Michael Collins throwing in the ball to start a hurling match at Croke Park, Dublin in 1921. Photograph: Hogan/ Hulton Archive/ Getty Images

A treasure trove of Irish historical and sporting history

Tipperary minor captain Brian McGrath and Senior players Noel and John McGrath. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Can the champions build on Sunday’s display of belief, power, skill and sublime finishing?

Brian Cody: has ample experience of all the pressure associated with the biggest day in the hurling calendar. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Kilkenny and Tipperary very familiar with the many demands of All-Ireland final day

Tipperary and Kilkenny fans at Croke Park for All-Ireland hurling finals is an all too familiar sight. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

Second-tier teams likely to be left further behind unless radical changes are implemented

Waterford’s Conor Gleeson has impressed with the senior side this season. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.

Waterford and Galway seem to have advantage in All-Ireland semi-finals

Kilkenny’s Michael Fennelly and Pauric Mahony of Waterford shake hands after last Sunday’s thrilling drawn semi-final. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Mental attitude will be vital for Déise while improved Tipperary can end Galway hopes

Waterford’s Tadhg de Búrca (centre) excelled in the sweeper role for Waterford against Wexford in the All-Ireland quarter-final at Semple Stadium last month. Photograph: Donall Farmer.

The All-Ireland hurling semi-final looks like a foregone Kilkenny victory for most

The club game could benefit from not relying on intercounty players. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Perhaps it’s time to think about letting clubs get on with things without intercounty stars

Dejected Galway players after their defeat to Kilkenny in the Leinster final at Croke Park on July 3rd. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

Western county’s lack of ability to see out big games a major issue as they try to bridge gap

Limerick hurlers training. “I can’t imagine that there is too much fun in being an intercounty player. It’s a serious business.” Photograph?: James Crombie/Inpho

Imparting life values like humility, honesty, sincerity and integrity vitally important

Tipperary and Waterford fans on their way to Semple Stadium for last year’s Munster hurling final. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho.

Unfamiliar ground of Limerick will not take from process of Munster final occasion

Ger Cunningham: his knowledge of the Cork players has to count for something. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Dublin won’t fancy a trip to Cork while it would be foolish to back against Kilkenny

The GAA has been smart in it’s guidelines which divide participants up into three very distinct areas: the child, youth and adult. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho.

Competitive sport at too early an age can be detrimental as confidence key

William Egan: unfairly bore the brunt of a lot of criticism from keyboard warriors for Cork’s defeat to Tipperary. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Impossible to predict a winner on Sunday but qualifier route may well suit the losers

Cork and Tipperary in action at Thurles. Given the size of the county and the number of clubs in it, Cork should be competitive every year.  Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

Concentration of power at county board level has alienated many who want to contribute

Cork’s Paudie O’Sullivan reaches for the dropping ball in the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Munster hurling rivals would both love to take shortest route to All-Ireland series

Limerick led by 0-9 to 0-4 at the break, with midfielder Brian Ryan landing three fine points from play. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho.

Hurleys in the future may not be made of traditional ash due to the dieback disease crisis

Clare and Waterford meet again on Sunday. The game is now being played with defence, possession and optimum use of the sliotar as a priority. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Waterford and Clare are working on tactics that they hope might slay the stripy dragon

Clare and Waterford take to the field again in the Allianz Hurling League Division One final at Semple Stadium on Sunday. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho.

Only players can have real influence on big stage after battle has commenced

Kilkenny’s TJ Reid. Maybe it’s a bit sensational to write that Reid is unmarkable at present yet it’s not an outrageous statement. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Tribesmen on a given day are capable of being not just good but great

Shane Maloney scores Galway’s winning point against Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho

When there is so much going on off the field it can be very difficult for players to stay focused

Kilkenny’s Richie Hogan in action against Waterford in the recent All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park. Hogan has been fortright in his views on the current format of the league structure. Photograph: Inpho.

Gulf between strong and weak expanding and there is little being done to address problem

Galway’s Joe Canning: wasn’t at his best against Cork but will prove a major threat to Tipperary at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Green flags will prove crucial and I think Tipperary will concede fewer than Galway

Brian Cody: the experience of his Kilkenny side cannot be underestimated. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Déise will bring workrate and honesty but I can’t see Cody’s champions beaten

Cork hurling manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy shows his frustration during the quarter-final defeat by Galway.  Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

All interested parties must have a say in plotting a new way forward

Galway talisman Joe Canning now has a number of potentially dangerous forwards at his side. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

Waterford being hit out of rhythm and Dublin’s inconsistency make for intriguing quarter-final

Kilkenny hurlers go through their warm-up routine ahead of an important championship match. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho.

