Road to Croke Park: Tiered hurling finals clash with narrative

Cavan hurlers make it back to Croker 112 years later, Kerry and the best nicknames

Before Saturday’s Lory Meagher Cup final, the Cavan hurlers last played a championship match at Jones’ Road in 1909. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Before Saturday’s Lory Meagher Cup final, the Cavan hurlers last played a championship match at Jones’ Road in 1909. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Tankings

To beat an old drum, one of the accepted truisms of GAA analysis at present is that a tiered football championship would reduce the number of one-sided games.

Yesterday, Joe Brolly spoke of the need to “create competitions that are competitive”. “In hurling,” he wrote, “we don’t send Mayo out against Tipperary or Tyrone out against Limerick to be humiliated.”

The timing of these comments wasn’t great as the Ring, Rackard and Meagher hurling finals (tiers three, four and five) were decided by 21, 16 and 15-point margins.

That’s no outlier. An examination of the stats reveals that there are as many tankings, or more, in hurling’s lower tiers compared in football’s single one.

With five hurling tiers - last year, just three teams contested tier five - in hurling, games should be close. Yet taking a game with a double-digit margin as a mismatch, 39 per cent of matches in hurling’s four lowest tiers were mismatches in 2020 compared to just 31 per cent in football.

This year, the most one-sided in football history, is running at 41 per cent so far. The prosecution rests, as Joe might say . . .

Cavan’s return

Cavan hurlers made their return to HQ for the first time in, wait for it . . . 112 years.

The Breffni stickmen last played a championship match at Jones’ Road in 1909, the delayed 1908 All-Ireland semi-final. Back then, they had beaten Fermanagh, victors in Saturday’s Lory Meagher final, but lost next time out to Dublin.

History buffs may have spotted one familiar name on the Cavan line-out. Forward Philip ‘the Gunner’ Brady (who scored a goal) is a nephew and namesake of the county’s legendary three-time All-Ireland football winner of the 1940s and ‘50s, namesake Phil ‘the Gunner’ Brady, who first played in Croker in 1947.

Nicknames

Speaking of sobriquets, “they are mighty for their nicknames up in Tyrone,” commented Tomás Ó Sé on commentary for the Ulster final, which got us thinking. The Kingdom are not bad at it either; in fact, no county is anywhere close when it comes to iconic footballing nicknames through the decades.

Some of Kerry’s greatest players have included - deep breath - Kieran ‘Star’ Donaghy, Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper, Eoin ‘Bomber’ Liston, Tom ‘Gega’ O’Connor, Tim ‘Horse’ Kennelly, Denis ‘Ogie’ Moran, Paddy ‘Bawn’ Brosnan, Aeroplane O’Shea not to mention Jacko, Micko, Johno et al.

And of course, the late, great Radio Kerry broadcaster Weeshie Fogarty documented them all.

Punditry malapropism

After David Brady’s “I like their infection and their enthusiasm” comment last week, this week’s best punditry malapropism goes to Off The Ball’s excellent hurling analyst, Aidan ‘Taggy’ Fogarty.

Talking about Tipperary’s Munster final loss to Limerick, when Liam Sheedy’s men blew a big half-time lead, Fogarty commented: “I was a bit surprised at Liam clapping them in at half-time, I was kind of more suspecting that we’re going to get an entourage in the second half of absolute intensity out of Limerick.”

Number of the week

39: Championship goals scored by Tipperary’s Seamus Callanan, all of them coming from play. He grabbed two more against Waterford.

Quote of the week

“Fenton and Kilkenny and O’Callaghan, the holy trinity, are not really functioning that well.”

Colm O’Rourke comes over a little blasphemous at half-time in the Leinster final.

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