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Brave Dublin Bow Out As Cork Advance To All Munster Final

DannySutcliffeDublinHurling2012_largeCork overcame Dublin yesterday in a highly entertaining fast-paced furious game to advance to the All-Ireland Hurling Final on the first weekend in September. At the beginning of the year nobody including myself gave this Cork side much chance of achieving this but Jimmy Barry Murphy and his team have worked wonders in progressing to the showpiece finale.

Yesterday was a toss of a coin really , in which I had predicted heads and tails came up. Credit to Cork they thoroughly deserved their victory and hurled with intensity and aggression right from minute one. Continue reading

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Hurling Preview – Clash of the Capitals Part 2

cdOn Sunday the first of the All Ireland Senior hurling Semi-finals takes place with Cork and Dublin locking horns for a place in the final.

Dublin enter the game as Leinster Champions and Cork have got here via the back door/quarter-final after losing to Limerick in the Munster final. Having lost to Limerick a lot of pundits wrote off the rebels to progress any further having drawn Kilkenny, but they showed massive maturity and composure to dispose of the All-Ireland champions. In truth the sending off of star forward Pat Horgan against Limerick had a big impact on the outcome and to Cork’s credit they stuck with extra man Limerick for the majority of the game. Cork have not been given the plaudits their performances deserve and will now have a belief in the squad that they can go all the way. Jimmy Barry Murphy has done wonders with this young bunch of players, not only installing a stellar belief and hunger but also transforming the way they play. The players have bought into every aspect of his ways and from Anthony Nash in goal through to Luke O’Farrell at corner forward , they possess tireless hurlers who want to work and hurl in the right manner. Continue reading

Hurling – Cork & Clare Progress As Cats Run Out Of Lives

Is It The End Of An Era?

Is It The End Of An Era?

Cork 0-19 Kilkenny 0-14 

Cork ended Kilkenny’s reign as All-Ireland champions in Thurles on Sunday as the cats finally ran out of lives and for the first time in seventeen years failed to make the semi-final of the championship. Cork march on to play Dublin while Kilkenny now have plenty to ponder, as they will no doubt attempt to bounce back next year. The big moment of the game came shortly before half time when Kilkenny superstar and talisman Henry Shefflin was sent off for a second bookable offence. Both cautions were soft but unarguable under the rulebook. Continue reading

The Quest For Liam McCarthy – The Story So Far

Liam MacCarthy 25609c13aJust a few days until the All-Ireland quarter-finals and as six teams becomes four we take a look at the championship so far and the winners and losers.

Winners

The real winners thus far in the championship has been the supporters who have been treated to possibly the best championship for entertainment and quality for many years. The qualifiers have provided games never seen in this format before and in both provincial championships we have seen the odds upset. Continue reading

Limerick Crowned Munster Champions As Kilkenny And Clare Progress

GAA-football-and-hurlMunster Senior Hurling Final  

Limerick 0-24 Cork 0-15

Limerick claimed their first Senior Munster title since 1996 amongst joyous scenes at the Gaelic Grounds.

On a baking hot day the John Allen led Limerick finished the game very strongly to run out deserved victors. In the last ten minutes of the game they outscored Cork seven points to no score after Cork had got to within two points. Continue reading

Hurling Round Up – Cats Topple Tipp As Dublin End 53 Year Wait

GAA-football-and-hurl

Leinster Senior Hurling Final

Dublin 2-25 Galway 2-13

Dublin bridged a 53 year gap on Sunday when they overcame Galway in Croke Park. From start to finish Dublin were the better team displaying levels of hunger and aggression that Galway couldn’t get near. Dublin led by eight points at half time after dominating the first half with Keaney, O’Callaghan and Ryan lethal up front. The second half was similar with any attack that Galway would conjure; Dublin always seemed to have a response and in truth could have won by more at the final whistle. Quite the transformation for Anthony Daly’s team since Wexford let them off the hook earlier in the championship. Since then they have found belief and with it hunger and will be considered now as serious Liam McCarthy contenders. They are solid in defence playing educating ball out and in attack hold some potent sharpshooters none other than Paul Ryan who scored 2-06 and scooped man-of-the-match. Galway will be disappointed with again an over reliance on Joe Canning and lack of a plan B. They fall back into the quarter finals now and will need to re-group quickly and use this loss as a wake up call. They still look a few players short of title winners. As for the Dubs massive credit most go to the neglected brother of the footballers. They have finally stood up and shown their worth and much credit must go to Daly and co. They will fear nobody now in the All-Ireland semi and upset all the odds and go all the way. For now they will enjoy this victory and end to the barren spell. Another boost for hurling in general this summer. Continue reading

Going to the Wire – Gatland Rolls The Dice

File:Warren Gatland Wales coach at the Wales Grand Slam Celebration, Senedd 19 March 2012.png

The gambler has played his riskiest card yet.

