Prunty, Stephen O’Keeffe, Jack Hutchinson and Stephen Bennett are all key players for Liam Cahill’s side and will relish the challenge Cork will present.

What 15 will Cork name? Fitzgibbon’s absence robs them of the dynamism and accuracy he brings, and will mean a reshuffle in midfield.

Sean O’Donoghue, Robert Downey, Damien Cahalane and possibly Stephen McDonnell who was excellent in the county championship will front Anthony Nash.

Mark Coleman and Bill Cooper could be the midfield pairing while in attack Patrick Horgan remains the go to player, with Alan Cadogan, Seamus Harnedy and Shane Kingston offer excellent and scoring back up.

With no form to go on, predicting a winner is not easy, but a nod to Cork to make it four in a row championship wins over the men from the Desie County. It’s a 3.30pm start in Semple Stadium with live commentary on C103.

Senior Camogie

Cork v Wexford

Much later than planned, Cork eventually get their championship campaign underway, and when you think that some counties have already assured themselves of a place in the knockout phase, while others are already thinking of next year’s competitions, it’s strange that this is Cork’s first game.

This is partly explained by Offaly giving Cork a walk over in the first round which did little for the prestige of the championship already damaged by the fixture clash involving Cork teams.

Wexford, who have struggled in recent years, have played a game and while they lost to reigning champions Galway, they put in a credible display and will have been boosted by their efforts in that game.

Cork looked lively in a challenge game against Waterford recently and while they will be without Julia White and Laura Tracey owing to injuries, they still should get off to a winning start.

Gemma O’Connor, Katriona and Pamela Mackey, Amy O’Connor, Chloe Sigerson, Orla Cronin, Ashling Thompson and Linda Collins have a wealth of experience and that gives them an edge.

In their last game in March - a league outing against Kilkenny - Cork looked sharp and playing a nice quick brand of camogie, they might not be able to replicate that style in this game, but they will win and set themselves up nicely for the trip to Galway a week later with a semi-final spot up for grabs.

 

 

Cancelled championships

Last Monday night Cork had their expected win over Kerry to reach the Munster Under 20 hurling semi-final against Limerick. After the game, selector Wayne Sherlock expressed the view that the match would stand to them and when they get back to training on Thursday night they had a lot to work on.

However by Thursday their plans and those of all other teams, including minor had their hopes dashed as under Level 5, only senior inter-county championships could continue.

It is the intention of the GAA to complete these championships and hopefully that will happen, especially for the lads playing at their respective levels for the last time, it would be cruel to deny them that opportunity.

What happened next defied logic. On Friday at lunchtime word came through that 10 counties with second teams including Cork, were to be removed from the Intermediate and Junior All-Ireland Camogie Championships, as the Department of Sport decreed that only one team from each county could participate in the competitions, in an effort to reduce travel I understand.

How a department with responsibility for the promotion of sport could come up with such a decision, is really hard to believe.

Cork were due to play Kerry on Saturday and had been training hard since they were allowed to and to have it pulled at such short notice really upset those involved, even more so when the Championship had actually started the week before.

I fully understand that we are living through extraordinary times, and many families have suffered, and sport might not seem all that important, but it does provide a release for so many.

All along we are been told it’s relatively safe outdoors, yet young men and women are been told you cannot play the sport you have worked hard for all year.

The Camogie Association have now decided to restructure the championships, and seem to have cowed down to the Department instead of standing up and fighting for the teams and players that are decimated by this absurd decision.

In my opinion, they should put the championships on hold and when the situation alters, give the players the chance to play, it would not take a whole lot of time for these to be completed, it’s the least they owe their players.

There’s a serious lack of leadership shown here by the officers and paid officials in the Camogie Association; a failure to stand up for their players especially in a year when much is made of promoting women’s sport in the 20x20 campaign.

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