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7 May 2009 Edition

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More than a game BY MATT TREACY







The Joys of Wexford

LAST SUNDAY, having once again barely survived Ciara’s assault on our golfing status, we decided to repair for dinner and watch Wexford and Offaly in the Division Two hurling league final. Well, that was the plan. The four screens, however, were busy: ‘The Pool’ and ‘The Toon’ on two of them, the ‘vital’ Championship (i.e. Second Division) clash between Birmingham City and Reading on another, and the absolutely riveting pre-match analysis of Leicester’s Heineken Cup semi-final on the other. 
Fair enough, there were a few slack-jawed if hardly engaged observers of all but this was actually Wexford! Home of the Rackards and more recent heroes, some of them born within a couple of miles. Billy Rackard was buried up the road last month.
I could see there were a few other furtive chaps hovering about, eyeing the droning screens and the catatonic ‘fans’, hoping that the screen would suddenly be filled with the purple and gold or that the ‘fans’ would nod off or more likely not notice.
The barman, however, on being asked to change one of the channels looked about him in the manner of a Parisian bar tender in 1941 who’s just been asked to have the band play La Marseillaise while the Gestapo officers were finishing their dinner. No way. One of the bug-eyed was “a big Birmingham City fan” and, well, ‘The Pool’. Sure, they’re Irish really, are they not?
We gave up, had our dinner and went off to see Kilkenny and Tipp in the knowledge that somewhere in the shadow of the Angel of the North or in Smethwick there were chaps in Wexford jerseys as similarly excited about a hurling team from a place they were never in in their lives as many Irish people were about The Pool and Brum. It’s a funny old world, wack.

THE unseen Wexford match ended in a narrow win for Offaly which compensated for their loss to Wexford in the divisional stage and arguably gives them the psychological edge for their forthcoming championship encounter on 30 May.
However, the fact that the match is in Wexford Park might counter-balance that and the turf accountants have the yellowbellies favourites at around 8/11 on that account. I still think Offaly have the greater potential and will win again. 
What will be of more concern to both sides is that a comparison between the two league finals illustrates a fairly large chasm between the pace and intensity of where the likely contenders are at and the likes of Wexford and Offaly after a year in Division Two. On the other hand, they have players with championship experience, good performances last year against Waterford and Limerick, and backroom teams with the experience of having been there themselves.

THE Division One final was a superb game. It had all the ingredients of a championship game except a referee to match the standard of play, and in fairness he was hampered by having to supervise the last day of the discredited card system.
It was tough, at times on the borderline of what is and is not acceptable, but nothing that you won’t see in August or September when the two meet again, which they are almost certain to.
Tipperary lost in the end as the Cats once again demonstrated their ability to survive tight situations and goals and make the right tactical changes at the right times. The one thing that might cause some concern is that they have conceded far more goals of late than is their wont although that has been in the absence of Noel Hickey.
Tipp will be happy that they made up for the humiliation of the hammering they got in the divisional stage but perhaps concerned that they did not ‘close out’ the match when they had their chances. On the other hand, they too have players to come, including Eoin Kelly. 
For the rest of the hopefuls there is the chilling prospect that while the game was played at championship intensity that the bar will be raised even higher within the next 10 weeks. The one conundrum being perhaps the actual extent to which the Cats were stretched. My own feeling – going on how they won last Sunday and how they won against Dublin – is that they still have that extra gear and that moving up even for three or four minutes has been sufficient unto the day. 
They will be better and will have had the benefit of tight games before they get down to serious preparation for whoever they meet in the Leinster semi-final. Then again, they have at least been put to the pin of their collar several times during the league and have demonstrated that they are not actually completely invulnerable. But applying the same tactics against them in the championship will be a different proposition.

An Phoblacht Magazine


  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

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