Tag Archives: County Championship

A Passage to glory

While reading around in the build-up to the county final last Sunday, I was mildly surprised to discover that the last time Passage played on the big day was in 1997, also against Ballygunner. ‘Surprised’ because I was at this game and in an ongoing reductive assessment of my own relationship with Waterford GAA, I assumed that game must have been after 1998 because hurling didn’t exist before then, did it? I’m not as bad an arriviste as I had assumed.

These thoughts came up as I hoped that Passage might somehow turn back the tide of history. The loss in 1997 was their third in five years in the county final and while the current Ballygunner vintage might be a little more vulnerable than that team, for whom the win was their third win on the trot, even an arriviste would be able to see who were favourites. A prior engagement with the future Waterford All-Ireland winning captain meant I wasn’t going to make it but I wasn’t likely to miss much. Casting my mind back to the slaughter two years ago between the Gunners and Tallow and I was almost grateful to be missing out.

Well, damn it. What a game, what a finish. Things can change quickly in club hurling. The last team to win the county title for the first time are now the team to beat in Waterford, while that three-in-a-row Ballygunner team must wonder where they went wrong in bequeathing a legacy robust enough to appear in thirteen of the last fifteen finals but win only five of them. Maybe in a few year’s time we’ll be looking at Passage as the team to beat. Maybe it’ll be an outlier in a series of disappointments for them. But the first time will always be the best, and it can’t be taken away from them.

And then there were four 2013

After the Lord Mayor’s Ball of  the Minors triumph – and don’t think that party is forgotten about as far as this blog is concerned – it’s the back-to-work hangover that is the county championship. For the second year running the defending champions were felled at the quarter-final stages, De La Salle’s exit giving a headache to those who blithely assumed that Michael Ryan’s uneasy abdication could be swiftly followed by the coronation by acclamation of Derek McGrath. All that is neither here nor there to me at the moment. This year has seen a renewed interest in the goings-on in Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Michael Mac Craith, and the presence of Barry Whelan suggests there might be life in Tramore hurling yet – an old friend of my brother who was at the linked Portlaw game was of the opinion that Tramore is inexorably becoming a hurling club, with more hurling teams at underage level than football teams. Until that day arrives though, my interest in the Senior county hurling title is purely academic. And by ‘academic’, I mean ‘riddled with prejudice’. In short, who should a supporter of the county team want to see win? As always, the criteria are:

  • how long have you waited? The longer the better. A string of close misses in the recent past helps
  • have you undergone a rapid rise from the Intermediate / Junior ranks?
  • a slight bias towards counties from way out West to counteract the perception that the city is too dominant
  • Mount Sion will always be last. If that ever changes, we’ll know Waterford hurling has undergone radical change

The semi-final lineup looks like this:

Ballygunner v Abbeyside
Passage v Mount Sion

With De La Salle out, the Big Two from the city loom large, winners of forty-seven titles between them and fifteen in the last twenty years.  The Monastery men may not be the force they once were but old habits die hard, not least when hearing the tale last Monday at the Minor homecoming from an Erins Own man who was my mother’s neighbour in Poleberry, of how certain members of their alone-it-once-stood Harty Cup win in 1953 were ringers (money quote – “I asked him when Clover Meats became eligible to play in the Harty Cup”). Yes, I realise it was a very long time ago and I really should grow up about such a story rather than getting a perverse delight in it. Still, I’m not in the humour to grow up just yet, and it’s not really a tie-breaking story. You’d want to be a right killjoy to be neutral and wish ill on Passage (county titles: 0). The same is true of the other semi-final. It has to be Abbeyside all the way (county hurling titles: 0). When you look at the spread of clubs represented in the Waterford team in Croke Park on Sunday week last, it would be an affirmation of the robust strength of hurling in the county should we have new names on the county cup.

