Thereâ€™s no disguising the stand-out item locally from last weekend: Sarsfields crash out of the Mid in spectacular fashion. A second half tour de force from Drom and Inch swamps the multiple champions in a veritable score-fest.
Elsewhere three of the divisions are set up for knockout action as the club series steps up a gear. For some relegation will be the bogey man.
Then at inter-county level Lar and J.J. get off on a technicality while Tipperary go into camp this coming week with the Carrick tournament on Friday set to interrupt their session at Clonea.
At club level thereâ€™s no disputing that the Mid division is the power base at the moment. I imagine youâ€™d get long odds on a non-Mid side embracing Dan Breen this coming autumn, though Sarsfieldsâ€™ stock will have dipped after they coughed up their Mid crown in sensational fashion last Sunday evening.
A few minutes into the action and Sarsfields were coasting in Templemore, principally on the strength of a flukey goal that may well be registered as an OG from Mikey Oâ€™Brienâ€™s speculative lob. Drom looked stunned by that opening salvo as they slipped 1-3 to nil behind the reigning Munster, County and Mid title holders.
Worrying times then for Drom but in their hour of need up stepped Seamie Callanan with a crucial reviving goal. They came close to a second shortly afterwards when Callanan again had the shot and it was David Butler who over ran the rebound after Patrick McCormack made the save.
Crucially, though, Drom had stabilised matters and now we had a real humdinger on our hands. Marvellous end-to-end play with crisp striking and spectacular scores galore entertained the audience. Mikey Cahill was moved back to marshal county team mate, Callanan, as Sarsfieldsâ€™ defence looked wobbly. The scoring rate was relentless with multiple contributors on both sides. Half time arrived with Sars just one ahead and the fans agog with anticipation after such a thrilling opening period.
And the spectacle never slackened in the second period. Drom got ahead and then Johnny Ryan endorsed their progress with a goal midway through the half; his lob from out near the sideline seemed to go all the way with Callanan distracting the goalie.
Blink at this match and you probably missed a score. Stephen Cahill, one of Sarsfieldsâ€™ best on the night, flashed home an excellent goal as the ebb and flow of the match enthralled the viewers. However in the final ten minutes or so it was Drom who played the encore. Two goals from David Butler and another from Joe Lupton perforated the Sarsfieldsâ€™ defence and incredibly last yearâ€™s champs eventually lost by a dozen.
By any reckoning it was an extraordinary game - extraordinary in the end margin and extraordinary in the breathless ebb and flow of events. Okay, critics will point to the loose texture of the hurling as players failed to close down opponents but there was a flashy brilliance to much of the action that was a pleasure to watch.
Sarsfields were without Lar Corbett and full back, Kevin Oâ€™Gorman. Arguably the latter was the bigger loss on this occasion, given the drift of events with Drom hitting five goals. There was no Johnny Enright either from last yearâ€™s winning format but Iâ€™m sure Sarsfields wonâ€™t be seeking excuses on this one; it was their second loss in the Mid this season.
On the Drom side there was a seven-man spread of scorers with David Butler bagging 2-2, Callanan on 1-5, Johnny Ryan on 1-3, Seamus Butler on 0-4 and Woodlock on 0-3. It was impressive gunning by any reckoning. But the credits werenâ€™t confined to an in-form attack. In defence Eamon Buckley, Michael Costello and Kevin Butler caught the eye, the latter making some rallying surges outfield.
Sarsfields also had a seven-man contribution to the scoring and in fairness the end gap makes a mockery of their contribution to what was a knife-edge contest until the final ten minutes. I thought the runs of Stephen Cahill did most to rally their cause. Ronan Maher was another youngster to do more than his senior colleagues. Paudie Maher too hit a lot of ball, though over-carrying and running into gridlock on a few occasions, and in fairness David Collins did well on the county man, including one great fetch and score in the second half.
So Sarsfields surrender their Mid trophy and must now take the scenic route through the various rounds of the county series in order to defend Dan Breen. Moycarkey and Holycross play the other Mid quarter-final next weekend with Loughmore and Upperchurch already through to the semis. Drom and Loughmore will be seen as the two best positioned sides to succeed Sarsfields.
Mind you nobody will fancy facing Sarsfields now in the first round of the county series, a round that will feature the sixteen teams who didnâ€™t make their divisional semi-finals. Thereâ€™s a pretty wide spectrum, standard wise, in the county at the moment, which I suppose is the starting premise of those who campaign for a reduction in senior numbers from the present thirty-two. Going from Golden to Templemore on Sunday last certainly underlined the disparity in standard between those seeking to avoid relegation at the bottom end and the cream of the crop at the top.
