Monday, April 18, 2011
National Hurling League Round 7
Cork v Dublin The Dubs ( why does that expression grate ) will be even more the talk of the town in the coming weeks. This blog won't detain too long on the subject as we've given it plenty of encouraging and favourable comment. When many Dublin fans were expecting the team to run before they could walk stealthily, and Dotsie O Callaghan was having his career obituary written a year or so ago by excitable types on-line we urged the holding of nerve. One year further on, with notable additions to the panel, they are a sleek physical fighting machine. Crucially, athletic enough to bang with the likes of Kilkenny and Tipp, the first prerequisite to be invited to, say, an All-Ireland semi final party. Plus Daire Plunkett has x-factor potential and Paul Ryan appears to be adding work rate to his undoubted talent. It is a long season though, and what seems promising for Dublin now may appear clouded after the Offaly match. Plus many Championship hands aren't fully played in the modern era till the autumn. So Cork won't panic. But they look to be in uncertain transition. Supporters are probably slow to notice when old certainties can't be relied upon. As recently as two summers ago the rebels could still blitz sides with their pace: Searing runs could set up simple scores and be an invaluable pressure valve for the team. That, due to old father time, and the lack of favour the current management have with Cathal Naughton, appears almost completely denuded. Lar na pairce now seems an laboratory for Pat Cronin to show, that, despite his impressive physique, he has an inter-county future other than at half-forward. At least Niall McCarthy appears to be continuing his rejuvenation and Luke O 'Farrell evinced ball winning potential at corner forward. McCarthy and John Gardiner look to be the only All-Ireland winners from 6 years ago that are approximately at the same height of power. Even the extent to which Dublin's two man full forward line exposed shortcomings was disquieting, albeit Shane O Neill will presumably improve with game time. Still Tipp's respect for Cork's imposing tradition appears almost boundless. If the legend that Cork hurlers grow like mushrooms is being sorely tested, perhaps the red hand will still fit comfortably into the Thurles-glove as per tried and tested history. But even the slightly freakish Aisake is being missed: Not to mind Setanta; he of the last Cork winning All-Ireland underage side ten years ago. Waterford v Galway The events in Walsh Park might even be taken with a larger pinch of salt. Despite expressing disappointment one has a hunch that John McIntyre had little use for a league final. ( Declan Ryan hinted the same ) There's a suspicion that game time for Joe Canning, Damien Hayes and Shane Kavanagh trumped the notion of progressing to a league decider, albeit an opposite opinion could validly be put : That being that management wanted to get their best players into the fray after the reverse to Tipperary. If so this backfired with the very long leash which Kavanagh dealt with Waterford full forward Shane Walsh. Although Kavanagh is estimable and athletic, and was undercooked, this blog has frequently pointed out that his method of playing from behind is fraught with danger. There's not a huge amount left to be said about the Galway's panel. Two-thirds of them could be accused of inconsistency,and those perhaps in the lead position for Championship places will be aware that there is an operator of similarish quality on the bench. For Fergal Moore to have an injury free summer would be a fervent if perhaps forlorn wish. There have been enough springs west of the Shannon where hope has been eternal so maybe a league kick in the ass isn't the worst treatment for what ails Galway hurling. It may be ironic coming from a source which has delighted to plunge the knife into Galway, but we have a hunch that the best Galway team since 1990 could still emerge. And if that seems fanciful, remember it's not saying all that much. Davy Fitzgerald on the other hand is outwardly contented with his league lot. Nothing as coarse in Davy's grand plan as qualifying for the league final. He and many on the information superhighway are excited about the growing surfeit of options. Certainly Darragh Fives and Padraig Mahoney's assurance has been marked for a duo just out of minor. But to these eyes at least the other auditioning forwards Brian O'Sullivan, Gavin Crotty and Shane Casey didn't look quite up to this level, at least yet. But there were plenty of other positives. When he's not having to face Noel McGrath Brick Walsh is a commanding presence. Twice on Sunday he also emerged in the nick of time close to his own square to thwart Galway's goal chances. The likes of Shane O Sullivan, Richie Foley and Kevin Moran join the Stradbally man in an impressive phalanx of athletic talent in the middle third of the field. Although they are all versatile players in some respect this can be a curse as well as a boon. Like his former team-mate Anthony Daly Fitzgerald has a tendency to move and crowd his forward line too much. In that regard Sunday provided ample evidence that the closer Shane Walsh is left to goal the better for the team formulation. That said there still isn't the evidence yet that there is enough ammunition to take the weight of John Mullane when he's finished honeymooning.