For the best part the Limerick senior hurling championship went along expected lines last weekend and we now know the four teams that will contest the semi finals.
Most supporters will hold the view that overall it was a poor weekend for hurling as the quality was not what one would expect at this stage in the championship. Seldom has a year passed that we don’t have a surprise and what saved the weekend for me was the game between Garryspillane and Emmets which was played in Kilmallock.
The crowds at most of the games were very disappointing but those who did travel witnessed a win for Garryspillane who produced their best hurling in the championship for some time. Long before a ball was struck in this game it was clear to see that the “Bouncers” were up for this game. Winning this game would mean so much to them and, given what had happened a couple of weeks previously with Emmets, it was clear they also were not going to bend the knee to a fellow team from the South.
Over the years Garryspillane have produced some of the finest hurlers the county has seen but it’s clear that they are struggling for numbers just like many other teams in the county. They could, of course, sit back and moan about their situation but instead they did what they always did and got on with it.
The firm and well cut sod in Kilmallock saw two teams give their all and right to the end they battled to see which one would march on to the semi final. Emmets have some fine players but you could see that not having trained together they would always find it difficult against a team like Garryspillane who could be relied upon to come with a massive challenge.
Many of the Emmets team had played the night before but, despite this, they did perform well. Stephen Walsh suffered a knee injury early in the first half and his loss was to prove crucial. He had started the game well and the fact that he had to go off played right into the hands of Garryspillane.
Walsh is an honest player who will give his all and his absence was sorely missed in the half backline.
Every team needs a leader and in this regard James Ryan produced his best game for his club in this year’s championship. Ryan took control at midfield and this is, and always was, his best position. At the age of sixteen, in 2005, he won man of the match in the County Final against Kilmallock and very rarely has this guy left his club down.
He was outstanding in this game, he scored two huge points but this power to win dirty ball and transfer it to the forwards had a telling impact in the outcome of this game. When this game was hanging in the balance and Garryspillane needed to take hold of it Ryan stepped forward again and displayed an honesty that other players could do well to follow.
Garryspillane left no stone unturned to win this game - Danny Hayes, who had emigrated to Australia earlier this year, was brought back and just like he did in the early rounds of this championship he delivered a performance despite having touched down from a long haul flight only a couple days previously.
It showed not only what the club means to him but also the people who made the decision to bring him back. It was that sort of spirit that was crucial to winning the game in the end, both teams had some fine players but what makes the G.A.A so special is the pride of the parish and we saw bags of that in this Garryspillane display against Emmets.
Other players stood up when needed, Michael O’ Donnell, now back at centre back, was commanding while Dave Ryan, who played most of this hurling at six, was the master of the square as he controlled the full backline. I was impressed also by Eoin Halligan, this low to the ground player knows how to play his role at corner back and his tigerish style will make him a handful for most forwards.
At the final whistle in this game we saw real joy being expressed by the players and supporters of Garryspillane. As I have mentioned in the games reports elsewhere in this paper, it reminded me of the scenes when they won the title in 2005.
One of the great gaels in Garryspillane for so many years has been John Tobin, at the end of the game he was like a man who had won the Lotto.
“I can’t believe it, we did it!” was his cry and you knew it was coming from the heart. John Tobin is the Treasurer of the club for well over thirty years. He has seen so many come and go but deep in his soul is that real love of this club. Men like him are not easy to find. He is not doing it for money but only for the love of his native place and the pride that hurling brings to his parish.
Those close to the team will tell you that they have gone further than they had hoped but they are now down to the last four and who knows what lies ahead for a team that will not be found wanting for heart and spirit?
I may be wrong, but I think there was a Novena in Adare earlier this year and I am now convinced that most of the lads playing hurling must have gone to it.
They started this championship very poorly but were thrown a life line when Emmets could only start with thirteen men in the final round of games. They just about overcame Patrickswell in their quarter final and to me this was a poor game of hurling.
The game was there for the winning for Patrickswell but they failed to push on from the goal scored by Lar Considine.
Patrickswell are waiting for young players to come through but they might have been better served had some of those young players being thrust into battle last Sunday. Adare are now just one hour away from a County Final place and they will have lots of experience at this stage of the championship.
Adare finished the game with fourteen men as Declan Hannon was sent off and will now miss the game with Garryspillane. Young David Dillon was injured, off the ball, in this game and had to go to hospital.
To see any player have to go to hospital is sad but when the incident happens off the ball then such practice has no place in hurling.
One thing that looked so wrong last Sunday in the Gaelic Grounds was the amount of mentors that were in around the field. It was poor to look at but it also made the referee’s job even more difficult. That aside the Gaelic Ground’s surface was top class for the games over the weekend. In the other games
Na Piarsaigh accounted for Ahane while Kilmallock had the better of Croom. The best game of hurling I saw over the weekend was between Blackrock and Mungret in the Intermediate championship. This was a great game and it’s been some time since I saw Mungret play so well.
They have players back now and with the likes of Brian Begley and Brian Tobin going well they could yet prove very difficult to beat. I had promised to look at the politics of Limerick G.A.A this week but I will get back to that once the championship is over.
Politics won’t go away and I can report that it’s well and truely underway now as certain men try to get their supporters ready for convention.