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Back door lessens impact of final

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Kerry goalkeeper Brendan Kealy and Killian Young combine to try and block a shot from Cork's John Miskella.

The first full house of the summer awaited Kerry and Cork in the Munster football final on Sunday, but in essence the 40,000-plus who crammed into Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney were short-changed.

Now before the Galvin-ites in the Kingdom put pen to paper once again, let me acknowledge that Kerry were the superior team on the day.

They fully deserved to lift another Munster title and are worthy recipients of a pathway straight to the quarterfinals of the All-Ireland series in August. Kerry’s first half performance alone was worth the entrance fee as the first capacity crowd of the summer will doubtless testify.

As a result of Kerry’s latest win, Cork will have to make do with the back door route to another Sam Maguire Cup, a route that served them so well last summer when their Munster title hopes were again quashed by the Kerrymen.

So how were the punters who left Killarney with their appetite for Gaelic football drooling after a rip-roaring Munster decider on Sunday short-changed?

Let me explain. Kerry were very good for most of the game, as mentioned earlier, and now they are just two games away from the All-Ireland final itself.

Cork were also very good but only for about the second half of the match, so good that you would have to fancy them for another crack at the All-Ireland title on the last Sunday in September.

Their only punishment for losing to their neighbors is a couple of games in the back door series at most before they contest another quarterfinal, exactly the reward Kerry gained from their brilliance last weekend.

Sure, Cork might have less time to prepare for the last eight than Kerry, but they will gain match time on the four provincial champions and that, at this time of the summer, can be a prized asset.

So there is good reason to suggest that the back door ain’t such a bad place to be, that losing a provincial final as Cork did on Sunday isn’t the end of the world. It certainly isn’t the end of the summer.

Cork are not alone in this regard. Galway’s hurling team recently lost a Leinster semifinal to Dublin. If anything, they didn’t lose it -- they were destroyed by the Dubs.

Their defeat brought a heapful of abuse on their shoulders from pundits and critics, at home and outside the county, but all that was forgotten on Saturday night when the same Galway team blew Clare out of the water in Salthill in the latest round of the qualifiers.

One hurling fan of my acquaintance had a good laugh at Galway’s expense when we discussed the match over a cold beer on Sunday evening.
He wasn’t being critical of the Tribesmen. If anything he was praiseworthy of their cuteness.

My friend, a man who knows a thing or three about the ancient art of hurling, reckons Galway were almost happy to lose to Dublin in the Leinster semis.

Instead of facing a rampant Kilkenny in the provincial decider, as a well beaten Dublin did on Sunday, Galway got to regroup and find their form against Clare on Saturday night.

They meet Cork next, but they could just as easily have drawn Antrim. Hence my buddy’s argument that it was better for John McIntyre’s Galway to work their way through the qualifiers than take on Kilkenny and a resurgent Henry Shefflin this early in the season.

Galway will now be favorites against Cork this weekend, judging by the completeness of their performance in beating Clare on Saturday night so, like the Cork footballers, they have nothing to fear in the back door series.

And that, folks, is why the likes of last Sunday’s big game in Killarney has been devalued. It may still mean such a lot to Kerry and Cork folk, but it is no longer the be-all and end-all of an Irish summer.
Surely a provincial final deserves better than that?
O’Hara Thankfully Decides
The Wolves midfielder Jamie O’Hara is in Ireland this week as his team prepare for the new Premier League season at the wonderful Carton Hotel complex outside the Kildare town of Maynooth.

Alas, it is probably the last we will see of Jamie O’Hara on Irish soil for some time to come.

After much deliberation the English-born and former England under-21 international has opted not to take up an invite to declare for Ireland from one Giovanni Trapattoni.

O’Hara wants to try and fight his way into the plans of England boss Fabio Capello in the new season and good luck to him.  With so many talented midfielders available to Capello he is going to need plenty of luck.
The good news here is that, at last, we have closure on the O’Hara story, and hopefully it will prompt Trap to stop chasing other Anglos like Jermaine Pennant and Kevin Nolan.

Despite his ancestry, playing for Ireland was never going to really mean anything to O’Hara. He was big enough to admit as much before he arrived at Dublin Airport this week.

The others should do the same and bring this whole tale to an end.       

Sideline Views

GOLF: The Ladies Irish Open will again feature some of the biggest names in the world game when it returns to Killeen Castle in August, right across the road from me as it happens. The field will include the great American Christina Kim, a barrel of laughs when she was here last year. My favorite Kim moment was when she spotted a well-known RTE presenter with a banana on the first day at the pro-am. “Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just happy to see me,” shouted Christina at the bemused RTE commentator and much to the amusement of the gallery. Christina should be one of the Americans back for the Solheim Cup on the same course in September when we can promise her a Royal County welcome in these parts.

SOCCER: Any Airtricity League fans in America -- and I know there are a few -- might be interested to know that they can keep up to date with all the live action back in Ireland on the website www.extratime.ie which is staffed almost exclusively by volunteers, yet provides minute by minute text commentaries on all Premier and First Division games. I couldn’t get to Tallaght for the Rovers-Pats game on Sunday afternoon -- even I have family commitments -- and the site kept me bang up to date. Thanks lads.

BOXING: A big hello to Irish boxer Matthew Macklin and his manager Brian Peters, who are in New York until Saturday to meet some American promoters and TV companies after Matthew’s recent efforts in Germany. The trip is hush-hush so don’t tell anyone! And don’t bet against Matthew fighting in New York on St. Patrick’s Day. He’ll be leaving you on Saturday by the way. Tipp are playing Waterford in the Munster hurling final on Sunday and former minor star Matthew wouldn’t miss that one for anything.

GOLF: Two more golf stories for you, one predictable and one a little strange. Rory McIlroy has been named European Tour Player of the Month for June after his U.S. Open success, hardly a surprise. Fellow tour winner Thomas Levet may not join Rory at next week’s British Open, however, after breaking his leg -- when he jumped into a lake after winning his own French Open title on Sunday!

BOXING: Britain’s David Haye wants a rematch against Wladimir Klitschko after losing their world heavyweight unification bout in Germany last weekend, but why? The first bout wasn’t a fight so why would Klitschko bother with a rematch?

SOCCER: What is the world coming to? Chelsea footballer and love rat Ashley Cole is to open a restaurant in London with the American rapper Jay-Z.  I’m fairly sure there’s a pun there somewhere but I just can’t bothered looking for it.

Hero of the week

Sporting brilliance is always pleasing on the eye, no matter who provides it. Henry Shefflin was fully fit in a Kilkenny shirt for the first time in almost a year on Sunday, after knee surgery, and he delivered a sublime performance as he defeated Dublin almost single-handedly in the Leinster hurling final. Even if you knew nothing about hurling, it would have been impossible not to have admired Shefflin’s brilliance as Kilkenny proved they are back in business and with a bang. Their likely meeting with current All-Ireland champions Tipperary later in the summer promises to be something special. 

Idiot of the week

Carols Tevez announced on Monday night that he wants to leave Manchester City to be closer to his two daughters who currently live with their mother back in his native Argentina. Closer to his daughters, in Tevez’s own words, means moving to play in Italy or Spain because, apparently, they would find it easier to settle there than in England. Why doesn’t he just admit greed is the reason behind his demands? City, by the way, have slapped a near $100 million price tag on Tevez. Proper order. 

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