Given the criteria established above, it would look like Abbeyside would be the favoured choice of the neutral. Since Lismore won the title in 1993 the trophy has only once gone out past mid-county, to Ballyduff Upper in 2007. It would be nice to see that rectified. However, there’s one caveat to that – football. Abbeyside have had plenty of success in the guise of Ballinacourty, and there’s no one telling me that they are different clubs. So let’s all hope and pray for a Passage win. And prayer is what they’ll need, for with my imprimatur they are surely doomed.

Abbeyside 2-11 (17) Dungarvan 0-16 (16) – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted on boards.ie)

Abbeyside ground out a one-point win over luckless Dungarvan in Fraher Field last night to qualify for a quarter final against Fourmilewater with last year’s defeated county finalists now out of this year’s competition. This was a very similar game to last year’s draw between the same sides. Dungarvan were by far the more skillful team and were also well organised, playing to a clear game plan which involved working the ball out of defence with good stick passing to unmarked players.

There was little evidence to support recent reports that Abbeyside’s hurling has greatly improved this year. Their first touch was woeful, their striking and decision-making were frequently poor and their only game plan appeared to be to hit long ball to a forward line which, with the notable exception of Pudge Hurney, was absolutely toothless. Their legendary indiscipline was also very much in evidence, giving Dungarvan sharpshooter Patrick Curran plenty of opportunities to show off his skills (he converted eight frees in all). However, Curran will rue missing one straighforward free midway through the second half which possibly cost his side the game.

Ultimately Abbeyside’s victory can be put down to their superior physicality, good fighting spirit, a few excellent individual displays, and some good fortune.

The game was played in good conditions before as big a crowd as I have ever seen at a group stage championship game in Waterford. Abbeyside opened brightly enough, and led by three points to one after ten minutes. One of those points should have been a goal, with Pudge Hurney blazing over the bar from close range. Dungarvan then took over completely, with Kenny Moore marshalling the defence superbly and Jamie Nagle dominating a midfield. By the interval they were five points ahead, 0-9 to 0-4. Abbeyside did have their chances, but terrible shooting saw them racking up ten wides to Dungarvan’s four.

When Dungarvan added two quick points after half time to go seven ahead, the outlook looked bleak for Abbeyside. However, driven on by captain John Hurney and Maurice Power, they fought their way back into the game. They pulled a couple of points back and then Pudge Hurney gave them a lifeline, picking up a breaking ball and driving through the Dungarvan defence to shoot to the roof of the net. Then, with ten minutes left, they were awarded a dubious penalty when Gary Hurney grabbed a long ball in and went to ground in the Dungarvan goalmouth. Goalkeeper Stephen Enright came up to take the penalty which was poorly taken but somehow squeezed over the line off a defender’s hurley, to put the Villagers one point ahead.

This set the scene for a hectic seesaw finish. Dungarvan regained the lead, and it was point for point until Mark Gorman provided the winning point with an excellent point from out on the right sideline. There was further drama when referee Michael O’Brien rather harshly penalised Pudge Hurney for over carrying 35 yards out from the Abbeyside goal. Dungarvan had to get a goal to stay in the competition, and Abbeyside supporters no doubt were fearful of a repetition of the goal they conceded to Ballyduff in a similar situation in the county semi-final a few years ago. However, in attempting to find a way past the massed Abbeyside defenders, Jamie Nagle shot wide with the referee immediately blowing the final whistle.

Abbeyside: Stephen Enright (1-0, penalty); Shane O’Donovan; Seán O’Hare; John Power; Maurice Power; John Gorman; John Hurney; Richie Foley (0-1); David Collins; Gavin Breen; Gary Hurney; Mark Fives; Mark Ferncombe; Patrick Hurney (1-4); Mark Gorman (0-6, 5 frees). Subs: Shane Crotty for Breen; Michael O’Halloran for Crotty; Conor Hickey for Collins.

Dungarvan: Darren Duggan; Conor Sheridan; Kevin Daly; Karl Duggan; Shane Kearney; Kenny Moore; Seán Ryan; Ryan Donnelly; Jamie Nagle (0-1); Cormac Curran (0-3); Gavin Crotty (0-1); Eoin Healy; Patrick Curran (0-9, 8 frees); Colm Curran (0-1); Cathal Curran (0-1).

