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Thank goodness for hurling - Galway played with purpose and poetry in motion against Kilkenny

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Galway’s Cyril Donnellan keeps his feet on the ground
despite a tackle from Kilkenny’s Paul Murphy.
John Creedon is an Irish broadcaster, a man whose late night music show regularly mixes the brilliant with the eclectic.

A gentle giant of Cork origin, Creedon is a jewel of radio round these parts. He is also a big sports fan, mad about the soccer club called Cork City in his hometown and more than interested in the performances of his county’s Gaelic football and hurling teams.

Like everyone else working at the Irish state broadcaster RTE these days, John has to widen his scope in a professional capacity from time to time.

Last year, he toured Ireland with a caravan for a brilliant television series, retracing family holidays from a time when, as Willie John McBride once famously put it, sex was safe and rugby was dangerous.

Big John -- and I use that term as an endearment -- is back on our small screens this summer with another insightful series, this time on Irish cities.

He was in Dublin this week and produced a program well worth searching YouTube for – and for one interview alone.

The focus of said interview was James Heron-Connolly, a man with a direct lineage to one of the great 1916 rebel leaders, a man who came out with the best summation of Ireland’s recent woes I’ve heard in a long time.

“In 1916, Ireland’s leaders gave up their lives for their country – in recent years Irish leaders have given up their country for their lifestyles,” he said.

It’s a quite brilliant synopsis of the culture of greed, corruption and moral theft that has landed Ireland back in the economic dark ages.

And it’s a statement that should win Creedon a broadcasting award on its own at the end of the year.

Of course, it has little or nothing to do with the current sporting climate at home in Ireland, but it was worth repeating after a quite incredible weekend’s worth of sporting action.

Like Creedon, the hurlers of Galway were back in Dublin last weekend and back in Croke Park for the first time in almost a year.

Their Leinster final date with All-Ireland champions Kilkenny was seen as a foregone conclusion by every observer worth his or her salt in the build-up to Sunday’s big game.

And yes, all those observations proved as false as the Celtic Tiger’s property bubble that got us into our current economic mess.

Galway were immense on Sunday. They restricted Kilkenny to just four points in a blistering first-half -- just one of them from play -- as they set about winning their first Leinster title by all of 10 points.

They did a Kilkenny on Kilkenny, hit them early and often and hard in a match dominated by the men from the West from start to finish.

They didn’t win the All-Ireland on Sunday, merely a place in the semifinals, and they may yet have to face Kilkenny again in the decider thanks to the second chance saloon that awaits the Cats in the quarterfinals.
In fact, the big danger for Galway is that they rest on their laurels now and end up with nothing more than a Leinster crown to show for their 2012 endeavors.

But they can bask in the glory of a quite unbelievable performance and win last Sunday, a win that proves how sport is never predictable.

Almost a hundred years on from the aforementioned 1916 Rising, we may have lost our economic hope and our financial sovereignty.

But we still have the wonderful sport of hurling. We still have teams like Galway – and Kilkenny – who can serve up spectacular sporting fare at the drop of a ball.

Creedon may or may not have been in Croke Park last Sunday afternoon. I don’t know. But he will surely, as a sporting man, have approved of Galway’s purpose and their poetry in motion.

As a man with a sense of humor, regularly evident in his broadcasting style, he will also have enjoyed the banter that followed Sunday’s shock win, most of it at Kilkenny’s expense.

The best line came from an unexpected source. Shane Lowry is a young Irish golfer making his way in the professional game who knows a thing or two about the GAA.

His father Brendan was on the Offaly team that famously ended the Kerry drive for five in 1982, a fact Shane regularly refers to on Twitter.

He was back on Twitter on Sunday night with a question for GAA fans as he prepared to depart Paris after a top 20 finish at the French Open and a nice paycheck.

Referring to the Croke Park scoreline, Shane enquired if Kilkenny had sent their football team out at headquarters that afternoon!


It was a cruel line but it was funny -- so long as you weren’t from Kilkenny. At least they still have the All-Ireland quarterfinal to look forward to.

And they could still retain the McCarthy Cup in September. Stranger things have happened.  

Sideline Views

GAA: The rumor mill in Kildare suggests that Seanie Johnston won’t make any appearance against his native Cavan in the All-Ireland football qualifiers on Sunday after all the furor over his transfer, but I wouldn’t believe it. Kildare need some sort of inspiration after their humiliation at the hands of Meath and manager Kieran McGeeney needs a new savior, a role ready made for Johnston in light of all the fuss over his move from Cavan.

The other rumor down around Naas suggests that McGeeney could well return to his native Armagh as boss next season with Glenn Ryan, doing such a great job with Longford, taking over his native county. Makes a bit of sense, that rumor.

ATHLETICS: The Irish National Championships passed with barely a whimper at the weekend, the only real stories concerning an injury to Derval O’Rourke and the decision to drop Joanne Cuddihy’s sister Catriona off the women’s 4x400 meter relay team. Frankly there’s not much interest in our athletes ahead of the Olympics. All the attention is on the boxers, and few can see anything happening in London to change that. In fact one man I know is threatening to row a currach to New York if Ireland win a medal in track and field later this month -- and he can’t swim!

HURLING: There comes a time in every man’s life when it is right to move on, and that time has arrived now for the Dublin hurling manager Anthony Daly. There was no shame in losing to Kilkenny earlier this summer, but Saturday night’s defeat to Clare in the All-Ireland qualifiers should be the final straw as far as Dublin and Daly are concerned. The word on the street suggests that the Dublin County Board are already looking to the former Tipp boss Liam Sheedy as the heir apparent. Now that’s a good idea.

GOLF:
Those who know their golf and their betting – I am referring here to an Irish sports journalist by the name of Denis Kirwan to be exact – tell me that Tiger Woods is a great bet at 9-1 for next week’s British Open championship at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s. Denis also had a quiet fancy for American John Daly, who showed flashes of his old brilliance at Portrush last week. And like me, Denis agrees that Padraig Harrington has a real chance of another major on the seaside course near Blackpool.

SOCCER: FIFA has just given the go-ahead for the introduction of goal-line technology, and not a day too soon but already the jokers out there are having a bit of fun with the notion. Apparently the bankrupt Glasgow Rangers won’t be able to use goal-line technology next season as FIFA rules don’t cover jumpers for goalposts! Anyone who ever played football in the school yard will get it.

SOCCER: Dundalk football club is for sale and in real danger of going out of business. I wonder how many of the 30,000 Irish fans who went to Poland for the Euros even know that sad story never mind care about it?

SOCCER: Damien Duff as good as told the Irish troops in the Lebanon the other day that he’s going to stay on with Trap’s Army for the World Cup qualifiers. And that’s good news.

HEROES OF THE WEEK

“Purple Reign” read the headline on the back page of the Irish Sun on Monday morning over a report on one of the great sporting stories of this year or any year. Galway’s win over All-Ireland champions Kilkenny in the Leinster hurling final wasn’t just sensational, it was emphatic. Anthony Cunningham’s team did a great job from start to finish, exploding the “invincible” myth that has surrounded this Cats team for some years now, and they deserve all the credit they get.

IDIOTS OF THE WEEK

Showjumping wouldn’t be my cup of tea, but you have to ask why it hit the headlines again over the weekend with a petty internal squabble about hypersensitive horses that ended with Denis Lynch being thrown off the Olympic team for the second time in four years. He’s been replaced by Cian O’Connor, a man with his own Olympic history, on a team the Irish public will rapidly lose interest in if this sort of behavior continues.

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