Cork university well versed to make it a double

Inprovincial championships may be on last legs due to lack of public interest

LIT will expect sharp shooting from Tony Kelly in the Fitzgibbon Cup. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

LIT will expect sharp shooting from Tony Kelly in the Fitzgibbon Cup. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

Fri, Feb 28, 2014, 06:00

And then there were only four. This is Fitzgibbon Cup weekend which this year takes place in Queen’s University, Belfast. CIT and UCC play in one semi-final and surprise package LIT play WIT in the other. As I said last week this is a much sought after medal by so many the country’s top hurlers and there’s no shortage of top hurlers on view this weekend.

The Limerick representatives have 2013 hurler of the year Tony Kelly in their ranks. However UCC, in my estimation, has the strongest panel with Cork stars Conor Lehane and Séamus Harnedy, arguably, the stand-out players in their squad.

Who will win? Well having seen both Cork teams play a number of times this year I think the three in a row chasing champions UCC should have too much for their neighbours.

The other game is difficult to call. It could come down to whichever team concedes the least amount of scorable frees as both free-takers Tony Kelly and Waterford’s Pauric O’Mahony, on form, are match winners. On paper the Waterford team seem to me to be the more accomplished side, then again so did UL when they met LIT but being the best on paper didn’t count for much in that game.

However, in Saturday’s final, I would expect though that the Cork champions will add to the 38 that they have already won and complete a double for the college whose footballers already have custody of the Sigerson trophy.

Hurling league
The hurling league thundered ahead last weekend and, as we head to the midterm break for this competition it’s as you were in the top section. While all the teams have lost a game and all winning their home fixtures, I think that Kilkenny have, arguably, shown the best form in their two outings. They can be happy with the performances of their new players but after conceding five goals against Tipperary they obviously have things to work on too. Waterford can also be quiet pleased with their form so far while Clare can also be fairly happy with their two outings.

Galway was kind of true to form again last weekend with a vastly inferior performance in comparison to their first round demolition of Dublin. The Dubs delivered a high tempo workmanlike performance in their victory over Clare, having hardly broken sweat the previous Sunday.

Tipperary were lucky to win their opening game and unlucky to lose against Kilkenny. I’m really not sure where they’re at yet. Séamus Callanan has certainly shown where he’s at with 4-10 scored in the two games to date. But Eamonn O’Shea and his management need a 70 minutes of intensity soon from their team to try and ignite a bit of confidence and momentum for future more important days.

All in all though it makes for a fascinating next few weeks in the hurling cauldron.

Section 1b,while not played at the same intensity is also nicely balanced at the break. Who would have foreseen that Wexford would sit at the head of the table after two rounds or that Cork would be in third place. Still all to play for though.

The interprovincial hurling final, formerly known as the Railway Cup, is also being played this weekend. I wonder how many will attend this fixture? How many hurling followers actually know which provinces are playing in this, once, highly-regarded competition?

Expired history
This ailing tournament has undergone a yearly session of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR to you and me ) for many years now. Is it not time to consign it to the expired section in the GAA’s history books. It has served its purpose. It was a wonderful, well-attended fixture a generation or two ago.

Martin Donnelly’s generous and loyal sponsorship has kept it alive for a long time now. The GAA have made considerable efforts (finals being played on the finest hurling fields of Abu Dhabi, Boston and Rome) to breath new life into this ailing dinosaur.

Many players speak highly of the honour of playing for the province alongside players that are opponents for the rest of the year. There’s the free tracksuit and the jersey and very little, if any, training. Just turn up, play the game or two.

That’s it. So no big buy in. Why wouldn’t they want it continued ?

But the facts are that the teams seldom represent the best team in the province. The third-level college players ( of which there are many ) are well occupied at that time of the year with Fitzgibbon duties. Also the players involved in the All-Ireland club final are also unavailable.

But the main reason it should be discontinued is that the public don’t want it. They are voting with their feet. They are choosing not to attend in any numbers that would make this competition worth persisting with.

Around 600 souls attended the football final last Sunday. This tournament is as dead as the telephone landline and phonebox. It’s time to accept that its day is done and it’s time to move on. The life support machine needs to be turned off once and for all.

Public interest
The All-Ireland club competitions have well and truly taken over with considerable public interest in them and the date of the senior finals on St Patrick’s weekend has long replaced the Railway Cup in the GAA fixtures master list.

However there’s another debate needed here regarding competitions being completed in the calendar year.

Anyway for now the Fitzgibbon Cup final will keep us entertained this weekend.

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