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25 March 1999 Edition

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Sportsview: St. Josephs and Crossmaglen victorious

by Dan O'Neill

Congratulations to Crossmaglen on their St. Patrick's Day triumph in the All-Ireland Club Football Final over Ballina.

Although I don't think it will bother Cross folk how their victory was achieved, basic handling mistakes and passing errors coupled with an ineffective short-passing game made for a very poor spectacle of football.

Because of over-encouragement and coaching of the short game, many clubs and county teams have lost the benefits of the long ball tactic. This tactic would have undoubtedly suited Crossmaglen much better by exploiting the wide open spaces with better balls into their forwards.

Another noticeable feature of the football final was Ballina's very poor shooting. They missed countless opportunities to bury Crossmaglen in the second half but failed to do so with some disastrous misses in front of the posts. This poor quality of shooting has been all too evident in recent National Football League games as well.

St Michael's (Enniskillen) showed just how full forward lines can thrive on long accurate balls into space in their very entertaining victory over St Colmans (Newry) in the MacCrory Cup final.

At a time when all teams are leaving no stone unturned in getting teams physically fit, perhaps more attention should be paid to getting the white ball between the sticks.

It was particularly fitting that Cross captain, John McEntee scored the winner late in the game.

Two years ago when they claimed the Andy Merrigan trophy for the first time, McEntee suffered concussion during the first half against Knockmore and remembered little about the final. I don't think he will forget this game in a hurry.

St Josephs became Clare's third club side to win the All-Ireland Club Hurling title in the past four years as they outclassed Rathenure of Wexford to run in 12 point winners.

Lorcan Hassett gave notice to Clare manager Gerard Loughane of his potential for a recall to the county squad after scoring 1.5, as the banner county reigned supreme once again. And one suspects that it will not be the only hurling trophy to find a home in the banner county this year.

Sunday was a busy day for GAA action with a full fixture list in the National Hurling League.

Galway's Eugene Cloonan showed true class in yet another breathtaking display that saw him score three goals and five points in the westerners 4.11- 0.12 victory over Dublin.

The Athenry corner forward, just 20-years-old, has now notched up more than thirty points in Galway's three league games to date. This win means that Galway maintain their 100% record in Division 1A and look assured of a place in the knockout stages.

A late Alan Markham goal denied Antrim another shock league win at Cusack Park on Saturday evening against Clare and lost them a chance to join Galway at the top of Division 1A.

In the group's other game Offaly bounced back from defeats in their opening two games with an impressive win over unbeaten Limerick in Birr.

After defeats to Antrim and Galway, questions were being asked about the All-Ireland champions, but they answered all their critics in emphatic fashion running out easy winners in a 1.14-0.7 victory.

Tipperary went joint top of Division 1B after a 1.16-1.8 win over Wexford.

Billed as Tipperary's first big test, the jury is still out on Nicky English's new look team after they cruised past a miserable Wexford in Thurles on Sunday. From the moment Eddie Tucker used the strong wind to fire Tipp in front in the second minute, they were in total control.

But while no doubt happy with the league points, there was still a feeling that English, too, is still wondering just how good his side really are as this turned out to be nothing more than another win over second rate opposition.

Meanwhile, Kilkenny recorded their second victory of the league campaign with a 1.16-1.12 win over Waterford at a packed Wash Park.

It is never easy to win a derby match in Waterford, and Kilkenny have their full forward line to thank for this win - Carter, O'Shea and Shefflin who accounted for 1.12 of their total, left the Decies defence rattled.

In the final game of Division 1B Laois caused the biggest upset of the day after a solid four point victory over visitors Cork at Rathdowing.

A David Cuddy goal two minutes into the second half gave Laois the lead for the first time in the game and set them up for a rare victory over the Leesiders.

Laois' win over the reigning league champions is their second to date and puts them in a three way tie for top spot in the division with Kilkenny and Tipperary.

As regards this weeks NHL fixtures, I fancy Antrim and Clare to defeat Dublin and Limerick respectively in Division 1A. While Kerry haven't a hope in hell against Galway in the divisions other game.

In Division 1B, Cork will have a tough game against Waterford, but home advantage for the Leesiders might see them through. Wexford should overcome Down while Tipperary can prove that they are All-Ireland material if they can overcome the Cats at Kilkenny.

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