Anything’s possible as provincial championships go into final weekend
Four teams chase three spots, and you’ll need a calculator to work out all the permutations
Galway’s Conor Whelan and Kilkenny’s Huw Lawlor in their Leinster SFC Round 4 match in Nowlan Park on Sunday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Eyes down for a full house, calculators and painkillers at the ready. Both provincial hurling championships go into their final weekend with four teams chasing three spots, after Limerick hammered Clare in the Gaelic Grounds and Galway won a squeaker away to Kilkenny. The permutations would fill Google, never mind a page of newsprint.
In Munster, the All-Ireland champions ran up a 1-28 to 0-13 win over a Clare side that had nothing to offer for the second weekend in a row. Aaron Gillane scored 1-11 as John Kiely’s side filleted Clare, for whom their full-forward line, so potent in last year’s run to the All-Ireland semi-final, malfunctioned again.
Yet somehow, all isn’t yet lost for Clare. Should they beat Cork next Sunday, there is still a route to the knock-out stages open to them. A win in Ennis will secure third spot in Munster as long as Tipperary don’t beat Limerick. Clare’s points difference of -30 is too punitive for them to survive a three-way battle with Cork and Limerick, but they would go through on the head-to-head if only themselves and Cork end up level. It might all be moot, given they’re coming in on the back of two hidings, but you never know.
Mannion wasn’t the man of the match, though – that was the incomparable TJ Reid
The situation in Leinster is far more complicated, with Galway’s summer having come to life with a 3-20 to 2-22 win in Nowlan Park. It was Kilkenny’s first championship defeat at home since 1949, thanks in the main to a majestic performance from Cathal Mannion, who scored 0-8, all but a point of it from play. He wasn’t the man of the match, though – that was the incomparable TJ Reid, who put up 2-11 for Kilkenny in an unbelievable display of leadership and skill.
All of which washes out in a Saturday night special next weekend. Galway go to Parnell Park to play Dublin, and Kilkenny visit Wexford. All four teams can make the Leinster final and all four teams can exit the summer. Who said the round robin would kill off the do-or-die game?
In football, Dublin and Meath made it through to the Leinster final after a sleepy day in Croke Park. All the colour resides up north, where Cavan made it through to their first Ulster final since 2001 with a highly entertaining 0-23 to 0-17 replay victory over Armagh. And there were wins for Monaghan, Down, Longford and Westmeath in the qualifiers.