GAA review for 21/22 June

By Liam Carroll

In another action packed weekend of GAA goodness, six counties booked their places in provincial finals.

On Saturday, the Mayo footballers set up a Connacht final clash against either Sligo or Galway after they destroyed a young and inexperienced Roscommon side in Castlebar. John O’Mahony’s side demonstrated a lethal first half display and obliterated their opponents after an emphatic three goal display, the strikes coming from Aidan Kilcoyne, a penalty from the experienced Pat Harte, the third came from Aidan O’Shea.

Their first half showing ended the match as a contest and ensured that the Yew County finished the game with twenty points to spare. Their 3-18 to 0-7 victory suggests that they are capable of winning their first Connacht Championship since 2006.

North of the border, All-Ireland Champions Tyrone booked their place in the Ulster SFC final after a comfortable eight point win over Derry at Casement Park. Billed as one of the matches of the season, the game failed to live up to its expectations.

The Red Hands won the game with cut-throat efficiency and purpose, with the stand out performer being the energetic Kevin Hughes, whose dominance in the centre of the park launched wave after wave of Tyrone attack. After a relatively tight first half, the O’Neill County rallied in the second half to a 0-15 to 0-8 victory.

In hurling, Kilkenny met Galway in the Leinster SHC semi-final in a compelling clash in Tullamore. Kilkenny lived up to their billing as favourites to claim a staggering fourth All-Ireland title in a row after coming from behind to deny a marvellous effort from the Tribesmen. Brian Cody’s side, who were trailing for large portions of the game, ended all hopes of the Bob O’Keefe crossing the Shannon for the first ever time with nine points in a row in the closing period.

As expected, Galway’s wonder kid, Joe Canning, and Kilkenny’s maestro, Henry Shefflin, produced magnificent displays, scoring a remarkable 2-19 between them. The Noresiders left Tullamore with a four point victory over the men from the west, with a final score of 3-13 to 2-20. Galway can take confidence from their display and no-one can rule out a repeat clash of these giants before the end of this year’s championship.

The other match on the east coast saw Dublin book their place in their first Leinster SHC final since 1991. They overcame Wexford by two points at Nowlan Park in a tight encounter to set up a date with All-Ireland Champions Kilkenny on July 5th.

Although there was no silverware on offer last Sunday afternoon, the Dublin faithful celebrated their 0-18 to 1-13 win as provincial or All-Ireland success, as the Metropolitans ended their 18 year wait for a crack at the Bob O’Keefe Cup.

“I was in Tullamore on Saturday night and mother of Jesus. Have we any chance at all? Galway gave them everything and they still had something left. Incredible. But listen, we are into an All-Ireland quarter-final. That’s what Dublin hurling needs at the moment.

We will be hurling till late July at least.” -Dublin manager Anthony Daly on their success in the Leinster SHC semi-final. The Dubs won’t be expecting miracles in their David v Goliath encounter with Kilkenny.

Also in Munster, two final provincial spots were up for grabs. Last year’s All-Ireland Runners Up Waterford met Limerick on Saturday evening where they battled it out once again for one of those places, and Babs Keating’s Tipperary came up against the Banner County of Clare.

In a fast, open and direct game of hurling, Davy Fitz’s Waterford free scoring outfit overcame a Limerick side that remained competitive until the very end. Aided by Eoin Kelly, who scored 12 points, and John Mullane (0-6), they defeated Limerick by 0-25 to 0-17.

At The Gaelic Grounds, Tipperary survived a second half Clare comeback to plot their course to another Munster SHC final. Tipperary, the reigning Munster champions, led by 2-11 to 1-08 at the break. Early into the second half, Tipp increased their lead to nine, with a goal from John O’Brien.

But Clare dug deep and ensured that Tipperary would be made to sweat it out until the end. However, with some key Tipp scores late into the game, the buffer was restored to three points and the rot stopped setting in the Tipperary side. The Premier County’s eventual 3-18 to 1-22 victory set up a 12th July showdown in Thurles.

Also, at Sunday teatime, the draw for the first round of the hurling and football qualifiers took place. In the hurling qualifiers, the tie of the round sees John McIntyre’s Galway side pitted against Clare, still licking their wounds after their loss to Tipperary at Semple Stadium. In football, the most entertaining spectacle is an all-Ulster affair.

Monaghan clash with Armagh and it promises to be a bruising encounter. Monaghan always seem to be dealt the short end of the straw, and it is no different this year as they play Peter McDonnell’s very experienced and athletic Armagh side.

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