And then there were four 2012

Ove the last few years I’ve posted about who I would like to see win the Waterford county hurling championship. From the quarter-finals onwards I’d list from 1-8 who I think it would be most beneficial to win the title , in terms of personal satisfaction (a trivial matter; Tramore are so far away from winning it that it’s easy to be dispassionate), future prospects for the winners in the Munster/All-Ireland series, and the joy it would bring to the masses. Please note that if you want to read something about the competition itself, you’re in the wrong place. Thomas Keane and Tomás McCarthy both cater for that market, the latter also covering the football championship. The criteria can be listed as follows:

  • how long have you waited? The longer the better. A string of close misses in the recent past helps
  • have you undergone a rapid rise from the Intermediate / Junior ranks?
  • a slight bias towards counties from way out West to counteract the perception that the city is too dominant
  • Mount Sion will always be last. If that ever changes, we’ll know Waterford hurling has undergone radical change

This year I was too lazy busy to do it from the quarter-final stage, so we find ourselves at the semi-finals shorn of the defending champions as Ballygunner went down to Mount Sion.

29/9/12 at Walsh Park (5pm)
Mount Sion v De La Salle
30/9/12 at Fraher Field (6pm)
Dungarvan v Fourmilewater

The Gunners-Sion game might have presented a bit of a dilemma had I managed to get my act together before the quarter-finals. I’ve been pondering of late whether I’m being too hard on the Monastery men. It’s a source of some pride for our county that we have such a robust presence in one of the truly urban areas of Ireland and the recent travails of Mount Sion would make you wonder whether they could be heading the same way as Erin’s Own before them. Would I have wanted Mount Sion to topple Ballygunner, the club who have so flattered to deceive when they ventured outside the county as our representatives? Not putting together a crib sheet before the weekend has spared me the choice. Mount Sion were only playing with our minds. They’re still evil. Factor in the ease with which De La Salle seem to adapt to the burden of being county champions (two county titles, two Munster titles, two losses to the eventual All-Ireland champions) and more personal angst, and the all-city clash is a no-brainer. DLS all the way.

The other fixture is much more intriguing. A quick Google reveals that Dungarvan have not won the county hurling title since 1941 and Fourmilewater have never even reached the final. There’s obviously a clear difference between the size of the respective clubs, with the Dungarvan the winningest (to use that awful, but awfully useful, American phrase) team in the county football championship, so you’d think that ickle Fourmilewater should get the support of all right-thinking neutrals. But wait, who is that further down the football roll of honour? The Nire have won the football championship six times since Dungarvan’s last win and as any fule kno The Nire and Fourmilewater are the effectively the same club. Not quite the David and Goliath clash it seems.

And yet it is. I have a fondness for the Nire valley since happy days spent there with the Cub Scouts back in days of yore. We were all only too eager to jump on the Ballymacarbry bandwagon when the ladies footballers were sweeping all before them in the 1990’s, and it would be great for them to get something back. Factor in the marvel that is a club with as small a catchment area as the Nire valley fielding two competitive senior teams, and how could you object to Michael Ryan’s lot landing the big one? You couldn’t. Come on Fourmilewater.

Waterford GAA results archive – knave of clubs

[table id=233/]

With Ballygunner getting ready to have another tilt at the Munster club title, it seems like a good time to roll out the complete list of results for Waterford clubs since the competition started in such a half-assed fashion back in 1964. Complete, that is, except for Lismore’s result against Ballyduff of Kerry in 1992. The Irish Times didn’t think it was worth noting, Feel free to comment on the Old Lady of D’Olier Street (yes, I know it’s not there any more) and its derisory attitude to the GAA below (Update: got it. Unsurprisingly the Indo is a bit more thorough).

Our record isn’t as bad as I expected it to be. It’s certainly a lot better than our record at Under-21 level, a competition that started around the same time.  We’ve a winning record against Limerick teams and a surprisingly good one against Tipperary teams. Tipp’s county championship is ferociously competitive with nine different winners over the last 20 years compared to only five in Waterford, so their teams are probably not as robust as the likes of Ballygunner and Mount Sion.