Time for powers that be and fans to take the warm-up as serious as teams

Waterford’s Barry Coughlan catches a high ball against Cork in the Munster semi-final. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Most hurling followers would love to see the Déise make the ultimate breakthrough

The return of Colm Galvin, Brendan Bugler and Conor McGrath should help Clare prove too strong for Offaly. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Three championship games should have the Tribesmen in ideal shape to shock Kilkenny

Limerick’s manager TJ Ryan celebrates with selector Paul Beary after last year’s Munster semi-final win over Tipperary at Semple Stadium. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho.

Limerick’s youth magazine recognises the side of Gaelic games we often overlook

Galway’s Cathal Mannion celebrates scoring his side’s second goal against Dublin in Tullamore. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Galway were great against Dubs and everyone will be watching for another big display

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same” - Rudyard Kipling

Some participants, parents or coaches get completely overwhelmed by emotion and their behaviours are often inappropriate

Carlow hurling manager Pat English has to be realistic in his expectations of players’ dedication. Photograph: Inpho.

“Lesser” counties cannot be competitive because they simply don’t have enough hurlers to choose from

Limerick’s Cian Lynch, seen here getting away from David McInerney of Clare, had an excellent performance in last week’s Munster Senior Hurling Championship quarter-final at Semple Stadium. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho.

Clare backs used a system to stymie the opposition sweeper but weren’t as successful at it as Waterford were in league

The intercounty retirements of Brian Hogan, Henry Shefflin and Tommy Walsh are a huge loss, not just to Kilkenny, but hurling at large. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho.

Semple Stadium the setting for a phoney war but neither team will want to lose

Patrick Maher scores Tipperary’s first goal against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final: All the Tipperary forwards, while playing artistically and intelligently, also got stuck in and dug out a draw when losing seemed to be on the cards for them. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Though Kilkenny have done it all before, the Munster side have it in them to finish more efficiently

Tony Kelly and Colm Galvin of Clare celebrate victory at the end of the All-Ireland Hurling Under-21 Championship Final at Semple Stadium in Thurles. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Banner county’s high achievers have reached the top on hard work and dedication

Kilkenny and Tipperary will again have to go toe to toe after their All-Ireland hurling final replay at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crosbie.

Again the extention of intercounty championship is taking toll on club competitions

Kilkenny’s Brian Kennedy and  JJ Delaney in action against Tipperary’s Séamus Callanan. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Latest Kilkenny v Tipperary showdown will produce its own, as yet unscripted, dynamic

The Wexford hurlers’ championship odyssey was one of John Allen’s highlights this year and he is delighted to welcome Liam Dunne and his team back into the “almost contenders” section for next year’s championship. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Life beyond management and a small ball and a stick made of ash as I savoured other pleasures also

“Twitter carried the news that Henry was available to play in the semi-final game against Galway. Brian, though, not one of the Twiteratti I’d guess, held him in reserve.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

Cats boss has used his legendary star sparingly this season and continues to prioritise the team – and All-Ireland glory

Patrick Maher: will give Cork’s Marc Ellis a real test. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

High-scoring game likely in which back lines set to play decisive part

Limerick will require top-notch displays from the likes of Paul Browne, here scoring a goal against Wexford, if they are to prevail on Sunday. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

But superior strength on the bench could tilt the balance in favour of Brian Cody’s side

Dublin manager Anthony Daly shows his frustration as his charges go down meekly to Tipperary at Thurles in the All-Ireland quarter final. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

All the positive vibes and quality training sessions cannot guarantee big-day performances

Cork’s Lorcan McLoughlin with Limerick’s Donal O’Grady and Declan Hannon  during the Munster final. Hannon can be a key figure for Limerick if he is used in a central position. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

All intercounty or club games should be finished on the day – to help give the game back to club players

As in life this schoolyard game was kind of dominated by the strong but mistakes were rarely if ever commented on. Photograph: Inpho

Playing at the top level is a different ball game but for kids, participation and fun are what count

Limerick players celebrate in the dressing room with manager John Allen after their championship success at Gaelic Grounds in Limerick last year where Cork were beaten. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Cork have an edge in three championship games played but Limerick have a winning momentum

Kilkenny  manager Brian Cody speaks to Tommy Walsh before introducing him  as a second-half substitute during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship semi-final against Galway.  Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

These players are skilled exponents in the finer points of a code bordering on an art form

Galway’s Joe Canning scores a late penalty during last Sunday’s exciting Leinster senior hurling semi-final against Kilkenny at O’Connor Park. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

We can continue to expect the unexpected in the game that keeps on giving

Mark Ellis held the centre of defence for Cork in their Munster semi-final defeat of Clare at  Semple Stadium. Photograph Inpho.

