16 March 2006 Edition
The Matt Treacy Column
A good weekend for Cork
It was a good weekend for Cork. On Saturday, Derval O'Rourke became the first Irish woman to win a gold medal in the World indoor athletics championships. Also on Saturday evening the Cork footballers continued their long sequence of wins over Dublin in Cork. More of that anon.
O'Rourke's victory came in the 60 metre hurdle event which is one of the most demanding of disciplines and leaves absolutely no room for error. O'Rourke, who is another beneficiary of the DCU sports programme that saw them winning the Sigerson Cup, won the race in Moscow in 7.84 seconds, which is just 0.15 seconds outside the world record set 13 years ago. She is a great prospect for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 by which time further improvement is likely.
So much for nice Cork people. The mean ones ruined my weekend down there by beating the Dubs at Pairc Ui Rinn. It was an evening when Billy Morgan proved that the years have not mellowed his legendary temper. Before the match he took exception to the proximity of a Setanta camera and promptly hurled the offending object to the ground. Paparazzi beware. I remember a few years back he was getting a bit of a ribbing from Dublin supporters and he made an attempt to scale the sideline fence to have at them. Not a man to be trifled with.
He has instilled some of his own fire into the team and they were able to raise their game sufficiently when it was required to fend off a determined Dublin challenge. On a wet and slippery sod, Cork adapted better and displayed much more accuracy in passing, particularly in the first half, when too many Dublin efforts were being sent in to the forwards close to the ground, making it difficult for players to control the ball.
At one stage Dublin were six points behind before a Declan Nally goal before half time provided a platform for a second half revival. When Dublin levelled affairs, it seemed they were going to finally break their losing sequence Leeside, but Cork always managed to get the scores when they were needed. The Dublin cause was not helped by the sending off of Denis Bastic on a second yellow.
Cork have the makings of a good side and it will be interesting to see if they can improve upon their two performances against Kerry last Summer. Especially in the light of Morgan's recent comment, to the effect that those searching about for the most cynical team in Ireland, ought to direct their gaze towards the misty mountain fastnesses of the south west!
Elsewhere Mayo continued their unbeaten league run with a win over Fermanagh and now sit with eight points atop of Division 1A. Kerry, who were, by all accounts, somewhat fortunate to beat an enigmatic Monaghan team, are second. Dublin may have blown their chances of qualification for the play-offs and even victory in their last three games would not be a guarantee of progressing. The same applies to Tyrone and Fermanagh.
In 1B Derry continued their unbeaten run against Armagh and seem certain to qualify. Second spot will be between Down, Laois and Meath. In Division 2A, Limerick go well but it is too close to call, while in 2B Westmeath and Louth both have full points which sets up their clash on the last day nicely. Westmeath are not a huge surprise, but Louth had an appalling championship and will be looking forward to their Championship encounter with Meath in May.
Of course that hoary old chap, The Traditionalist, will tell you that "the League means nothing" and will point to erratic results for most teams. He has a point but the days when lads could blithely ignore the competition while catching up on swallowing pints of porter are long gone. Few teams have done well in the Championship over the past ten years following a poor league campaign and such is the intensity of preparation and competition, that it is arguable that at the very least being competitive in the Winter and Spring is an essential platform from which to launch a bid on the dizzy heights in the Summer and Autumn.
The same strictures probably do not apply to the same extent in hurling, where it is usually a team with ambitions that does well rather than one which has already won an All Ireland. Cork are the classic example of not taking the League that seriously. They haven't won it since 1998 but have won three All Irelands since then.
Kilkenny, on the other hand, almost gave the impression for many years that they wouldn't even have entered had they been given a choice. That has all changed. They have won three of the last four titles and again sit on top of their division. Galway and Tipp are the other counties to have won the league this century. Mind you, some cruel chaps would say that there's not much else for them these days!
This week is of course Cheltenham week, but unfortunately it will be too late by the time you read this to benefit from any of my tips! Except of course the one I posted months ago about Moscow Flyer. Except that he was only 7/4 then and will probably be 7/2 or more on Wednesday. Well worth investing the election fund.