Aha, you may say, how does that explain our crappy records against teams from Cork and Clare? Our recent efforts against Cork teams haven’t been so bad, but in the early days of the competition we were routinely mown down by the likes of Blackrock, Midleton and St Finbarr’s. It’s been a while since a team from Cork was inherently scary. The same cannot be said of the Clare champions. The hoodoo the Banner had over Waterford teams in the ’90’s was brutal, knocking us out no fewer than nine times in the twelve years between 1991 and 2002. Mount Sion didn’t beat Sixmilebridge in 2003 – they exorcised them. Now if only we could get all Max Von Sydow on the Galway champions . . .

Ballygunner 1-19 (22) Tallow 0-6 (6)

Hurling’s great. It’s so great that its advocates, of which anyone reading this is likely to be one, routinely tout its superiority to other sports. Comments along the lines of “I’d rather watch a  Junior B hurling match than the All-Ireland football final” litter the intrawebs. It’s all a bit silly at the best of times, and then you have a match like this one which is not evidence of the best of times. It’s not that the game was a hopeless mismatch that made it bad. Even a massacre can be compelling if the winner turns the dial up to 11 (see: 2008 All-Ireland hurling final). Ballygunner managed to win this without ever needing to put on an exhibition of quality hurling, and it was profoundly depressing to see the hopes of the good people of Tallow dashed not by a virtuoso performance but by a team who never had to rise above the mediocre,

Karren Brady, speaking literally decades ago on Fantasy Football League, said that her hope for Birmingham City that year was to get through to the end of the season without being relegated and that they could all start at zero the following season. It may seem trite, but it did capture the essential optimism that pervades the start of every year and match (NB Birmingham were relegated to the third tier of English soccer that season) and you could see it in this match as Tallow seemed to be giving Ballygunner a game. They were struggling to win the ball but when they did get it they were engaging in all manner of deft flicks and low balls into the corner. Could the mighty Ballygunner be brought down by the sling-wielding Birmingham Tallow? Unfortunately this was more akin to someone taking a knife to a gun fight.

Tortured metaphors aside, it didn’t look too bad for Tallow at the start, especially if you chose to ignore the result of the match between the teams in the regular season – Ballygunner 2-15 (21) Tallow 0-6 (6), if you must know, killjoy. An early free from Pauric Mahony dropped short and was initially won by David O’Brien in the Tallow full-back line only for his shot to be blocked and lobbed back in. This time goalie Shaun O’Sullivan dealt with the danger but his clearance to around the 45 led to a foul on a Ballygunner forward and Pauric Mahony tapped over the easier chance. Tallow responded with a truly excellent point, Eoin Condon picking out Thomas Ryan – not Tomás then? – in the corner and he shot over from an acute angle to level matters. Evan Sheehan had a chance to put Tallow ahead after a good catch but he shot too early and the ball went wide. Pauric Mahony then hit a very long-range free in with a low trajectory which Tallow managed to scramble out for a sideline ball. The cleared ball came to Shane Walsh who went on a mazy dribble. His shot was blocked but he mopped up the rebound to put Ballygunner back in front.

Tallow kept up their attempt to win the game by being smart, Ryan pulling low across a dropping ball and causing Ballygunner goalie Stephen O’Keeffe to fumble the ball out for a 65. It will not have escaped the attention of the new inter-county management team that this would be O’Keeffe’s only flub in the game. Paul O’Brien knocked over the 65 and the teams were level again. A longer range effort from him soon afterwards went wide and another free-in, won not long after James Murray had tried to take the creativity thing a bit too far by backheeling the ball, was also missed. It was a much easier chance, the first whatmighthavebeen for Tallow. There wouldn’t be many.

