The GAA week that was
The GAA summer has already found it’s first epic. Clare and Waterford played out an intense draw in the National Hurling League final after extra time meaning they have to do it all again next weekend. Add those high pressure games to a first round Munster SHC meeting at the start of June and you have the possible re-ignition of a huge rivalry between the two counties.
Whatever happens, there’s no doubt that both these sides will have a big say in the destination of the All Ireland Hurling crown in the coming months, and who knows, we might see the rivalry extend beyond the three games of early summer yet.
Elsewhere in hurling, the championship has been going on for the majority of counties already since the end of April in the Ring, Rackard & Meagher Cups and this weekend we saw one of the first major surprises of the season as Westmeath trounced the once mighty Offaly in the opening skirmishes for the Liam McCarthy Cup in the Leinster SHC Round Robin section.
There is no doubt that the Faithful are in the doldrums at the present time but their minors did beat Westmeath in the Leinster Championship quarter-final on the same day, so hope springs eternal.
Kerry meanwhile opened their Leinster Championship campaign (qualifying as winners of the Christy Ring Cup in 2015), with a comprehensive victory to continue their fine Spring form and leaving Carlow with a make or break tie next weekend with Offaly.
In the Christy Ring Cup Kildare and Down survived their own must win clashes with Wicklow and Derry respectively in Round 2B leaving the Garden & Oak Leaf counties with a relegation play-off on May 21st and the former two back within sight of a semi-final berth.
Antrim booked their last four place by beating Roscommon and Meath did the same as they traveled to London to dispatch their hosts in a high scoring encounter.
Mayo and Fingal battled their way into the semi-finals of the Nicky Rackard Cup and await the winners of Longford v Armagh and Monaghan v Donegal who face off against each other this weekend in what promises to be two exciting games if the high scoring matches of the previous rounds are anything to go by.
After two rounds of the Lory Meagher Cup Louth top the table ahead of Warwickshire and Leitrim and they will look to extend their unbeaten run when they take on Lancashire this weekend in Dunleer but it’s a tight division and anything could yet happen before the top two face off in the final in Croke Park at the start of June.
The football weekend saw one trophy handed out and one team exit the senior championship already. While Mayo were celebrating a glorious victory in the under 21 All Ireland Football final over Cork , three thousand miles away across the Atlantic, Roscommon were given the fright of their lives by New York in the Gaelic Grounds. In the end Kevin McStay’s men squeezed through by the tightest of margins. It could yet be seen as the best thing to happen to the Rossies this year, allowing them no complacency in any game going forward, but there’s no doubt, it’s will always be the one that got away for the Big Apple side until they finally break their hoodoo in the Connacht championship.
It was league finals weekend for the ladies and it was Kilkenny who came out on top in the battle of the last two League champions as they saw off Galway in a disappointing showdown in Semple. It was a twelfth league crown for the Cats as goals from Anna Farrell and Julie Ann Malone ensured there was no two-in-a-row for the Tribeswomen.
In fact, there was more heartache for the Connacht standard bearers as Meath exceeded all expectations to take the Division Two league title in Birr. It’s a huge achievement for the Royals who have been battling up through the ranks in camogie over the past number of years and thoroughly deserve their breakthrough.
Armagh meanwhile added a first league crown since the mid 1990’s when they overcame perennial rivals Roscommon in the Div 3 decider by 3-11 to 2-9 with Colette McSorley and Ciara Donnelly yet again leading from the front as they bagged 2-9 between them for the Ulster women.
Team of the GAA Weekend
Plenty of contenders here. Kerry and Westmeath hurlers, Mayo under 21 footballers, Meath and Kilkenny camógs… but we have to give the nod to New York’s finest as they almost pulled off the shock of the century against Roscommon. The Rossies were one of the most exciting teams of the league campaign in Division One and for New York to nearly oust them from the championship at the first hurdle was a massive effort. It should put to bed any thoughts of removing the Exiles from the Connacht championship in future too.
Score of the GAA weekend
It has to be Maurice Shanahan’s nerveless free at the end of extra-time in the National Hurling League final. A great score to set us up for another titanic clash next weekend.