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27 April 2006 Edition

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The Matt Treacy Column

Cats show their claws

Well. The big sporting occasion of last weekend went as predicted. Erin's Isle beat Maur's in the first round of the Dublin Senior Football Championship. However, this did not affect attendances at other venues.

At Semple Stadium, Limerick came from eight points behind against Clare in the first hurling league semi-final to force extra time which they won by three points. Indeed had it not been for late saves from Davy Fitzgerald to prevent certain goals, there would have been no need for the extra time in the first place.

Limerick have become difficult to beat over the past year or so but have been somewhat disappointing in the championship. The level of expectation that was present on the back of their three Under 21 All Ireland victories between 2000 and 2002 has abated. They have not won Munster since 1996 but that could again be a realistic target. At 13/2 it might even be worth a few Euro.

A good measure of where they stand will come next Sunday when they take on Kilkenny in the Division One final. Kilkenny took Tipperary apart last weekend and had it not been for their possibly taking the foot off the pedal, and for two Tipp goals, the margin would have been of even more embarrassing dimensions. You may add to that a number of superb saves from Brendan Cummins who all too often has been cast in the role of the small boy with his finger in the dyke to Kilkenny's North Sea.

Far from deciding that it might be better if someone else took on the task of challenging Cork, Brian Cody clearly has his keen mind set on vengeance and everything that is being done now is merely a step to the anticipated re-match later in the year.

Younger kittens have been allowed flex their claws over the course of the league campaign but the older cats are gradually stretching themselves out of their winter nap and being brought back into the team. And then there's DJ of course. Waiting to be sprung. Next Sunday will be interesting both as a portent of what we might expect from the Wassies over the Summer, and of the real potential that is in this Limerick team.

The two football league finals were decided at Limerick and Cavan. I can't tell you anything about the Division Two final between Louth and Donegal, other than that it was a draw, for the reason that RTE thought it not worthy of even a slot on the highlights. That despite the fact that, by my reckoning, it drew the second biggest crowd of the day to any venue in Ireland. But of course RTE News reckoned that the 'Hammers' beating 'Boro' - whoever the hell they are when they are at home - was the second most important thing that happened in the world of sport last Sunday.

Watch this space for the BBC to breathlessly announce one day that the Royals have beaten the Wee County. (I was going to say the Dubs but I don't want to be tempting fate. Or faith even.)

In the Division One football final Galway began with intent and clear signs that Peter Ford had had them watching the 'Stop Gooch and you'll Stop Kerry' video. The only problem with that is that besides tying the rusty headed chap to the goalpost for 70 minutes or sitting on him, it is nigh on impossible to prevent Mr. Cooper exercising an influence on the game.

The Gooch had a quiet day by his standards and finished with just three points and two of them from frees. However, it was himself who set up Kerry's two goals by Eoin Brosnan and Paul Galvin. After that Galway gave up. They did the same last year in the All Ireland semi-final against Cork and it is a character trait that is fatal to any team with ambitions. Galway have the talent but like Mayo they need to overcome their inner demons before being considered contenders for the crown.

Last Saturday the Dublin minor hurlers beat Wexford in the Leinster championship. On a perfect afternoon and on a sod that appears to be bearing up well, the young Dubs withstood a determined challenge from a Wexford team that was fancied to gain revenge for last year's defeat in the final.

Dublin, with a surfeit of Treacys, established an early lead that they didn't relinquish. Crucial in this was a goal from Wayne Brogan of Na Fianna and some accurate free-taking by Paul Ryan of Ballyboden. After the break Wexford had more of the play but Dublin held on to their half time four point advantage to the end.

Wexford full forward Keith Burke at times reminded me of his legendary clubman Tony Doran and he was involved in the move that led to their only goal from Shane Grannell, also of Buffers Alley. Wexford might have built on this but instead seemed intent on going for goals when points might have been the better option.

I must also mention Wexford centre-half forward Kevin Driver, a neighbour of my parents in Rosslare. His hours of banging the ball about next door have clearly borne fruit although he has no doubt had better days than last Saturday. I suspect too that his presence would have meant that it would have been one of those rare occasions when my late mother's sympathies might have been with a team other than the one in blue. Mind you, she wouldn't have said anything to my father.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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