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The Balls.ie GAA Nerds Review The Weekend's Action

The Balls.ie GAA Nerds Review The Weekend's Action
By PJ Browne Updated
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[tps_header]The Balls.ie GAA Nerds review the survey the weekend's action.

Mark Fives takes a look at Clare's defeat of Waterford, Hugh Gallagher at Down's win over Derry and Cormac O'Malley ponders the hammerings we've already seen this Championship.[/tps_header]

[tps_title]Wasteful Waterford put to the sword by Clare[/tps_title]

Clare 2-20 Waterford 1-15

Clare defeated a wasteful Waterford in the first round of the Munster Senior Hurling Championship, by a flattering 8 points in Semple Stadium. Trailing by 4 points at half time, the Banner Men twice hit the onion sack in the second half to pull away from Waterford, to set up a Munster semi final clash with Cork in three weeks time.

Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

Clare dominated the early exchanges, before Jake Dillon pounced on some sloppy short play from the Clare back line to give Waterford an early goal and more importantly, the belief that they could beat an equally youthful Clare fifteen. Clare’s first half play was defined by unnecessary short passing. Problems were self inflicted by unsuccessfully attempting to pick out tightly marked teammates, with Dillon’s goal being just one example of this. Waterford on the other hand and in particular, the excellent Jamie Nagle, extricated themselves from tight situations in the first half with effective, appropriate short passing. The Waterford half back line excelled in the first half, despite this, John Conlon still notched three points in this period. Maurice Shanahan looked sharp at full forward, where he was fouled on a couple of occasions. He took the resultant frees himself after Paudie Mahony missed a couple of reasonably straightforward chances from placed balls. Davy Fitz will have been glad to hear the half time whistle, only four points adrift.


Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

The belief which was so evident in the first half, began to drip from the Waterford attack, as four excellent chances were squandered in the opening minutes of the second half. In truth, Waterford could have been out of sight, but for profligacy in front of the sticks. Brendan Bugler was moved from right half back to centre back in the second half and the 2012 All Star was immense. The movement from the Waterford half forward line which created space in the first half was absent in the second period and Clare controlled the aerial exchanges with more bodies under the Ian O’ Regan puck out. With the Clare half back line dominating and defending slightly deeper than in the first half, they suffocated the Waterford inside line & the ball failed to stick in the Deise attack from puck outs or in open play.

Conor McGrath roamed closer to the 50 in the second half, to in part stifle the effective Waterford half back line, with what was at times a four man half forward line. Shane O’ Donnell pounced for Clare’s first goal after Waterford failed to clear their lines. The goal gave the Banner a 3 point lead, one they never looked like relinquishing. Conor McGrath’s nicely taken 61st minute goal finished the game as a contest. Waterford, again, did themselves no favours in the manner of their defending. Clare streamed forward in greater numbers, creating overlaps and picking off some long range points, putting a gloss on the score line in the last few minutes.


This was rightly seen as a must win game for Clare and a championship win under the belt will stand them in good stead for the Munster Semi Final. Michael Ryan, short of the services of Molumphy, Foley, & Walsh, among others, will see plenty of reasons to be optimistic, in particular, a strong first half performance. The quality of the game was poor at times and was punctuated with frees throughout. Réiteoir for the day, James McGrath’s interpretation of what constituted a legal tackle was inconsistent, leaving supporters of both teams bemused. The ‘tackle’, in its current incarnation is relatively new to the game of hurling, but it looks an awful lot like ‘pulling & dragging’ to this writer.

Mark Fives – @MFives86


[tps_title]Down set up Donegal meeting with defeat of Derry[/tps_title]

Derry 1-15 Down 2-17

Rejoice, football is alive and well. Derry and Down reaffirmed a nations faith in the provincial system with a game for the ages at Celtic Park. A total of 41 points, 37 from play, and people say the championship doesn’t get going until the August Bank Holiday weekend.


Down, a predominantly first half team during the league, went in four points behind at the break and it could have been more had Brendan McVeigh not made an excellent save from Eoin Bradley just before half time. The primary feature of the half was the exhibition of point taking from both sides rendering both blanket defences redundant.

Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Brian McIver’s Derry side got it tactically spot on in the first half. Their defence nullified the threat of Coulter and O’Hare, while their attack functioned competently with the long angled ball into full forward Eoin Bradley causing mayhem for Down defenders Brendan McArdle and Peter Turley. Bradley was unplayable for the first 35, scoring points of his own but also turning provider for Mark Lynch for the Derry goal.


What was apparent about Derry was how industrious their half forward line was. James Kielt was the marquee name and he followed up his league form with five points, including four exquisite long range efforts from play. Wing forwards Enda Lynn and Aidan McAlynn played the modern day wing forward roles to perfection, influencing the play in their own half, while also providing great ball for their inside forward line when attacking.

At half time people would have expected Derry to see the game out, but Down have come a long way and their experience in Division One, while it was a bad one, stood to them down the stretch. They are trained by DCU manager Niall Moyna and his influence was noticeable in the intensity and endurance they showed in the second half. They managed to contain Bradley and they cleared out the Derry midfield, as proven by Ryan Bell and Patsy Bradley both being taken off before the finish.

Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Down’s reliance on Benny Coulter has often been their downfall but not this time. Coulter didn’t score and was taken off with ten to play. Others stepped up, O’Hare got 1-4, Mark Poland 1-2, young Niall Madine had a debut to remember with 0-3 while the ever reliant Kevin McKernan scored four of the finest points you will see this season from midfield.

Through their direct running they came up with an efficient way to bypass the blanket defence. Their first goal was a thing of technical beauty, Laverty and Poland combined, direct ball and quick runners off the shoulder took six Derry players out of the play and left them with a 2 on 2 which was finished off by O’Hare. Their second was not as subtle, but just as clinical. Laverty dispossessed a Derry defender and drove direct at the defence, he drew the defender to O’Hare who squared it to Poland who volleyed it into the net.

For a team that averaged less then a goal a game in the league, Down look to have improved substantially and with the potential return of Danny Hughes for their Ulster semi-final against Donegal they may provide Jim McGuinness’ side with their sternest test in Ulster for some time.

Hugh Gallagher - @HughGallySport

[tps_title]It was ever thus...[/tps_title]

In the light of some recent heavy defeats in the football championship for counties outside the “elite” the GAA world has gone into meltdown. Football is dying. Football is ruined. Weaker counties have no chance. How can we compete with the big guns? The sky has fallen in on football and the bigger boys have taken the ball and won’t let anyone play.

This frankly is bullshit. The whole way through the history of the GAA SFC there has been inequality and teams rising and teams falling away.

Picture credit; Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Between 1970 and 1990, immediately prior to the Northern Invasion of ’91-94, there was twenty-one editions of the race for Sam. In just one of those twenty-one years, 1973, did a team from Connacht or Ulster beat a team from Munster or Leinster. On that occasion Connacht champions Galway beat the great three-in-row seeking Offaly team 0-16 to 2-8. The Tribesmen were subsequently beaten by Cork in the final.

Other than that the only time a team from Connacht or Ulster got to a final was every third year when they squared off against each other in the championship. Including the 1973 decider in the eight finals that Connacht/Ulster teams reached in that period they were defeated by an average of just over five points.

In the midst of this period was the supposedly greatest era ever for football with the fabled Dublin-Kerry rivalry. It’s looked back on with great fondness by RTÉ and those that took part in the games. Yet we never hear of the fact that there were fourteen counties in Connacht and Ulster who didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning back then. It was just the way things were. Eventually though the tide turned. Down, Donegal, Derry, Tyrone, Mayo and Galway all managed to break through and reach finals between 1991 and 1998. They simply got on with it and worked hard and these teams got their rewards.

People are lamenting that there are only five or six teams capable of winning the All Ireland or provincial crowns. Well that was the case back in the 70?s and for most of the 80?s as well. Counties rose, counties fell. Offaly came and went and came again. Meath rose, Cork fought back from the dominance of Kerry. Teams changed, fortunes changed. It’s always been the case. Mayo didn’t win a Connacht title between 1969 and 1981. In 1993 they were walloped 5-15 to 0-10 in an All Ireland semi-final yet three years later they came within the bounce of a ball of winning Sam.

Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Three years ago Mayo lost to Longford and Sligo. Three years ago Donegal were almost a laughing stock with no prospects. What changed though was shrewd managerial appointments. Mayo picked the right man for the job. Donegal finally gave the job to the messiah. Meath picked the right man in Sean Boylan all those years ago, ditto Cork with Billy Morgan and before him Kerry with Micko. Pick the right manager, support him and a county can do anything. Between 2004 and 2007 Kildare were a mess, at a very low ebb but they picked the right man in Kieran McGeeney and backed him to the hilt. Would you have said in 2007 that Kildare would be challenging for an All Ireland two years later? No chance, but it happened. It’s why Offaly look to have steadied the ship with the appointment of Emmet McDonnell. He’s a shrewd manager and is getting the Faithful moving in the right direction. When the right man with the right ideas comes in its amazing how quickly everything else follows. Players get on board when they see a good manager involved. Look at Westmeath under the late Paid O She, Laois under Micko, Leitrim under John O ‘Mahoney, Wexford under Jason Ryan Clare under John Maughan. Counties where it would be said “They don’t have the players”, yet all achieved historic feats under the right managers.

“It’s only the elite though , the top division teams that can win anything now” is the cry. Well bar the obvious issue with the fact that the league is called pointless on one hand and on the other we’re told only teams at the top of the league can win an All Ireland, why don’t the so called lesser teams strive to claim a place in Division One? Make the league their priority, get promotion, aim to stay in the top flight, get regular games against the best. That is the way to press on. That is the way to improve counties.
It’s not easy to win an All Ireland but then again it never was. Nothing was ever won easily but with hard work and the right man at the helm any county can push on and create history. The counties at the top now weren’t always there and might not be again in the future, but that’s football, that’s sport and that’s why we keep coming back year after year.

Cormac O'Malley - @cormacpro

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