Ah July in Ireland. Crap weather, teacher envy, Ice cream van music, occasional farmer’s tans, greyhound skirts, Liverpool fans getting ridiculously excited about the impending football season…. and the GAA. All things part of a customary Irish summer for which we are forever grateful. Things we can moan about – Irish people love that.
The respective pursuits of Sam Maguire and Liam McCarthy are in full swing. At the quarter-final stage in the All-Ireland Hurling series and the final round of qualifiers in the All-Ireland Football series, it would seem like a convenient time to write a blog about it [here’s a plug – went to Woodies for that], after all, sure aren’t Paddy Power offering money back if any Quarter Final or Qualifier match that ends in a draw. So, fill your flask up with the taay, make enough hang sandwiches to feed Croke Park and get a bag of Tayto before you read this brief preview. Y’know, create a bit of cultural ambience.
Being a Wicklow man, it’s also the point of the year where I adopt my father’s county Down as ‘native’ to me. It went well last season, but it will end prematurely when the northern men face champions Cork in a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland final. While much is made of Cork’s absentees, especially Colm O’Neill, they have put in superior performances to that of their opponents so far in the Championship. Down scraping by Clare and a flattering scoreline against Antrim suggest Connor Counihan’s men are worthy favourites. While Ulster football – and football in general – is as aesthetically pleasing a waking up beside Jo Brand – Kildare being so short against Derry baffles me slightly. They are inferior in many ways, but Donegal very much had the rub of the green in the Ulster final. With the Lilywhites usual wastefulness, limited firepower and Derry’s defensive tactics, this could be rather drab and tight. Luckily, it’s not televised. An overreliance on Jamie Clarke is enough for me to opt for Tyrone over Armagh, The Red Hands to cover the handicap.
As usual, what the hurling season lacks in quantity it serves up in quality and we’ve seen tight and interesting clashes thus far. As well as dominating, amazing performances. (We’ll have to invent new superlatives for Tipp) Galway’s stop-start season and Tipperary’s hammering of Waterford means their clash in the quarter-final is equally intriguing. Davey Fitzgerald and Waterford won’t want their pants pulled down and embarrassed again. The Deise are a passionate county, but Galway, with the Joe Canning factor, will probably just sneak it. Similarly Dublin won’t have it all their own way against Limerick and it’s by far the only match of the weekend where I see the odds being upset. Let us know how you think the weekend’s clashes will go? Take a pop at me. Or just have a good old moan about the summer?