Even though none of the contenders are out of contention yet, there have been a few surprises

Training time for the Limerick hurlers at the Gaelic Grounds. Críonna Tobin’s fascinarting presentation to the  GAA’s Games Development Conference at Croke Park appeared to prove that high intensity training produces better core fitness results than the more traditional endurance running. Photograph:  James Crombie/Inpho

Críonna Tobin’s fascinating research proves old ‘laps of the field’ approach limited

In the Munster Hurling Final of June 2004 Waterford’s John Mullane is restrained by Cork’s Seán Óg Ó’hAilpín after striking Brian Murphy. Photograph:Patrick Bolger/Inpho

Over the years this fixture has thrilled and disappointed in equal measure

Shane Dowling celebrates a late point against Tipperary in last year’s Munster semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds.

My former team are an honourable, hardworking, keen, decent group of talented hurlers

The Emeralds GAA club ground, Páirc Smáirgaid, in Ruislip, London.

2014 hurling championship started last month, well before the television broadcasters began their salvos

Pucks out won/lost, hooks/blocks made and the free count are just some of the statistics of interest to top hurling coaching teams.   Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Analysing various match statistics now part of the brief for any top-class hurling coaching team

John Allen wonders what it was like for the much-honoured  Tommy Walsh to have remained  on the bench throughout  last Sunday’s Allianz  Hurling League final against Tipperary. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Pity the out of form, the out of favour, or the out of time, but the championship goes on

Clare’s Brendan Bugler comes under pressure from Niall O’Meara and Patrick Maher of Tipperary in the Allianz Hurling League Division One  semi-final. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Kilkenny are still the class act with their defensive unit well drilled and cohesive

Tipperary manager Eamon O’Shea Eamon isn’t a man for throwaway or unmeasured remarks. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Tipp boss Eamon O’Shea revealingly wants his players to ‘like the ball more’

 Clare celebrate victory over Cork at Croke Park after winning the county’s fourth  All-Ireland senior hurling title. Photograph: Alan Betson.

A fair chance should be afforded to all teams taking part in the Liam MacCarthy Cup

The GAA has made huge strides in coaching. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Keeping as many children involved for as long as possible is vital for the game

 Cork’s Patrick Horgan: has been the standout player for Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s side and if he is curtailed or has an off day, they will struggle. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/ Inpho

‘The manager, from my experience, has no real reason to be on the sideline. There is not a hope in hell of him being heard issuing(...)

Clare’s Shane O’Donnell showed that he’s no one (hat)trick pony against Waterford.

Clare, at this stage, are looking good and Kilkenny aren’t gone away yet

 Richard Coady and fellow Mount Leinster Rangers  players celebrate after the Carlow club had beaten Loughiel Shamrocks at Páirc Esler in Newry to earn a place in Monday’s All-Ireland Senior Club Champinship final in Croke Park. Photograph: John McIlwaine/Inpho/Presseye

Mount Leinster’s rise a fairy-tale but Portumna more likely to have happy ending

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody: his sides can never be under estimated. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Winners are hard to predict but several home sides appear to have a distinct advantage

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

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

Cork’s Michael O’Sullivan and Patrick Horgan with Gavin O’Mahony of Limerick during last weekend’s NHL Division IB opener at Páirc Uí Rinn: “If this was a championship match and we were heading for a replay we’d be tipping Limerick for victory the next day out,” was John Allen’s verdict on the draw. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

If last weekend’s endeavour was an indication of what’s to come then we want more

Aidan Fogarty in action for Kilkenny during their NHL  final victory over Tipperary last May. Neither of the  finalists made much of an impact on the championship later in the year, again raising the question of just how important is the league. Photograph: Inpho.

Winning the league is a bonus for that county but doesn’t guarantee greater things later on

The players are, at this time, in the team room. Many are semi-togged. Some are on the masseur’s table having a final rub down. Photo: James Crombie

Former Cork boss John Allen recalls what it’s like to be involved in an official capacity on All-Ireland hurling final Sunday

More articles