Andy Maloney had a huge impact on Ballygunner’s last county final success and he was soon in the mix here, slotting over after finding himself in acres of space out on the right. Another dropping ball from Tallow was cleared with ease by O’Keeffe and struggling to clear their lines nearly caught Tallow out moments later, William Henley’s ball out to the Ballygunner half-forward putting Tallow on the wrong foot. The ball was zipped straight back into Brian O’Sullivan but he dragged the ball across the face of the goal when it seemed easier to hit the target. At the other end O’Keeffe dealt with another dropping ball with aplomb and it was becoming unnervingly clear that Tallow were struggling to use the breeze to put him under the pressure that would be required for them to cause a shock. At the other other end Ken Kearney got into a right flap trying to clear the ball and could only bundle it out for a sideline ball. Ballygunner worked the ball across the field to Harley Barnes who hit the post with a point effort that, like Stephen Jones for Wales against France, shouldn’t have gone anywhere near the post so couldn’t be counted as unlucky. Aidan Kearney’s clearance fell to Pauric Mahony who missed the more difficult follow-up effort but Tallow were running out of get-out-of-jail-free cards.

William Henley, who had started so brightly for Tallow, was now struggling against Pauric Mahony who swept past him and gave it to Shane O’Sullivan who drew the foul. Pauric Mahony did the needful and you could see the inter-county players were starting to strut their stuff. And none more so than what David O’Sullivan did next as he set off from near halfway through the Tallow defence. No-one could get near him and he teed up Harley Barnes whose bouncing bomb from close range found its way to the net. JJ Hutchinson scored a good point from the next play and when Barnes shot was blocked Maloney was there to slot over the rebound to leave Ballygunner seven points up. In the space of five minutes Ballygunner had raised twice as many white flags as Tallow had managed in twenty-five minutes. And that doesn’t even include the goal. The road back to west Waterford was getting longer all the time.

Tallow tried to respond, a hasty shot going wide and then Paul O’Brien – you really have to keep repeating Christian names when it comes to club reports, teams usually consisting of four or five surnames – pointing from a free Aaron Pratt had been fouled in the corner. The free had been from a tricky angle and it didn’t look like it had gone over. Was this an act of charity from the officials? To make matter worse, O’Brien was visibly limping as he went back into the full-forward position. Again, this is probably a club thing where you haven’t got the resources to cope with the loss of a marquee player and was another ominous sign. Ballygunner responded briskly to this score, Pauric Mahony putting over a free after Mark O’Brien was penalised for overcarrying,  a long range free after a push in a Ballygunner back, and another shorter effort after a foul on him although he was fortunate not to be penalised himself for overcarrying. Three injury-time points, three more nails in Tallow’s coffin.

The second half began with Ballygunner showing Tallow what to do with the breeze, quickly putting their goal under pressure with a long ball. Shaun O’Sullivan could only clear as far as JJ Hutchinson who was flattened as he tried to head towards the Tallow goal. Mystifyingly the referee not only failed to award a free but let play go on as Hutchinson lay spreadeagled on the floor. Tallow got the ball down to the other end of the field and O’Keeffe had to clear the ball out for a sideline but it all felt slightly phony as people looked back towards Hutchinson, a Tallow back even having to evade an onrushing Ballygunner medic as they tried to clear. When the dust had settled on that fiasco Mark O’Brien tried to gee up Tallow with a spectacular point, but his effort after a long run from his own half drifted wide. Aaron Pratt, the only Pratt on the Tallow team (sorry) did manage a fine effort to spark some optimistic yahooing from the Tallow faithful who far outnumbered those from Ballygunner but such thoughts were quickly snuffed out, Shane O’Sullivan pouncing on some loose play by Aidan Kearney to cancel that score out and Pauric Mahony knocked over another free to stretch the lead still further.

Pratt kept trying to take the bare look off Tallow’s part of the scoreboard with another point after some scrappy play by the Ballygunner backs and they engaged in the time-honoured habit of a team being stuffed by bringing on multiple substitutes but Ballygunner kept picking off the points, a free-out being well gathered by JJ Hutchinson who put Shane O’Sullivan in space to score. Eoin Condon gave Tallow supporters something else to cheer about with a deft Paul Flynn-style flick-and-gather over his bewildered marker but then struck an unFlynn-like effort wide. Incidentally my brother wants a writer’s credit for noting that at the time, to which I say it was hardly an original observation. Pauric Mahony added another free to a quality performance from the place ball and Shane O’Sullivan notched a great score from play, bringing a tricky ball under control at the second attempt then striking the ball over his shoulder. They were twelve points up, they could afford to be cavalier.

