And the semi-final draw:
Abbeyside vs Ballyduff
Mount Sion/Ballygunner vs Lismore
The county championship is tortuously moving into the closing stages, and the only question worth asking is can anyone break the duopoly of Mount Sion and Ballygunner? The Big Two collide in the quarter-final today in Walsh Park, which should on the face of it improve the chances of one of the others winning out seeing as only one of them will be in the semi-final. I’m taking a glass-half-empty view of the whole thing though. I view them as being one and the same thing, and guaranteeing that one of them will be in the semi-final is, well, guaranteeing that one of them will be in the semi-final. Which is a bad thing. Better that both had had the opportunity of losing in the quarter-finals and ridding us of their tedious presence before the semi-finals.
As it is, Abbeyside and Ballyduff Upper are already in the semi-finals. Our thoughts and best wishes go with them and the winners of the Lismore and De La Salle match today. All of you, any of you would do!
Update: looks like it’s Mount Sion 2-12 Ballygunner 1-15. They’re zombies, keeping on coming back. Thankfully no Waterford team enters the Munster club championship until the 18th November but it’ll be no thanks to the Big Two and their local bun fight if we get in on time.
Update II: Lismore defeated De La Salle, 1-17 to 1-15, in the other quarter-final, two points in injury time snatching the victory for the westerners. You’ll never guess who got winning point, not in a million years . . .
Fógra: I don’t know how regular this will be, but I hope it encourages a few people to return to the site. If you disagree with what I’ve said, then I’d be delighted to give the most erudite opponent a right of reply.
Sunday week last, Mount Sion met Sixmilebridge in the AIB Munster Club Hurling final. It was the third time in five years that a Waterford team met a Clare team at this stage of the competition, Ballygunner being our representatives on the previous two occasions. It was also the third occasion that Waterford ended up on the losing side, with Sixmilebridge inflicting a defeat on Mount Sion that was more comprehensive than the six-point margin of victory suggested. Despite all the animosity that has been piled up in my heart by my Cnoc Sion-hating grandmother – and there’s probably a whole series of articles to be written on that subject – I easily switched my allegiances to the standard bearers of Déisedom.
But when the dust had settled, I couldn’t get upset about it. Certainly not the way I might have if the county team were to lose a Munster final at any level. Levels of dismay came in a rather poor third behind those experienced because Liverpool and Celtic were beaten. This is not a consequence of it being Mount Sion. I never could muster up much of a sense of desolation when Ballygunner were beaten, although losing by a point to Wolfe Tones after being twelve points down at one stage ranked as a bit of a bummer.
The truth is, I don’t understand the fuss attached to the All-Ireland club title. Probably the most satisfying element of the whole affair was reading the papers the following day: not one of them claimed this to be a blood-and-thunder spectacle, a Clash of the Titans, a war between elements of primeval magnitude or some other such nonsense that is spouted when hacks, always more interested in the romantic than the realistic, dip their quills into the ink of hyperbole. Diarmuid O’Flynn in De Irish Examiner is easily the most risible of these buffoons, harping on about how the clubs occupy a central place in the GAA, that the club is the bedrock on which the GAA is built, that club games often exceed the quality of inter-county games etc etc etc.
Which is 24-carat tripe, the last part of it at least. I remember the bould Diarmuid had already ascribed classic status to the 1999 final between St. Joseph’s Doora-Barefield and Rathnure before the game. St. Joseph’s duly trashed the Wexford champs in a game remembered only for its rank mediocrity. Diarmuid unsurprisingly chose not to comment on the game in his column the following week.
Defenders of the club scene will say that the county game is the love of the majority of GAA ‘activists’* and that the inter-county lark so beloved of ‘supporters’* like myself is elitist and out of touch with the grassroots. And they’re half right. Activists, who put hours of time and calories of effort into nurturing the foundations of the games, are more admirable than mere supporters whose sole contribution is cash at the turnstiles. Activists love the clubs while supporters prefer the glamour and five figure crowds at inter-county level. The All-Ireland Championships are elitist and, to a certain extent, out of touch. Which is fair enough.
But, and here’s the rub, the All-Ireland club title is just as elitist as its inter-county equivalent. The only difference is that while the All-Ireland inter-county championship is a meritocratic elite, the club championship is a celebration of, to put it diplomatically, a lesser type of merit. This is not to deny the glory that can be attached to pursuit of the club title. The recent achievements of Crossmaglen Rangers rank up with those of the greatest GAA teams, with the added satisfaction of seeing that much put-upon club rise above the provocation of their British military oppressors to achieve success. Despite this, no one suggested for one second that they were the best team in Ireland quite simply because they were not.
I’m not suggesting abolishing the All-Ireland club title. It has found a comfortable place in the GAA calendar, effectively between the end of one season and the beginning of the next one. Nor am I saying that county championships should be downgraded. If anything, the GAA need to ensure more club matches are played in the summer, to ensure the greatest number of people play on the pitches that they deserve. But efforts to place it at the centre of our games, to label it as the centrepiece of the year are misplaced. They are not the games that still your childish play, that put the light of adulation in impressionable young eyes. Only the inter-county scene can do that. And that is why it, and not the club All-Ireland, that will remain the pinnacle of GAA accomplishment. And rightly so.
*Activists and supporters: my own nomenclature. If you know of better terms, bully for you