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5 January 2006 Edition

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Tyrone look well set to defend title as Cork go for three in a row

BY Matt Treacy

I suppose the highlight of the year had to be Dublin winning the All-Ireland Junior Camogie title. That, or the Minor Hurlers winning Leinster. Or perhaps the Senior footballers capturing our 45th Leinster. So much to choose from.

Only buzzin' with youse man. Far be it from me to pretend that the entire GAA world revolves around the wearers of the blue and navy.

Seriously though, it was a year that contained many highlights, culminating in the two major prizes in hurling and football going respectively to Cork, for the second year in succession, and Tyrone. Along the way there were some terrific matches. Cork and Waterford, Cork and Tipp and Cork and Clare all being outstanding hurling games. Apparently I missed the best of them all according to those who were lucky enough to see the semi-final between Galway and Kilkenny.

I was on the continong (as Brendan Behan would say) and the Irish bar we went to in Perpingnan was closed. So I didn't get to see that but made up for the excitement by dragging Ciara into the middle of a spectacular forest fire in the Pyrenees. An event she never tires of citing as evidence of my growing senility.

I was back in time to see the Tyrone/Dublin replay which, although probably not as good a match as the drawn encounter, had its moments. Tyrone laid all speculation to rest with a decisive victory which they followed with a hard fought decision over Armagh in another classic game in the semi-final. Tyrone of course went on to crown a remarkable championship by overcoming Kerry in the final. Without doubt it was the hardest All-Ireland won by any team, and they look well set to defend their title in 2006.

At various times during the hurling championship Cork appeared to be on the ropes. Behind against Waterford and Clare, and giving a passable impression of being about to collapse in the second half against Tipperary, they kept their composure and drew confidently past teams when it mattered. In horse racing terms they are like Istabraq. They wait and wait and then pounce late, in the end coming home with a bit in hand. And like Istabraq who won three Champion Hurdles, Cork next year will be chasing the elusive three-in-a-row, a feat last accomplished by the Cork team of 1976-'78.

Of course they will be unbearable if they manage to pull it off. I was in Cork at the time they won the double in 1990, and I never want to experience that kind of thing ever again so long as I live. I was in Connie Donovan's pretending to celebrate a few days after the footballers brought Sam back when some fecker asked the barman to put on the video of Cork beating Dublin in the semi-final. The 1989 semi-final.

But then you'd never accuse Cork people of being coy or backward in coming forward. They do have great songs though and my favourite is Five in a Row. I believe that it may have been composed to celebrate, not Cork winning a five-in-a-row, but Kerry failing to do so after they were caught by Séamus Darby's late goal for Offaly in 1982.

I don't remember many of the words but it contains the chorus: "Five in a row, five in a row, you'd hardly believe we won five in a row." The historical basis being Cork's technical achievement of that distinction between 1941 and 1945 when the hurlers won the All Ireland in 1941, 42, 43, and 44 and the footballers in 1945. Actually now that I come to think of it, the hurlers also won in 1946 so maybe I have the whole thing arseways and the song is about something else entirely!

Anyway, what brought it to mind was recalling seeing a 'merry' Cork supporter in Conways the night before the 2004 final who was under the impression that Dan the barman was from Kerry (due to the photograph of Maurice Fitzgerald behind the bar — there to remind us Dubs of his mighty sideline kick in Thurles in 2001). One of his buddies told us that he was the Bard of Knocknaheeny. Barred from the pub and barred from the bookies.

Your man was singing into Dan's face until Dan informed him in no uncertain terms that he was from Tipperary. The Cork man stood there for maybe 30 seconds, took a deep breath and a slug of his pint, before continuing with a song about Christy Ring written after one of his heroic displays against Tipp in the 1940s. You can't bate them boy!

An Phoblacht Magazine


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