Sarsfields and Kilruane remain the last two standing in U21 hurling, which should produce a fitting finale to the season next weekend.
The semis were lopsided, Clonoulty and Swans well below requirements in disappointing encounters.
For all their Western dominance Clonoulty remain frustrated by their ongoing failure to impact beyond the divisional boundary. A county U21 title has remained elusive and the most recent of their two minor wins was seventeen years ago when captained by â€˜Bonnyâ€™ Kennedy.
Playing poor quality opposition in the West is often cited as a reason for their shortcomings when facing the other divisions and there may be an element of that. However, a harsher reality would suggest that theyâ€™re simply not good enough to dislodge the likes of Sarsfields. They were expected to push the Mid champs close on Sunday but in truth came up well short. Particularly disappointing for the West men was the fact that their go-to players were unable to make a significant impact against an opposition that was slicker and speedier all over. The second half particularly tailed off badly with the championship favourites well in control and good value for the margin of victory.
It was tighter in the first half and would have been delicately poised if Aaron Ryan had found the net in the final action of the period. He was set up by Conor Hammersley but rattled the shot off the crossbar with an empty net inviting a lodgement. It left four between them at the break. The forward need not feel too bad about the miss, however â€“ a goal, I suspect, would only have delayed the inevitable a little longer. A few soft frees then for Sarsfields on resuming and the lead was quickly doubled. Thereafter the tension seemed to drain from the game as Sarsfields stayed well in control. Clonoulty battled away gamely to the end but they never threatened a goal and the margin was always stress-free for the winners.
The stand-out contribution came from Aidan McCormack at centre forward. He landed sixteen of Sarsfieldsâ€™ twenty-three points, five of them from open play and some of the frees from long distance. He just seemed to fade into space at the most opportune moment and the shooting was economy personified. Perhaps a worry for Sarsâ€™ was their over-reliance on McCormack for scores. Kilruane will have been forewarned: be disciplined and man-mark the centre forward. However, different days can see different players grab the headlines. Ronan Maher was quiet on this occasion for the winners at centre back; Stephen Cahill had spurts of excellence at midfield beside the hard-working David Corbett; and in attack theyâ€™ll expect more from Michael Oâ€™Brien in the final.
With Kilruane coming through very comfortably against Swans in the other semi the stage looks set for a quality final. It will be a repeat of the 2010 decider which the North club shaded so this is a chance for atonement by the â€˜Bluesâ€™. Hopefully the present mild weather continues for what should be an end of season highlight.
It may be end of season for one group but elsewhere Eamon Oâ€™Shea and colleagues are plotting the start of season for another. The senior hurlers saw action last Saturday with Westmeath visiting the Ragg for a challenge game, Laois having earlier withdrawn.
I read afterwards that Kieran McGeeney â€˜Geezerâ€™ (inset) was in attendance but he escaped my notice â€“ hopefully heâ€™ll be more recognisable to the players whoâ€™ll be the target of his motivational talks. Tipperary fielded a mix of players, established and aspiring, and the game itself is easily relayed. First half goals from Conor Kenny and â€˜Bonnerâ€™ Maher set up an interval lead of six, 2-9 to 0-9. â€˜Bonnerâ€™ added another in the second half and with a free-flow of points it eventually ended 3-20 to 0-12. It was one of those games that will neither make nor break individuals but people are always interested in any nuggets of potential that are on view. Iâ€™d nominate Cappawhiteâ€™s Tom Treacy from defence as a player who enhanced his prospects. He played a noted role in the All Ireland intermediate win this year and here he was launching the raid that led to our first goal and then careering up the wing for a useful point later on. He played wing back beside Tossie Hamill and James Barry; Paudie Maher was at full flanked by Cathal Barrett and Paddy Stapleton; James Logue was untested in goal.
Seamus Kennedy partnered Brendan Maher at midfield and the St. Maryâ€™s man had a useful outing. Callanan was our top scorer at centre forward beside David Collins who clipped over a pair of points and Denis Maher who showed up well in the second half. â€˜Bonnerâ€™ Maher looked strong and beaverish as ever at corner forward, beside Conor Kenny, scorer of 1-2, and the speedy Tadhg Gallagher. Ballinaâ€™s Stephen Oâ€™Brien also saw action as did Loughmoreâ€™s Liam McGrath, both useful recruits from the football world. Of course itâ€™s the type of game that wonâ€™t weight very heavily when the management are nominating a panel in the spring but getting noticed is still part of the game for wannabe players. Thereâ€™s a second outing this coming Saturday at Clonmel where Wexford will provide more potent opposition; they played and lost to Kilkenny last week.
Meanwhile the Dome hosts the County Convention midweek. The annual gathering was never a calendar highlight but used to stir interest in the era of contentious elections. Those days are long since passed and officers tend to slip in and out nowadays with little fuss. The five year term sees our widely acclaimed PRO, Ger Ryan, stepping aside; his Mid counterpart, Andy Fogarty, seems to be the only candidate who hasnâ€™t withdrawn. There will be changes on Central and Munster Councils also where John Costigan and Donie Shanahan have completed their terms.
As ever Timmy Floyd has produced an outstanding convention booklet laden with details from the past year as well as some pertinent comments. â€˜We must only select players who have the discipline, commitment and loyalty etc.â€™ is about the only headline item for editors parsing his report. Tim tends to be very safe in his commentary so reading between the lines you can interpret this as a mild hint that perhaps not all players in the past year had the stated attributes. Many would agree with him. Finally this week sees the launch of the annual â€˜Yearbookâ€™. It has the usual mix of material recording a year that wonâ€™t stand out as memorable - the intermediate All Ireland the one exception. Still thereâ€™s plenty of material to peruse as well as an abundance of photographs to engage readers -well worth the â‚¬10 which has remained unchanged now for many years.