We shall not see his like again, writes Ciarán McGowan.
I want to start this week by congratulating both Cork and Clare hurlers. Cork for their victory over All Ireland Champions Kilkenny; and Clare who deservedly beat Galway with a performance that illustrated just how talented this young team is.
Cork will face Dublin in first semi-final on 11th August while following week Clare will take on Limerick is what promises to be a mouth-watering contest.
But I would also like to comment on ‘end of an era’ theme that has surfaced following Kilkenny’s dismissal from this year’s All Ireland Hurling Championship. If this was Henry Shefflin’s last championship game for Kilkenny, it was a most ignominious end (Henry was sent off late in first half) to one of greatest Hurling careers in history of game. I for one feel that needs to be addressed. And so I want to praise Henry, not to bury him.
Henry Shefflin is greatest hurler I have ever witnessed. He is only hurler to have won nine All Ireland County titles – all on field of play. He is top championship scorer of all time - both from placed balls and from play. He is Kilkenny’s most capped player, has twelve Leinster titles and two All-Ireland Club titles with Ballyhale Shamrocks. He is GAA’s most decorated sport star. Medals and awards are measures of his brilliance. But for those of us that have been lucky enough to see him play, his brilliance will remain etched in our memories. Shefflin was not just a master of game of hurling; he was a leader of men and a role model for younger players coming through. I could and will write more about this great man but this forum is insufficient to do him and his great career justice and so for now - Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís (We shall not see his like again).
Moving on to football matters, victories last weekend for Cavan, Cork, Donegal and Tyrone take us into this weekend’s quarter final games with two double headers scheduled for Croke Park this Saturday and Sunday.
GAA fixtures this weekend – GAA Football Quarter Finals
Saturday 3rd August:
Monaghan v Tyrone (17:00 GMT)
This will be an intriguing contest where exam question is whether Monaghan are real deal this year. They have already beaten both Cavan and Donegal and have looked like genuine contenders. Tyrone look tired this year and rely heavily on Sean Cavanagh - if Monaghan can neutralise Cavanagh they could edge this.
Prediction - Monaghan
Dublin v Cork (19:00 GMT)
This should be a very open and entertaining game with both teams trying to play attacking football. On form, Dublin has to be fancied and probably have more fire power in their forwards. No doubt Cork will target Dublin’s shaky full back line and midfield - kick outs will be critical. On balance though, I think Dublin will progress.
Prediction - Dublin
Sunday 4th August:
Kerry v Cavan (14:00 GMT)
This was a great year for Cavan, however I can’t see they overcoming wealth of experience that Kerry have – they’ll give Kerry a game but Kingdom will prevail
Prediction - Kerry
Mayo v Donegal (16:00)
Perhaps this is game of weekend - a repeat of last years All Ireland final. The result will depend on whether Mayo can ‘out football’ Donegal or whether they can set out a defensive system similar to Monaghan’s approach in Ulster final. I suspect James Horan will send out his team to play a traditional game and will rely on talent of his player to break Donegal down. Donegal have looked vulnerable this year and while I think this will be close (could even be a draw), I’m going to give nod to Mayo – just.
Prediction – Mayo