Tallow tried to keep their spirits up, exemplified by Paul O’Brien hobbling half the length of the field to take a free from which he duly scored what would be their last score. But neither side was truly bothered, exemplified by a Ballygunner sideline daisycutter that a good half-dozen players wouldn’t bend their back for. Tommy Daly, on as a sub for Tallow, released Kieran Geary into space but he got right under his effort on the run and it went wide. Maloney had no such problems from a similar distance after being put clear by Pauric Mahony, who added another free not long afterwards.

The game couldn’t have been flatter if it had been passed through a mangle. At one point Bob McCarthy went to give the ball to Wayne Hutchinson for a sideline only to throw it away. Normally this kind of behaviour should lead to a twenty-man pile-up. Instead it barely brought a flicker of recognition from Hutchinson. Another example of the dunderheaded nature of the game was when Tallow got a free about 30m out. Ryan chose to go for goal when a point was the easy option. The shot was blocked out for a 65 which the ref refused to allow be taken short for no discernible reason. Now Tallow went for a point and it was only a superhuman leap from a Tallow forward that prevented it going high and wide. And Ballygunner cleaned up with ease. It summed up the chasm between the teams. All that was left was for Naoise Waldron to stick it to the Ballygunner mentors for not picking him to start – I jest, please don’t write in – with a point, Kevin O’Brien to drill the ball wide after a nice Tallow move (it was, in fairness, a definite goal chance), Pauric Mahony to score another free and Shane O’Sullivan to score another point from play. And that, mercifully, was it.

It shows how much time I have on my hands that I’ve managed to cobble together a couple of thousand words from this horrible mismatch, although if you’ve read down this far then you have too much time on your hands. It was a demoralising experience. I’m not so passionate about a desire for new teams or winners out West that Tallow losing will keep me awake at night. But I am passionate enough about Waterford to be concerned about our county champions and how they will do in the Munster and All-Ireland club championship, and the sad truth is that the Gunners do not inspire confidence. This game probably doesn’t tell us much, but their repeated mis-steps and rank bad luck in the Munster championship mean that I was looking for a swashbuckling performance from them which, even discounting the quality of the opposition, I didn’t get. I got something though – the knowledge that there is such a thing as a hurling match that isn’t worth the time and money invested in it. Who knew?

Ballygunner: Stephen O’Keeffe, Alan Kirwan (Stephen O’Keeffe), Willie Kiely, Barry Coughlin, Philip Mahony, Wayne Hutchinson, Robert Cunningham, Shane Walsh (0-1, Stephen Power), David O’Sullivan, Pauric Mahony (0-10f), Shane O’Sullivan (capt, 0-3), Andy Maloney (0-3, Barry O’Sullivan), Brian O’Sullivan (Barry Mullane), JJ Hutchinson (0-1), Harley Barnes (1-0; Naoise Waldron, 0-1)

Tallow: Shaun O’Sullivan, Aidan Kearney, David O’Brien, Ken Kearney, Mark O’Brien, James Murray (capt), William Henley, Kieran Geary, Thomas Ryan (0-1), Evan Sheehan (Johnny Kearney), Eoin Condon, Aaron Pratt (0-2), Kevin Curley, Paul O’Brien (0-3, 0-1f, 0-1 65; Tom Feeney), Brian Henley (Paul Coughlin)

HT: Ballygunner 1-9 (12) Tallow 0-3 (3)

Referee: Michael O’Brien (Portlaw)

The really real county final

Given the seeming need for sportsmen and women to get ‘fired up’ by the loose talk of players and pundits alike, allow me to give Tallow something to get their teeth into: the real county final was played in Walsh Park yesterday with Ballygunner toppling the defending champions and, alas, our best hope for winning the All-Ireland club title. Now I’m just giving Ballygunner something to get wound up over. Never accuse me of not being an equal-opportunities stirrer.

