Pitching up slapstick, pantos and replays


Rarely can thoughts of summer have been more distant than yesterday when, on drenched and lethal fields, the finest clubs in Ireland presented cabarets based on slapstick and high drama.

Late scores forced replays in both the Leinster and Munster club football finals, while Ballina completed their first march through Connacht with a shining win on home turf. Rathnure, as anticipated, emerged from the shallows of Nowlan Park as Leinster hurling champions.

In Tullamore, Eire Og and Kilmacud Crokes clowned about in sloshing mud, occasionally bothering the umpires with points and offering supporters the dubious pleasure of another replay when Muckle Keating inadvertently sent a lobbed ball over the Crokes' crossbar to leave affairs at seven points a piece.

After playing over four minutes of injury time, referee Brian White opted to abandon the planned period of extra time, although there was a feeling that the fare might have been more palatable under the cover of darkness.

The authorities meet this morning to decide whether the replay should go ahead on Sunday or in the New Year. In Munster, Tipperary's Moyle Rovers and Doonbeg from Clare will also match up again. Although faced with conditions which also invited vaudeville, both teams defied Nature to piece together a tale which belongs to more benign seasons.

Doonbeg, trailing throughout, looked dead on their feet when Francis McInerney belted home a late goal to tie the match at 1-8 to 2-5 and prompting the referee to call it quits immediately. Meanwhile, Ballina Stephenites continue to tip-toe brightly towards the big date on the club football calendar, while Rathnure, from Wexford, have risen again, best in Leinster for a sixth time.