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15 October 2009 Edition

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More than a game BY MATT TREACY








The real heart of the GAA

The county championships around the country are entering their final stages and there have been a number of surprises already. Crossmaglen earlier fell to Pearse Ógs in their bid to win a 14th title in succession. Their conquerors meet Armagh Harps in the final on Sunday, it being 17 and 18 years respectively since either won it.
In Dublin reigning county and All Ireland champions Kilmacud Crokes fell to Ballyboden after an epic semi final replay and extra time. Ballyboden, whose only title was in 1995, meet St. Judes, who have never won it, in the final on Sunday. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the series has been the relatively poor showing of teams replete with county stars. This comes amidst a radical review of the Dublin set up with Shane Ryan already having opted to join the hurling panel next year and he is likely to be joined by at least one other big name. Changed times.
The Dublin hurling championship semi finals are between Ballyboden and O’Tooles and Craobh Chiaráin and Lucan Sarsfields. The first three are relatively speaking aristocrats of the game, although Ballyboden only won their first title two years ago after many years trying, and between them have won ten of the last 14 championships. 
Lucan have never won it but have the benefit of county players John McCaffrey and Peter Kelly as well as a number of young and upcoming lads who are likely to join them. In contrast to the football championship the county players have been to the fore, including those like Liam Rushe who are with less fancied sides. 

In Offaly Rhode, who many people fancied as potential Leinster champions after their performances in recent years, were defeated last Sunday by Clara, the champions having looked to be set on course for a comfortable victory earlier. The Offaly hurling championship witnessed an even bigger surprise when Tullamore defeated Birr in the semi finals.
Birr had won nine of the previous ten counties, not to mention multiple Leinsters and All Irelands and it could well mark the end of an era with many of their big players coming to the end of their careers. Even more remarkably their conquerors Tullamore have not won the title since 1964 while Kilcormac – Kiloughey, who beat Coolderry, have not won it since 1907 and before that only once again in 1897!
In Kildare, St. Laurences beat reigning champions Celbridge and now have the chance to win their first ever county title at Senior level. First though they have to overcome the formidable Moorefield from Newbridge. The Kilkenny hurling final will be contested the two teams that have won all of the last 5 championships, Ballyhale Shamrocks and James Stephens. 
The Laois hurling championship witnessed a huge shock as Clough Ballacolla won their first title since 1918 in beating Portlaoise. Laois last won the All Ireland inter county title in 1915 so perhaps that is an omen. Well, perhaps that is unlikely.
Unfortunately the Limerick football final between Drumcollogher Broadford and Fr. Caseys had to be abandoned after a serious leg injury to a player who had to lie on the field for over 20 minutes before being taken off.
Down football has been dominated for years by a relatively small number of teams but that patter was broken when Kilcoo beat Loghlinisland to win their first title since 1937. Apparently when someone was discussing their prospects in the Ulster championship, it was decided that they would probably not sober up for a year!

No doubt there will be lots of other stories and some shocks to emerge over the coming weeks and months in for what, for many, is the real heart of the GAA as opposed to the inter county championships. Having lost a county final last year I can only ponder with envy those who are still in there with a chance at whatever level. It is a great experience and even the initial disappointment of losing one as we did eventually fades, like a broken heart, and you recall the achievement of getting there in the first instance and the intensity of training and playing, and drinking!, with the same people for nine months. Indeed when it is over you miss them almost as much as the woman who has dumped you, other than the fact that she was probably marginally less likely to take the head off you when you weren’t looking.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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