Hurling final replay under lights ‘hardly ideal’ for Cork

Saturday 5pm start doesn’t do anything for an All-Ireland final, says selector Ger Cunningham

Playing the All-Ireland hurling final replay under Croke Park lights ‘something new, something different; it’ll be a fantastic occasion’, says Ger Cunningham

Playing the All-Ireland hurling final replay under Croke Park lights ‘something new, something different; it’ll be a fantastic occasion’, says Ger Cunningham


Cork selector Ger Cunningham has described having to play the All-Ireland hurling final replay under lights as “not ideal”.

The match against Clare takes place on Saturday, September 28th, at 5pm, which hasn’t gone down well in Cork.

“Well from the point of view that it’s an All-Ireland final, I think Saturday, playing it at 5 o’clock, doesn’t do anything for an All-Ireland final,” he said.

“Five o’clock is certainly a time that’s questionable,” said Cunningham, a sponsors’ ambassador and manager with Bord Gáis, at a media conference before tomorrow’s’s Bord Gáis Energy GAA All-Ireland Under-21 hurling final.

“If you start it at four the chances are you would get it finished in daylight and also for the supporters travelling from Clare and Cork.

“It’s a long journey home and I think some Cork supporters had a journey of six hours last weekend. There was a crash on the motorway and they didn’t get home until all hours of the night, but a 5 o’clock start with a possibility of going to extra-time . . . it’s going to be late getting out of Croke Park.”

Although he described the decision to turn on the lights as “something new, something different; it’ll be a fantastic occasion”, he also said Cork hadn’t been consulted on the matter.

“No, no. It certainly didn’t come up in any of our conversations in the last couple of days.

“We just assumed that 5pm throw-in . . . if they didn’t start with the lights – I know you’d see some matches where the lights would come on at half-time – I wasn’t aware that there was going to be lights full-time, but it’s good to know.”

Asked would the team train under lights to prepare for the replay, he expressed concern that the floodlit match might not suit all of the Cork players.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s not ideal for some guys. Some guys wouldn’t be comfortable playing under lights. Some fellas have eyesight problems and find it difficult. I think ourselves and Clare wouldn’t have played in Croke Park under lights before, so it’s a bit different again.”

He was uncertain whether the team could secure some practice time under lights.

“We can’t get on the pitch for a photograph never mind get out for a training session, so I’d imagine that’s probably not a runner!” he said.

‘Not unreasonable’
“It’s something that you would say, it’s probably not an unreasonable request to go and have a look at it and train there, but it’s the first I’ve heard of it now, so we’ll have to have a chat among ourselves to see if we go there.”

It was, however, confirmed later yesterday by Croke Park that letters had gone out to both counties offering them a run-out under lights at the stadium.

Talking about the match last weekend, which ended in a thrilling draw, Cunningham said Clare manager David Fitzgerald had proved tactically innovative in all of the counties’ meetings this season – five so far, between pre-season, league and championship – so there hadn’t been any surprise when Cork’s opponents decided to play a more conventional system rather than deploy an out-and-out sweeper.

“Fitzy’s been involved in hurling a long time, he’s been coaching teams and nothing would surprise you in relation to what he’s done or what he would do.

“ That was our fifth time playing them and he’s probably played us five different ways all through the season. Yes and no, is the answer to that,” he said.

“He won two matches, in the quarter-final and semi-final, playing with a sweeper. All the experts and pundits were saying he wouldn’t change it. We probably thought it would be his favoured option, having won the two games, but with Fitzy he’s liable to do anything, so at the same time it wasn’t a huge surprise really that he went 15 against 15.”

Cunningham, a former All Star goalkeeper and hurler of the year, defended his successor Anthony Nash, whose 20-metre frees caused comment because he was tossing the ball forward and stepping several metres towards the goal before striking.

“There’s no law against it. There’s no rule against it. It’s a very difficult thing to do to throw up the ball seven yards ahead and hit it full force. You don’t see that many fellas doing it. They might go three or four yards but it’s an exceptional throw-up - and to be able to connect bang on is a great skill.”

He was critical of the jostling Nash was subjected to on the way to take the two frees and penalty, from which he scored one goal.

“That shouldn’t happen. That’s been happening in football for a bit and . . . it looked as if it was a bit of a plan to stop him coming up, to jostle him.

“Again, a lot of things happen on the day. It’s very hard to pre-empt what’s going to happen. Was there five penalties or 21-yard frees on Sunday? That’s a hell of a lot for a game.

“You don’t normally expect that to happen, so maybe the referees are forewarned about it now at this stage and anyone coming up to take a penalty deserves the protection to be able to come up the field with a clear run, without having that.”