And so onto Sydney after the disappointment of Melbourne last week – the Lions get one more chance to claim their first series since 1997 in Sydney’s ANZ stadium this coming Saturday. The third Test, the Decider.

First things first and team selections, which have dominated not only the headlines but also social media the past 24 hours or more. Warren Gatland has picked a 23-man squad without talisman and everyone’s captain Brian O’Driscoll. Also dropped out of the 23 are an in-form Jamie Heaslip and Ben Youngs, with the return to scrumhalf for Mike Phillips.

Warren Gatland has set out his stall for the game and decided there is only one way to beat Australia and that is to play ‘bash it up’ rugby. We should not really be surprised, as this is the way Wales play. It’s the way the Lions have set up all tour and the way Wales have played over the years. I can see where Gatland is coming from, with Davies partnering Roberts; they have played together for years and know each others every move, but not having O’Driscoll on the bench is just ludicrous, with Manu Tualagi a similar battering ram type player occupying the spot. This could be a clear indication that Roberts is not 100 per cent also. How Robbie Deans and Australia will be loving this. As a player I could not imagine a better boost of energy and drive than seeing O’Driscoll coming on to offer something different – not least his experience and captain’s expertise – with 20 minutes to go.

I believe the biggest mistake Gatland has made was made before a player was even selected to go on tour, the non-selection of Joe Schmidt as attack coach. If Schmidt had been on tour we wouldn’t be discussing such matters and possible have the series wrapped. But that is all ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ so onto the job at hand and the chance we have of turning over an increasing in confidence Wallabies side.

The key man again is the focal point and Mike Phillips needs to find his best form once more and have Will Genia on the back-foot. Sexton will be hoping for more ball in hand and the opportunity to direct the Lions going forward. Alongside all the forwards Phillips is key to this. For the impact game Gatland is indicating with his selection that good lineout ball to the back of the line is vital. Croft would be handy here but in his absence Parling will shoulder most of the responsibility to get the ball down to Phillips and onto Roberts and co to get over the gain line. With that and quick recycling of the ball we may then see the best of North and Bowe (which unfortunately we didn’t last week) and with it a serious threat on the Wallabies whitewash. Because the ball has not been good, the Lions have only attacked route one and that is really easy to defend. They play against big boys from New Zealand and South Africa on a weekly basis in the Super Rugby competition, so a Jamie Roberts and a Jonathan Davies is nothing new to them. The Lions are not going to win this game off the boot of Halfpenny, which they nearly undeservedly did last week.

The front row of Corbiseiro, Hibbard and Jones will make us a threat in the scrum but we need to show more in open play and match the Aussies in the breakdown.

The Australian side shows one change and it’s the inclusion of 110-cap veteran George Smith at flanker. Where we have dropped our 100+ cap experience for a vital test game Australia have included theirs. Smith has had an outstanding season and will battle will Sean O Brien all day to get hand on ball. Along with the clearing of captain James Horwill the Australia camp could not be in better mood with the missed Beale kicks now a distant memory. They are in a buoyant mood and the word from their people is that this series is in no doubt a repeat of the 2001 collapse with a victory for Australia. That’s just typical Aussie sporting arrogance as there is still 80 minutes to play but it is hard not to agree with their optimism, if a little cocky. The Lions are now under-dogs and must use and feed off this and bring an intensity to Sydney that they have not reached yet. Australia have war-horse Smith back at 7, captain Horwill cleared of any wrong-doing, bad-boy Beale back playing with a smile on his face, flying wingers who just want ball to run and a scrum-half that’s perhaps the best player in the world at present. The Lions have Warburton, O Connell, & O Driscoll all pre-tour captain picks, watching suited in the stand alongside nominee for rugby player of the year Jamie Heaslip. Jamie Roberts is just back from a hamstring tear and we have a captain who is third choice leader for his country. This increases my nerves and where I predicated a victory in the first Test and hoped for victory in the second, again it is a hope for victory in the last Test with the game hopefully turning into an arm-wrestle.

With Lydiate, O Brien and Faletau we have our most physical back-row. Up front we have our heaviest forwards and with Phillips and Roberts we have two big physical backs with ability to get over the gain line. We have a faultless ball-kicker solid at fullback and have two world-class wingers that would make any team. These are our positives, which the Lions must focus on and focus on nothing but a win on Saturday. For Gatland it’s the defining day in his management although win or lose people will always disagree with the O’Driscoll decision, but that is sport. Let’s hope Sydney is a sea of red come Saturday night and we are celebrating a historic series.

On a final note regarding O’Driscoll, after the disappointment of his non-selection yesterday he stayed behind late after the last two training sessions, and went through videos with Jamie Roberts giving him bits of advice. From there hew went to coach kids in a rugby camp nearby where they are training in Noosa. This shows the measure of the man he is. Class is permanent.

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