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Fri 01-Nov-2002 0:49
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'You Gets It and You Hits It!'
Suffering from withdrawal symptoms after a long layoff from championship hurling, An Moltóir took in two games over the bank holiday weekend, the Kilkenny county final between Gowran and Dunamaggin in Nowlan Park and the Munster Club Championship game between Mount Sion and Adare just thirty miles down the road in Walsh Park...
What struck your scribe immediately was the difference in class between the games – an observation which was confirmed by a couple of hurling afficionados from Mullinavat who also attended both games and whom An Moltóir came across after the game in Waterford.
The fact is that, apart from The Man Himself, the general standard of the Kilkenny final was woeful. This can hardly be put down to the underfoot conditions – if anything, they were worse in Walsh Park. Perhaps it is instructive that only two regular members of the Kilkenny county team were in action in Nowlan Park – and one of these was getting a roasting from the bould DJ. Noel Hickey’s relative inexperience was cruelly exposed by the dummy he bought from Carey in the lead-up to Gowran’s second goal. Hickey should have stood his ground and forced DJ out wide. Instead, he allowed the Gowran God to go straight through the middle. One wonders how often Hickey has marked DJ in practice sessions this year and seen him display the same sleight of hand.
In truth, Dunamaggin’s forward division was woefully inept and offered hardly any threat at all from start to finish. It was surprising that they left Ken O’Shea at the edge of the square throughout, even though he was having little impact. That said, DJ’s heroics aside, Gowran weren’t much better and, on this display, they could hardly be regarded as serious challengers in the club championship, unless Carey can continue to do the work of three players. Indeed, Carey’s own tally would have been a couple of points fewer if Ger Harrington had been officiating, as the Cork referee was very strict on the overcarrying rule in the following day’s game in Walsh Park.
Overall, Adare can consider themselves a bit unlucky to have lost against Mount Sion. Roared on by their sizeable and vociferous travelling support, they showed better focus and application than the Waterford champions. Physically the bigger team, their half back line was very strong, they were generally first to the breaking ball and their support play was superior. An Moltóir thought Mount Sion were careless in a lot of the things they tried to do, and lost sight of the first rule of winter hurling, which is that "you gets it and you hits it". Ken McGrath in particular is still too inclined to try the fancy thing rather than take the sensible option.
So how come the Monastery men ended up winning the game? Well, An Moltóir has identified two main reasons for this. First, Mount Sion got a couple of crucial breaks, when their young goalkeeper Ian O’Regan pulled off a spellbinding save midway through the second half and when Mark Foley drove a penalty over the bar. Second, the Waterford team had that little extra touch of class when it mattered. This applies particularly to their young full forward Sean Ryan, who seized upon his two goal chances with clinical efficiency. Ryan attracted a lot of attention earlier this year with his goal scoring exploits for Mount Sion. However, he made little impact (apart from one trademark goal against Cork in the Munster semi-final) when called into service by the Waterford intermediate team. Indeed, he failed to get a place at all in the Waterford semi-final, and was largely anonymous in the final against Ballygunner. He looks inept in dealing with the high incoming ball, but last Sunday he showed plenty of technique, and no little pace, when presented with handy breaking ball around the danger area.
A key feature of Mount Sion’s win in the Waterford county final was that all their big guns performed on the day. Last Sunday, their main heroes came from the supporting cast. Apart from Ryan, their man-of-the-match was team captain John Cleere at righthalf back. Tony Browne also put in an immense amount of work at centre back, and one wonders if we will see him playing in defence for Waterford in next year’s championship. Adare pushed Mark Foley up to centre forward in the second half, an understandable move given the lightweight nature of the Limerick team’s forward division. However, apart from earning a dubious penalty, he made little impact, while his absence further back gave Ken McGrath a lot of extra latitude. Surprisingly, Mount Sion left McGrath’s younger brother Eoin at corner forward for the duration of the game, even though little enough ball came his way. An Moltóir reckoned that his tigerish style of play could have been used to better effect further out the field.
Mount Sion now go on to meet the Tipperary champions in the Munster semi-final. With the game set for Walsh Park and whoever wins next week in Thurles likely to be in celebratory mood for at least a few days, the Waterford men will surely fancy their chances. However, nothing comes easy in what has, over the years, been the tightest of all competitions in the GAA calendar.
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