In fairness to Cashel K.C. and Cappawhite they served up a spirited contest with lots of earnest effort, though it must be admitted that the standard was low. When I tell you that Cashel led at half time by 1-4 to 1-3 you get a fair impression of what was on view. Compare that to the scoring extravaganza in Templemore.
There was a lot at stake in the Golden game and it was reflected in the earnestness of the clashes. Dylan Fitzell had an early goal for the King Cormacs but Timmy Cranley had a cancelling effort later in the half for Cappawhite. It stayed nip-and-tuck for the entire second half but Cappaâ€™ finished the stronger, Tom Treacy setting up Matthew Kennedy for the winner. In fact Kennedyâ€™s four points from play were a vital input to this win, for once taking the onus off Jerry Oâ€™Neill as the sole score-getter. Tom Treacy I feel is their stand-out player all season.
Itâ€™s one Cashel will feel they could have won. Unfortunately they now join Golden\Kilfeacle in round one of the county series where once more theyâ€™ll be looking over their shoulder at that old relegation bugbear. They need to win one game to survive and a lot will depend on the draw. For Golden, who have a meaningless game with Clonoulty still to play, the story is similar.
People have been asking about the relegation system for this season and next so Iâ€™ve been trying to untangle the process with a little help from those better informed than me. The system for this year is straightforward. Teams who qualify for their divisional semi-finals avoid the relegation trap. The remaining sixteen teams in the county play-off with the eight winners there going forward to round two of the county series and the eight losers entering the Seamus Oâ€™Riain Cup, which has relegation attached.
The set-up structure for next year is a bit less clear. In 2014 the thirty-two senior sides in the county will be divided into two groups of sixteen, with that split being made on the basis of this yearâ€™s championship. The top sixteen will be free of relegation but who qualifies for that elite group? There seems to be a view that the divisional semi-finalists of 2013 will make up the top sixteen next year. Not so, it now appears. If you lose your divisional semi-final in 2013 then youâ€™ll have to win a round in the county series to make next seasonâ€™s top group.
Anyway the West has its semi-final pairings in place irrespective of the outcome of that final game between Clonoulty and Golden. The semi-final line-up in mid-June will feature Kickhams against Eire Og Annacarty and Clonoulty versus Cappawhite. On known form another Clonoulty\Eire Og final will be anticipated.
Up North theyâ€™re at quarter-final stage. Interestingly those old foes, Toomevara and Nenagh, have drawn each other, which means one of them will be heading into round one of the county series. Reigning North champions, Portroe, face Silvermines while the other two â€˜quartersâ€™ feature Templederry against Kildangan and Roscrea versus Borrisoleigh.
Down South there are a number of games still outstanding but Davins look the likely ones to miss out on the semi-finals. They are still pointless after three games.
Meanwhile Tipperaryâ€™s preparation for the championship opener against Limerick pushes ahead with a training camp this weekend at Clonea. They head off on Thursday but the training will be interrupted on Friday evening when the team faces Waterford in the Maurice Davin tournament at Carrick. The county U-21s also face the Deise on the same bill of fare so that double programme should be well worth a visit on Friday.
Last weekend Tipperary played a friendly against Cork to mark a pitch opening at Cloughduv. An early Tipp lead was eventually lost in a run of second-half goals, with Michael Cussen reportedly causing our defenders some difficulty. Brendan Cummins had to pick five from his net as the locals won by that number of points in the end. â€˜Bubblesâ€™ Oâ€™Dwyer was our top point scorer but as in the league final there was no major to supplement the minors.
Meanwhile thereâ€™s been more fall-out from that league decider with a rule loophole meaning that neither J.J. Delaney nor Lar Corbett will be ineligible for their championship openers. A case taken by a Longford footballer exposed the rule glitch and thereâ€™s no doubt itâ€™s a major embarrassment to Croke Park. Mind you I think they should be even more embarrassed at the manner in which the Kilkenny goalie is escaping censure.
For Corbett it may all be a meaningless sideshow anyway if those ribs donâ€™t heal in time to face Limerick. At present heâ€™s not being ruled out of the Limerick game but it certainly seems to be a race against time.
Corbettâ€™s cause has earned some public support. I note Eamonn Sweeney in The Sunday Indo rowing in on Corbettâ€™s side, seeing him as the victim. Mind you he undoes the good then by expressing his admiration for Kilkenny and his lack of fondness for Tipperary. â€˜Something to do with the Tony Keady affairâ€™. Really. Is there something of a re-writing of history here because I donâ€™t recall the suspension of Keady having anything to do with the Tipp team or County Board? Anyway isnâ€™t it a pathetic basis on which to ground a long-held prejudice.