1/10/11 at Fraher Field
Tallow 0-13 Ballyduff Upper 0-10

2/10/11 at Walsh Park
Ballygunner 2-10 (16) De La Salle 0-11 (11)

It’d be marvellous if Tallow could win their first title in 26 years. Heck, it would be marvellous just for being only the second time the county cup has gone West since Lismore won it in 1993. It’s not going to happen though, is it? On a more cheerful note there a few greenhorns moving into the Munster club championship mix, with Na Piarsaigh in Limerick winning their county title for the first time ever and Carrigtwohill winning the Cork title for the first time in an- eye-watering 93 years. Intriguingly their coach is one Joxer O’Connor (h/t to Jamie O’Keeffe for that). One more in the county manager mix? Although if the Powers That Be were unaware of his existence before now then they really haven’t a clue what they’re doing.

Final bit of book-keeping, the details for the final:

16/10/11 at Walsh Park (3.30pm)
Tallow v Ballygunner

It seems a bit harsh on Tallow to dragging them across what is literally the entire county when there is a venue that would be almost equidistant between the two. Not that I’m complaining. See you there.

And then there were four 2011

Results were much closer this year than last year in the quarter-finals of the County Championship, although if the De La Salle – Passage game was anything to go by, that might be an illusion:

17/9/11 at Walsh Park
De La Salle 2-18 (24) Passage 3-12 (21)

17/9/11 at Fraher Field
Tallow 1-15 (18) Lismore 0-16 (16)

17/9/11 at Fraher Field
Ballyduff Upper 0-22 (22) Mount Sion 1-17 (20) (AET)

18/9/11 at Fraher Field
Ballygunner 2-13 (19) Fourmilewater 1-12 (15)

This has wrought carnage at the top of my wish list:

  1. Passage
  2. Fourmilewater
  3. Lismore
  4. Tallow
  5. De La Salle
  6. Ballyduff Upper
  7. Ballygunner
  8. Mount Sion

The draw for the semi-finals is (allegedly) as follows:

Tallow v Ballyduff Upper
De La Salle v Ballygunner

And that’s enough colons for one day.

Update 20/9/11: the times and venues for the semi-finals have been announced:

2/10/11 at Fraher Field (4pm)
Tallow v Ballyduff Upper

3/10/11 at Walsh Park (3.30pm)
De La Salle v Ballygunner

De La Salle 2-18 (24) Passage 3-12 (21)

De La Salle took the first step on what they hope will be a journey to Croke Park next March – let’s be honest, it’s got to be on their minds – with a routine win over luckless Passage in Walsh Park.

The challengers faced into a stiff wind in the first half, one so strong that at one stage a puckout from Passage goalie Eddie Lynch dropped on his own 45. Passage seemed to cope well with this imposition though, two points from frees from Eoin Kelly opening the scoring. Perversely De La Salle were making a hash of the wind, numerous balls into the corner trickling out wide. When Paudi Nevin did manage to get around the back he got too close to the endline and his shot across the goal was saved with the follow-up from John Mullane going wide. He finally got De La Salle off the mark with a free and a Jake Dillon point after the aforementioned tornado held up the puckout levelled matter in the 1oth minute.

You’d have thought it would be only so long before De La Salle got the measure of the wind so Passage were going to have to make the most of their chances, and Eoin Kelly did with their first goal, gathering the ball and shooting with what seemed just be the intention of hitting the target (© Alan Hansen), a poorly-struck bobbler than John Coady in the De La Salle goal made a complete hash of to give Passage  three precious points. It was as good as it got for Passage in the half though. Some loitering on a sideline ball by a Passage back caused the ref to throw the ball in and Jake Dillon punished such silliness with a point and a couple of frees from Mullane soon levelled matters.

