Carlow's new boys restore old order
A decisive afternoon for the club championship in the provinces yesterday, and no result more clearcut than in Portlaoise. There, Na Fianna were knocked off their Leinster football throne in a game where Goliath came disguised as David.
Carlow's exceptional record in this championship went one step further as O'Hanrahan's claimed their first provincial title 1-7 to 1-5, and with that added to the more revered Eire Og's five in the past eight years.
Almost as unexpected as the result was the failure of Na Fianna to respond to the brute determination and skill of the Carlow champions. The O'Hanrahan's scoring stalled in the final stages and their lead was cut from six points to two. But they never panicked, and the Dublin champions chased in vain.
It all made for nervous viewing for the victorious manager Mick Dempsey but his tactics would eventually win out. "If we had gone out to try and contain Na Fianna it would have been the wrong approach. At all times we took the game to them."
Na Fianna played with the gusting wind in the first half but their two-point advantage at half-time was never going to be enough. And manager Paul Caffrey conceded that his side had been out of sorts. "We didn't play well. In the first half, we didn't get a decent supply into the forwards."
In Limerick's Gaelic Grounds, it was Glenflesk who were looking to upset the greater challenge of Nemo Rangers - and also keep the spring in Kerry's football year. And they had their chances, only to be eventually run over by the truth and lose out to the Cork champions 0-11 to 07.
"We knew Glenflesk would be well up for it but we just had to hang in there and hope our class would come to the top," said the winning manager Billy Morgan. "And in the end I think it did."
Inspired by the ever-present attacking threat of John Crowley, Glenflesk matched Rangers score for score in the first half and the teams finished the period 0-5 apiece. Boosted by the much-hyped appearance of Colin Corkery, Rangers gradually picked off the points to edge ahead. Footballer of the Year Seamus Moynihan had his influence limited by Martin Cronin, but Glenflesk still had some scoring chances, only to blow them one by one.
Corkery ended up playing a crucial role with six rangy points, much to the delight of the Cork supporters in the disappointing crowd of 2,510. But it was Cronin's handling of Moynihan that would win the most praise.
"I set out to do my own thing and it worked for me," said Cronin, who also popped up to take two very valuable points. "And we're not going to stop here." Nemo Rangers now play London champions Tir Chonaill at home next week. The winners play O'Hanrahan's in the New Year.
In the hurling championship, Athenry were forced to break a little sweat before retaining their Connacht title in Athleague. Roscommon's Four Roads eventually fell victim on a score of 2-16 to 1-7 but, like the football finals, it wasn't as one-sided as so many people expected.
In fact, Athenry introduced Joe Rabbitte shortly after half-time such was their concern. But their consistency - and especially that of Eugene Cloonan - eventually brought them one step closer to retaining the title.
Over in Ruislip, London hurling champions Fr Murphy's had won the honour of playing recently-crowned Munster champions Sixmilebridge. And it was all honour and no glory as the Clare side skipped into the semi-final on a scoreline of 2-11 to 0-6.