Antrim spend years lulling opponents into false sense of security

What is up with this summer’s hurling championships?

Under-21 Hurling All-Ireland Semi-finals:Antrim’s recent record

Under-21 Hurling All-Ireland Semi-finals:Antrim’s recent record

Sun, Aug 25, 2013, 23:07

Every time we reckon we’ve seen it all, something else crazy and unpredictable is hurled before our eyes.

September Road had the pleasure of sitting in Croke Park on the day in 1989 when the Antrim seniors shocked Offaly (and the hurling community) by reaching the All-Ireland decider.

It was a wonderful day (so long as you weren’t an Offaly fan) and it’s always stood out how many Antrim people are in Thurles every summer to watch big Munster championship hurling games.

Despite a year in which underdogs have had the upper hand in so many games, the Antrim under-21s have, without a shadow of a doubt, produced the shock of the season with their defeat of Wexford (1/80 to win).

And if you are in any doubt, just take a look at Antrim’s under-21 hurling semi-finals results in the recent past.

It’s great to see Antrim back in a major hurling final.



“CURSE OF 1951”: MAYO ON COURSE TO FINALLY LAY OLD SUPERSTITION TO REST

With Mayo winning
yesterday, there will be talk (lots and lots and lots of talk) about the “Curse of 1951”.

The story goes that the Mayo team, celebrating retaining the All-Ireland title in ’51, failed to pay proper respect when they passed a funeral along the road to Castlebar, prompting the local priest to curse them (as you would), promising they’d never win another title while any of that team were still alive.

A little harsh you’d have to say.

Three of the side as still with us, and, whether it’s this year or not, hopefully will be when a Mayo footballer walks up the steps of the Hogan Stand on final day again.

It’s just a story, of course, Mayo’s failure to win an All-Ireland title in the six decades since has had much more to do with their inability to kick the ball between the two white posts than any supposed curse.


And, anyway, here’s a much better completely rubbish reason for Mayo not
winning this year . . .

it’s Rob Heffernan’s fault.


Ireland has claimed three gold medals at the World Athletics Championships.

A month after Eamonn Coghlan won the first in 1983, Dublin claimed the Sam Maguire Cup. A month after Sonia O’Sullivan claimed gold in 1995, Dublin were also back on the podium at Croke Park. Now, a month after Heffernan returns from Moscow with Ireland’s third gold medal?

Well, it makes as much sense as the “Curse of ‘51”.

In fact, maybe Clare could take Heffernan’s victory as a good omen too, as they last claimed the Liam MacCarthy Cup soon after O’Sullivan’s victory in the 5,000 metres.

And there’s a county with troubles with curses.

If Mayo thought they were badly off, a healer named Biddy Early apparently decreed Clare wouldn’t win another All-Ireland at all after the successful team of 1914.

Presumably, Early was moved to lift the curse briefly when fellow Feakle native Ger Loughnane took over the county side, Clare quickly moving to claim two titles before the curse was (and we’re just presuming here as Early has not returned our calls) reinstated.

Sure what other possible reason for Clare not winning more titles could there be?

There is, though, one rather significant problem with the “Curse of Biddy Early”.She died in 1875 – long before the GAA was even founded, never mind an All-Ireland senior hurling championship was held.

Of all the things Davy Fitzgerald has to worry about on All-Ireland final day, this isn’t one of them.


And, anyway, here’s a much better completely rubbish reason for Clare not
winning this year . . .
Cork lost last year’s league final.


In the six seasons from 2004 to 2009 the winner of the league has reached the All-Ireland championship final the following year (Galway 2004 league winner, 2005 SHC final; Kilkenny 05/06; Kilkenny 06/07; Waterford 07/08; Tipperary 08/09; Kilkenny 09/10).

However, more recently, the trend has switched, with the losing league finalist making the championship decider and the league winner taking September off.

In 2011 Dublin defeated Kilkenny in the league final, but it was Kilkenny who were there on All-Ireland final day last season. And Kilkenny defeated Cork in the 2012 league final, but Kilkenny are gone and Cork are in this season’s decider.

Well, it makes as much sense as the “Curse of Biddy Early”.


A BUMPER YEAR AS FANS FLOCK TO GAMES

Is it the sunny weather?

The unpredictable hurling championship?

The quality on show?

Ticket prices?

Or perhaps the fact that the GAA has had the sporting pitch largely to itself this season (last summer our sporting heads were being turned by Euro 2012 and the Olympic Games).

Whatever the reason, attendances are up this season, and with three matches to go (the second football semi-final between Dublin and Kerry, and the two All-Ireland deciders) last year’s figure of 1,360,071 spectators at the intercounty senior hurling and football championships will be broken easily.

What makes that even more impressive is that the 2012 figure includes an All-Ireland final replay.

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