How the GAA wound up wide of the mark on our All-Ireland hurling championship
Reverting to the four quarter-finals format would address the gap between matches
Cork’s Aidan Walsh, Lorcan McLoughlin and Daniel Kearney tackle Seamus Callanan of Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
That didn’t take too long. As Kilkenny and Tipperary take up positions for a fourth All-Ireland final in six years, it’s looking like last year’s hurling revolution was more Robert Emmet than Robespierre.
If the biggest shock of the weekend was Cork’s non-arrival for the All-Ireland semi-final it couldn’t obscure the emergence – or, more accurately re-emergence – of Tipperary.
Ironically, by the standards of the most overheated expectations in the county after the 2010 All-Ireland win this year was going to be the culmination of a first five-in-a-row. A performance like Sunday’s would have greatly encouraged those prospects, had the intervening three years not been 24-carat disasters.
Tipp are back and back in the same circumstances of four years ago, having put a demoralising defeat behind them and picked up the momentum of a runaway train over the intervening distance.
Cork’s defeat has focused attention on the resolutely poor record of Munster champions in the All-Ireland series over the past decade. But suffice it to say that Munster counties coming through the qualifiers are slightly more likely to reach All-Ireland finals and twice as likely to win them as the actual Munster champions.
Exceptional KilkennyTipperary’s Tommy Dunne – someone who has been involved as a coach with Munster and Leinster champions in recent years – said in this newspaper that it was time something was done to address the five-week gap between winning provincial titles and playing All-Ireland semi-finals, a spell of inactivity that looks like a structural disadvantage for provincial champions.
He makes the point that Leinster appear not to suffer from this difficulty primarily because Kilkenny have been provincial champions in all but three of the past 17 years and they have been an exception to everything.
It is possible that there’s another difference. The standard in Munster has been a lot more competitive over the same period and potential All-Ireland winners accordingly more at risk in the provincial stages.
Football has taught the value of losing. Malfunctioning teams have received useful jolts and been able to diagnose what needs work or replacement. The qualifiers have rebuilt a number of shattered All-Ireland contenders and sent them back to Croke Park as Robocop.
Significantly or not, Kilkenny have sustained the preponderance of their All-Ireland defeats against qualifier teams.
Tommy Dunne wasn’t sure how the trend of under-performing provincial champions might be best addressed because it’s hard to cut down on the amount of time between provincial finals and All-Ireland semi-finals when quarter-finals have to be played in between.