De La Salle were beginning to find their range, dropping the ball into the half-forward line and letting them run on to it rather than putting it over the heads of the full-forward line. Successive points from Nevin and John Keane followed this template, then Nevin galloped onto an air-shot from a Passage back to create an opening only to be dragged down. Passage took their collective eye off the ball which allowed Mullane to take a short free to Dillon who smashed the ball to the net and suddenly the lead was out to five.

It was a moment that would come to mind a few minutes later when, having swapped points to leave the score at 1-8 to 1-3, Eoin Kelly drew a foul in a point-scoring area. Kelly, who had spent the half closer to the midfield than the full-forward line, tried to emulate De La Salle with a tapped-free to Owen Connors but they were more prepared for it and the shot was deflected out for a 65 which was gallingly hit wide. Kelly got a free not long afterwards to ease the pain but the need to score a goal was misplaced – any score would be useful in those conditions. De La Salle, on the other hand, must have been aware that four points wouldn’t be much of a cushion so were eager for another goal. Eoin Madigan nearly got in for one but was too close to the endline and couldn’t find his way between the goalie and the near post, although Bryan Phelan notched the subsequent 65. Then a sideline ball from near the halfway line went all the way through to Mullane who teed up an onrushing Dillon to hammer the ball home. And what a hammer blow it was. The lead had doubled from four to eight in injury time in the first half.

I wrote recently about the panic that comes when you find yourself a couple of goals down at half-time and Passage must have had that sinking feeling when an early free stretched the lead to three goals. A fine score over-his-shoulder by Stephen Mason was matched by one from Killian Fitzgerald on the run to keep the gap at nine. As the rain began to spit down Kevin Moran was exactly the man to have in such difficult conditions and John Mullane was now loitering in the midfield as Kelly had done in the first half for Passage to win some clean possession for De La Salle. A couple of quick Passage points hinted at a comeback but they put themselves right on the back foot again when a poor sideline cut – Passage were particularly shocking in this department all day – from Jason Roche was rammed back into the danger area with interest. Passage managed to scramble the ball out for a 65 and Phelan did the needful. When Passage did get a sideline cut right Eoin Kelly proceeded to smack a nothing ball into the forward line. He did strike a massive free from wat out but ultimately would cut a frustrated and occasionally frustrating figure for the entire second half.

Passage couldn’t unsettle De La Salle, mostly thanks to the doughty Moran. A point from Thomas Connors was matched by a free from Mullane and there were a couple of instances of Passage players throwing the ball away as they sensed the match ebbing away from them. They finally got a break when Thomas Connors slipped his marker in the middle and raced towards goal. The professional foul was committed but Eoin Kelly has previous in these situations and you knew he had only thing in mind. He thumped the ball high to the net and the gap was down to five with seven minutes to go. A cheap free awarded to Mullane settled any nerves De La Salle might have had, and when Patrick Walsh felt the need to go for a goal when most of the De La Salle team was between him and the net you knew Passage were clutching at straws.

There was time for Kelly to overhit another ball wide and for Dillon to score after a swashbuckling sashay through the Passage defence to put the tin hat on it. A goal scored after a long distance free dropped in by Joe Upton (I think – the person behind me said “well done, Joe” so I’ll run with that) went all the way to the net was purely academic as it obvious to everyone that this was the last puck of the game. I’d like to shy away from statements about how Ballyhale/Clarinbridge/Tippecanoe and Tyler too won’t be losing any sleep over that result, but it’s unavoidable. Twelve wides testified to De La Salle’s struggles to get to grips with the conditions and Passage were powder-puff in attack. Still, they won it pulling up and with Lismore out of the race things are looking a little easier for them in Waterford.

De La Salle scorers: Jake Dillon (2-3), John Mullane (0-5f), Bryan Phelan (0-3, 0-2 65, 0-1f), Paudi Nevin (0-2), John Keane (0-2), Eddie Barrett (0-1), Killian Fitzgerald (0-1), Eoin Madigan (0-1)

Passage scorers: Eoin Kelly (2-4, 1-4f), Owen Connors (0-6, 0-3f, 0-1 65), Joseph Upton (1-0), Stephen Mason (0-1), Thomas Connors (0-1)