Three things we learned from the GAA this weekend
Munster hurling in general, one Waterford forward in particular and the Kingdom stirred by an old foe – welcome to the GAA stuff we know now.
The Munster hurling championship is going to get even better
Tipperary won their fourth provincial title in five years on Sunday. They had seven goals to spare over Waterford last year and seven points this time around. But the gap is closing down south, and we just can’t wait for the next instalment of the single most persuasive reason to keep all provincial championships intact. Clare’s interest in 2012 came to an end against Limerick on Saturday night but Davy Fitz has brought huge improvement and plenty of belief back into the Banner in his first year.
Their opponents at the weekend have also been improving at a rate of knots – it will be a long time before the memories of 2010 fade but the wounds are now well healed and John Allen, in his understated way, has done an even better job than Davy. Cork are prowling again, too. This year has been one of definite progress under JBM; another year or two of similar improvement and they’ll be contenders. Heritage does that for Cork.
Kilkenny are still the favourites to retain the Liam MacCarthy and Galway’s Leinster final performance left no-one in any doubt about their ability, but Munster is a rising tide and the whole country will be better for it.
Kerry were terrible again ... but today’s qualifier draw is just the tonic
In 2009 Kerry were a boxer on the ropes, waiting for someone to put them out of their misery. Beaten by Cork in Munster they limped through the qualifiers – Sligo and Longford were both kicking themselves at missed opportunities to claim their scalp – and when they drew Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-finals it seemed to offer the Dubs the perfect chance to end a long wait for a win against the Kingdom. That one resulted in a 17-point win and September ended with Sam Maguire back in Kerry once again.
Fast forward three years and while a similar outcome now would undoubtedly be more of a surprise, you’d be a foolish man to say Kerry don’t have it in them. They were unimpressive against Tipperary, poor against Cork and dire against Westmeath yesterday. But a home draw against old foes Tyrone in this morning’s qualifier draw will focus the minds. You get the feeling they wouldn’t want it any other way. If they get out of that one alive they have Clare in the fourth round, and that means Kerry will be present and correct in the quarter-finals next month. Who’d be writing them off then?
Maurice Shanahan could be the new Dan Shanahan
Right, he missed a couple of frees, and at hurling’s top level missed frees are generally punished mercilessly. But Maurice Shanahan looks to be about much more than placed balls. In fact, we suspect he could benefit from having that particular responsibility given to someone else – Pauric Mahony, maybe, who responds well to the pressure.
Physically Maurice looks to have progressed seriously over the past 12 months or so, and there should be plenty more improvement to come. At times he took wrong options against Tipp but on another day he could have had three goals. His now retired brother Dan took a few years before hitting his peak, and when the peak came it resulted in a glorious torrent of goals. Young Maurice, who is just 22 this year, could be just as good.