Déise delight in Thurles, Galway go goal crazy: JOE’s Championship round-up
There wasn’t much to get excited about in either of the two games in Portlaoise today, but a sizzler in Semple Stadium more than made up for that.
There has been a lot of talk in the GAA in recent times about scrapping the provincial set-up, but if any competition shows that there is life in the old order yet it is the Munster hurling championship, with Waterford and Clare producing yet another cracking contest in Thurles today.
In the end, Clare ‘keeper Pa Kelly had the chance to salvage a one-point win from the jaws of defeat with a 21-yard free, but his effort from a tight angle failed to squeeze through the mass of bodies on the line and the Déise progressed to their fifth Munster final in succession.
Michael Ryan’s side had led for the majority of this afternoon’s encounter and two Eoin Kelly goals with one in reply by John Conlon for Clare helped the Déise into a two-point lead at the break.
After a lightning start to the second half, Waterford failed to score for nearly 15 minutes and Clare edged into the lead with a booming effort from ‘keeper Pa Kelly inside his own half.
Given the kick up the arse they needed and with John Mullane influential, Waterford eventually clawed their way back, but Clare never gave up and will rue plenty of missed chances in the final stages, including a gaping goal opportunity for Darach Honan and a couple of missed frees from Nicky O’Connell.
Waterford withstood a late onslaught to come out two-point winners and in the emotion of it all at the end, Mullane celebrated wildly in front of his former boss Davy Fitz, something we’re sure he won’t be proud of on reflection afterwards.
In Portlaoise, meanwhile, had Offaly been told going into today’s game that Joe Canning wouldn’t get a goal; they probably would have taken it. In the end, Canning didn’t get a goal, but Galway got five in a wonderfully bizarre encounter in which they ran out comfortable 14-point winners.
Canning didn’t raise a green flag but he did fire over 11 points as he left the goal-getting to his colleagues Conor Cooney (2), Damien Hayes and Niall Burke, while Offaly managed three of their own through Shane Dooley (2) and Derek Molloy.
Five of the eight goals came in an extraordinary first half; Cooney got two in a minute before Shane Dooley responded with one of his own after some calamitous goalkeeping from James Skehill.
Crazy and all as the game was and despite a super performance by Shane Dooley, Galway never looked like losing it, having lead by 16 points at one stage during the second half. The fact that they’ve scored 10-27 in two games should give the Tribesmen some encouragement heading into the Leinster Final, but Anthony Cunningham might prefer a less kamikaze affair against either Kilkenny or Dublin.
Having lost the hurling, it didn’t get any easier for Offaly followers as far as the football was concerned as the Faithful fell to an utterly comprehensive defeat to a Kildare side being touted as serious All-Ireland contenders.
With Seanie Johnston nowhere near the starting line-up, the Lilywhites shot 19 points in a facile 13-point victory, although a lack of goals is something that might concern them against better opponents further down the line.
Kildare were much too good for Offaly today, however and with Johnny Doyle as good as ever, Mikey Conway tapping over frees and a miserly defence conceding only six points, there was plenty for ‘Geezer’ McGeeney to be happy about.
Leinster Hurling Championship semi-final:
Galway 5-23 – 3-15 Offaly
Munster Hurling Championship semi-final:
Waterford 2-17 – 1-18 Clare
Leinster Football Championship quarter-final:
Kildare 0-19 – 0-6 Offaly
Ulster Hurling Championship quarter-final:
Derry 4-14 – 1-17 Armagh