“There won’t be a cow milked in Clare for a week” is surely one of the most famous lines ever uttered during a sports commentayy in this country. So much so that it is regularly trotted out in the most ill-fitting of scenarios going. The quip has aged much better than he who spoke the immortal words!
Unless you’ve been under a rock for nigh on three decades, you’ll know that said memorable utterance materialised when Colm Clancy buried the goal which sealed Clare’s sensational annexation of the Munster SFC in 1992. I was fortunate enough to be in Croke Park when John Maughan’s Banner boys took on Dublin at Ireland’s penultimate hurdle (Meath defeated Cork at the same stage in the Minor) and it was one of the greatest atmospheres ever experienced in the old ground.
Likewise two years thereafter when Leitrim stunned the GAA world by emerging from Connacht for the first time since 1927. Another highly emotional day, given personal connections to so many special people from that great county, including Fergus O’Rourke and Sean Nealon – now sadly selling cars and pulling pints in the business district far away. The latter openly admitted he shed tears when Declan Darcy led his native county out.
Due to the unnecessary nonsense of still barring spectators from attending matches, followers of Cavan and Tipperary in particular were deprived of seeing their teams making rare but wonderful appearances in the home of Irish sport. You’d hope common sense might prevail and that a limited attendance may be permitted for both forthcoming Finals. Alas, common sense is not, in fact, all that common.
Akin to Cavan the night before, David Power’s Tipp team got off to a fine and composed start. Difference being, though, that unlike the Breffni men, the men from the south weren’t able to make their supremacy tell. Even when Brian Fox replied to Cillian O’Connor’s initial breaching of their defences, the fact that romance rarely gets a look in at the business end of the championship.
Their profligacy, and particularly the fact that it was Michael Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney who were errant would’ve been enough to shatter the morale without O’Connor going on to produce as good a personal performance as was ever seen in any game in Croke Park, let alone an All Ireland semi final. The Ballintubber star has been lighting up the football landscape for so long it’s hard to believe he’s only turning 28.
Mayo have a different flavour to them this year. No longer are they dependent on the usual suspects – Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan, Aidan O’Shea and O’Connor. They are still pivotal components, of course they are, but now their undoubted class is ably bolstered by the infusion of fresh talent in the guise of Eoin McLaughlin, Matthew Ruane and Tommy Conroy, not to mention having the returned and highly influential Tom Parsons among a very gifted and experienced backup battalion
For all the merited and justified bouquets being tossed in the direction of James Horan’s troops, the feeling that they are still too generous for their own good. With the greatest of due respect to the newly crowned kings of Munster, that they were able to plunder 3-13 against a porous western rearguard wouldn’t auger well at all for the Connacht champions heading in to tackle the greatest forward line to ever play the game.
Yet it is not only fitting the best two teams of the decade meet in the Gaelic football will face off in its finale, it’s probably just as well for the sake of the game on a broader scale because, perceived wisdom would be at least, that the green and red brigade stand the best chance of the possibility of a competitive and entertaining game of football. We live in hope.