Ciarán McGowan is your guide to this summer's GAA All Ireland Championships.
The swallows are back, there’s a grand stretch in evenings so it’s that time of year again. In towns and parishes all over Ireland, people are emerging from their winter’s hibernation, rubbing their eyes against blinding sun (poetic license!) and starting to dream – “this could be our year.” The GAA All Ireland Championship series for both Hurling and Football is finally underway.
Apparently lad that does computers around here was still in hibernation for last two weeks. And there was I writing GAA previews that never got uploaded and thinking whole world was listening to me. Probably just as well because last week I predicted a Tyrone win over All Ireland champions Donegal. Hats off to Jim McGuinness and Donegal boys on a really impressive performance – they’ve set a high bar for assessing other championship contenders this year. Dublin, Kerry, Mayo and Cork are likely challengers but Tyrone can’t be ruled out assuming they emerge from already very competitive ‘back door’ groupings.
The shockwaves are still reverberating around Benbulben after London’s win over Sligo. London will meet Leitrim in a Connaught semi final on 23rd June.
Congrats also to Wicklow and Louth on fine wins over Longford and Laois respectively.
CrokePark hosts a double bill this Saturday (1/6/2013) evening with Kildare v Offaly (17:00 GMT) and Dublin v Westmeath (19:00 GMT) bidding for Leinster semi-final places. I don’t envisage any shocks here and expect Kildare and Dublin to progress.
Hurling - Clare v Waterford 2/6/2013 (16:00 GMT)
There are occasional benefits to living in this recession ridden country of ours and this is one of them. We’re expecting a sunny bank holiday weekend with all roads leading to Thurles on Sunday for mouth-watering clash between Clare and Waterford. For winner, prize is a place in Munster semi-final against Cork on 23rd of June.
Last year’s encounter saw Davy Fitz back with his own county (Clare) taking on county he took to an all Ireland final (Waterford) – ah lads, you couldn’t script this stuff. Waterford held on for a 2 point win in an epic battle but who can forget two fantastic last minute saves by Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe.
Clare’s national league performance might be deemed as mediocre were it not for a fantastic win over Cork in relegation play-off. Waterford on other hand beat Clare by 1 point, drew with Cork and beat Tipperary. However, if Donegal thought us anything last weekend, it was that league form can be deceptive when it comes to championship.
Clare are ‘up and coming’ force in Munster hurling and have ideal blend of youth and experience to win out this Sunday. According to my sources in county, there is a balanced confidence (not arrogance) that will see them advance to an intriguing semi-final with Cork.
So I am sticking my proverbial chin out to predict a Clare win, but don’t wait till next Monday to tell me I’m wrong, give me your view before game – stick your chin out too !!