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18 September 1997 Edition

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Sportsview: Our bhoys 2 - Spice boys 2

Now we know how good a team Celtic is. The prognosis is good. Tuesday's thrilling two-all draw at Parkhead in the first leg of their UEFA cup tie with Liverpool showed a Celtic who in the early stages of the match were dire but sparked alive in the second half, unleashing a potential that rocked a Liverpool team who up to then looked like they were going to coast to victory.

Steve McManaman's late goal was a dampener and now they have two away goals which could swing the balance against Celtic in the Anfield leg. But at least we know now how well Celtic can play against top class opposition.

Last week's £1.4 million spent on on Danish defender Marc Rieper is a step in the right direction, but it is time for McCann to break open the biscuit tin and splash out big time.

GAA's logic



You have to hand it to the GAA. They stand supreme as a sporting paradox. On the one hand they have a sporting bureaucracy and officialdom that would make the International Olympic Council green with envy.

Then in contrast or possibly as an antidote they have such an ingenious ability to disregard their own rules and regulations. Last Sunday's All Ireland Hurling final between Tipperary and Clare was a case in point.

Both team's managers were banned from their respective dugouts. The obvious solution was an afternoon in the stands. But the GAA logic was to supply each manager with a little green bench, placed helpfully on the touchline allowing them even closer access to the field of play and the players they were supposed to be banned from contacting. During the match it seemed that at times there were 16 players on each team as Les Gaynor and Ger Loughnane urged on their respective charges.

Clare 0-20, Tipperary 2-13



So now we know how to define the term epic match. All you need is a packed Croke Park, a dry sunny day with a swirling wind, a healthy inter county rivalry, and a winner-takes-all rematch.

The 1994 Limerick Offaly final was my previous benchmark for quality all-Ireland final displays. Then a cruising Limerick were overtaken in the dying minutes by a resurgent Offaly.

Last Sunday's contest was different as the lead changed four times. Neither team were ever fully in control even though Tipperary held the lead for much of the first half.

O'Connor v Leahy

It was in many respects a game of forwards dominated by Tipperary's John Leahy and Clare's Jamesie O'Connor. Leahy, who fractured his jaw in the semi-final, was the driving force for Tipp for much of the game. It wasn't just his four points but that at times he danced around the Clare back line. His decision to go for goal in the dying moments of injury time was a very brave one.

Clare's Davy FitzGerald's block of what was a cracker shot will be the meat of future legends. Almost as unbelievable was Jamesie O'Connor's ability to pull scores out of nothing. How many times at critical moments did he emerge from a melee of Tipperary defenders to loop a shot over the bar? His winning point in the 69th minute was nothing short of miraculous.

Bold talk

Clare's two titles in three years and a first minor victory prompted much bold talk among the crowds after match. One Clare fan told me that I should have felt honoured to witness the birth of a new hurling power. Time will tell if Clare can live up their fans' aspirations.

BY NEIL FORDE

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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