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Double Aspirations - Who Will Be The Next County To Emulate Cork And Win The Double?

Double Aspirations - Who Will Be The Next County To Emulate Cork And Win The Double?
By Conor Neville
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There are three teams left who can complete the double in this year's championship. The double aspirations of some are more legitimate than others, though one of the remaining counties, Tipperary, plan to be realistic double contenders by 2020.

It's 26 years now since Cork became the only team to complete the Double. If Cork were to complete the single by the end of this decade, it will be a pleasant surprise.

Cork gave a decent run again in 1999, the Meath footballers preventing a repeat.

Other teams who've given it a rattle. Galway reached both finals in 2001, entering both matches as underdogs. They ended up winning the game in which they were bigger underdogs, beating Meath in the football and losing to Tipp in the hurling.

And drifting back to the 1980s, we were treated to a spectacle which presumably seems unthinkable to the younger of our millennials, the spectacle of Offaly in both All-Ireland finals. In 1981, they pipped reigning champions Galway in a driving, controversial finish to win their first hurling title. Two weeks later, they failed to stop the Kerry juggernaut.

In our lifetimes, surely some county will get it done. But who will it be?

Clare

Commitment to equality: Things are very upbeat on both fronts. But the hurlers want All-Irelands. The footballers aren't thinking in those terms yet.

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Hurlers:

Earlier this month, they finally won a proper game in the championship for the first time in three years against Limerick.

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Most tipsters give them the nod this weekend although not without a fair bit of hemming and hawing. Factors include momentum, their massively talented crop of players, and longstanding distrust of Galway in these circumstances.

League champions, lest we forget. The odd writer has detected a whiff of 2013 in their progress thus far but it's very early to be calling that.

Footballers:

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The new kid on the block, Clare are ambitious and won't consider themselves to be in bonus territory until they reach at least the quarter-final. This is highly feasible considering the Rossies' morale sapping Connacht final defeat against Galway. Their footballers have had intermittent periods in the spotlight, a la 1992, but there is a feeling this time around that it could really be sustainable.

Galway

Commitment to equality: Galway are one of the few counties - Offaly are possibly the only other - where it is difficult to tell which sport enjoys greater prominence. It alters depending on who is more likely to win the All-Ireland. Very admirable commitment to the equality of both sports.

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Hurlers: 

Galway have a long tradition of flopping on the canvas in the year after an All-Ireland loss.

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Following relegation from 1A and a depressing Leinster Final defeat, many observers have concluded that the class of 2016 are intent on honouring that tradition.

Quarter-final day in Thurles has typically been a miserable experience for Galway supporters. But then they demolished Cork at that stage.

True, demolishing Cork in hurling has become an increasingly popular pastime around the country, but then Cork had just come off a victory over Clare when Galway hammered them.

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Footballers:

After years of slumber, Galway came alive in this year's Connacht championship. There was enough to get excited about again.

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Thirteen years after puke football was invented, they have finally evolved a defensive system worth the name. Their midfield, once a glaring weakness, looks very intimidating again. And their forwards, judging by the Connacht final replay, haven't sacrificed any of the old dash and flair in the brave new world.

The health warning here is that their forwards only really partied like it was 1998 against the Rossies. Other teams might not indulge them so much. Probably a year or so off.

Tipperary

Commitment to equality: The hurlers are the favourite son but the parents have a well-meaning a plan to contest both finals by 2020.

Hurlers:

Waterford's carefully engineered defensive system lay in the ruins after Tipp had finished with it the Munster Final. In the words of Sean Moran, 'they took a baseball to the laptop'. It was sobering to realise that by the end the winning margin was the same as the infamous 2011 Munster Final when they hit seven goals against Waterford.

Footballers:

Despite the perception that they were weakened from last year, they went ahead and ambushed a vulnerable Cork team in the Munster semi-final. The Munster Final, while not a turkey shoot, was still a demoralising reminder of their place in the pecking order. Will do very well to halt a Derry side who've gathered momentum in Breffni Park. Not credible contenders yet.

Dublin

Commitment to equality: Their hurlers are still a bit nouveau riche and uncertain of themselves. Their footballers are just riche and are very certain of themselves.

Hurlers: 

The first serious hurling county to exit the championship this year. Were unlucky to go down to 14 and lose a qualifier in Pairc Ui Rinn. But they've still receded since the 2013 season. Need a regroup and possibly an infusion of younger players. Chris Bennett a big positive.

Footballers:

Quite good. It's entirely feasible that they will win the All-Ireland. At this stage the burden of proof is on those who say they won't.

Cork

Commitment to equality: Traditionally the county most likely. The county's stock has bottomed out according to the locals.

Hurlers:

The bottom of the barrel has been scraped of all its remaining contents. The press have (perhaps optimistically) called rock bottom on it. A Germany style review and renewal process is the talk of the day.

However, by the time a team comes close to winning the double, the Cork hurlers might have sorted themselves out.

Footballers: 

The unloved child in Cork GAA is manfully doing its best for the sake of the family name. Lost to Tipp but showed decent resilience to win against Longford in Pearse Park, a venue which often spooked the big counties. Not a result to be sniffed at it. With Donegal coming off a loss, don't be too shocked if they find themselves in a quarter-final.

Others

Time was, Offaly would have been deserving of a category of their own. However, they have drifted so far from the summit in both sports that they'd need binoculars to see it. Still, they are unquestionably a dual county.

The Wexford footballers reached the semi-finals during one glorious run in 2008. However, in the past couple of years, they have dipped alarmingly, returning to their late twentieth century status as also rans. 

Read more: What RTE Should Do If Mickey Harte And Tyrone Win All-Ireland And Still Continue Their Boycott?

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