HomeFootballClare host Kerry in final

Clare host Kerry in final


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Waterford’s William Beresford challenges Ciarán Downes of Clare in the Munster semifinal. [Inpho/Ryan Byrne]

The GAA is celebrating their 140th anniversary this year and there will be some events taking place later this year to mark that milestone. While the Munster Council is not going all the way back to 1884, they are staging their football final between Clare and Kerry in Ennis for the first time since 1919. With the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick not available this weekend Clare and Kerry agreed to the toss of a coin to decide whether the final would be played in Killarney or Ennis and so 105 years on the final returns to Cusack Park. In 1919 Kerry beat Clare on a score of 6-11 to 2-0 and while I don’t expect a similar scoreline on Sunday, Kerry should still win their 11th final in 12 years.

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 Kerry got a good test from Cork in their semi-final in Killarney, while Clare had an easy win over a poor Waterford team in their semi-final in Dungarvan. When people talk about Kerry’s chances of winning the Sam Maguire Cup this year, the name that inevitably comes up is David Clifford. He is a brilliant player, but he is always a marked man and I feel sometimes he tries too hard. But the Fossa star is not a selfish player and combines well with the other Kerry forwards. Kerry, where Gaelic football is like a religion, have won the Munster final 84 times, while Clare have had only two wins; the last of those was in 1992 when they beat Kerry in Limerick. The win 32 years ago lead to the famous line from RTE commentator Marty Morrissey when he said: ‘‘there won’t be a cow milked in Clare tonight.’’ Unless there’s a major blip with the Kerry attack I think all the cows will be milked in the Banner county on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, the Connacht final between Galway and Mayo in Salthill on Sunday is expected to be a much closer affair. Both counties have been the kingpins in Connacht down through the decades and they have both won the Connacht title 48 times. I was going to say that they have both won the Nestor Cup 48 times, but that wouldn’t be correct as the Nestor Cup was presented for the first time in 1958 to Galway captain Seán Purcell after their win over a Leitrim team that included the legendary Packie McGarty. We are all getting weary hearing about Mayo’s long wait for the Sam Maguire Cup, which is now coming up on 73 years. Mayo didn’t even get to the Connacht final in 2022 or 2023. However, Mayo are guaranteed a place in the Sam Maguire Round Robin series due to their final League position. They also won the National League Division One final last year in what was Kevin McStay’s first year in charge, but then they fell to Roscommon in the first hurdle in Connacht. No doubt Mayo are a gallant team, they can play well in Croke Park, but don’t seem to have that killer instinct.


Rugby returns to Croke Park on Saturday for the first time since 2010 when Leinster play Northampton Saints in the semi-final of the European Rugby Champions Cup. The last of the 15 Rugby internationals at GAA headquarters was the 23-20 defeat to Scotland in March 2010.  The second semi-final is on Sunday with Toulouse at home to Harlequins. And the final will be played at a soccer ground, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London, will be venue on May 25. That’s also the date for the FA Cup final in West London between the Manchester City and Manchester United. 



GAA president Jarlath Burns has pledged to find a “proper place” in the calendar for the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups. The flagship colleges competitions in football and hurling are traditionally played in the months of January and February, cutting across the pre-season inter-county competitions and the early rounds of the National League. It means that students are often expected to play three games in a week. There have been calls for the competitions to be played pre-Christmas and/or without inter-county players.
 Speaking in Limerick last week Burns, a Sigerson Cup winner with St Mary’s, Belfast in 1989, described the view of the third-level (as the college education sector is called generally in Ireland) championships as an “unrequited love.” 

He said: “Many other sports would give their right hand to have the footprint that the GAA has in our colleges and universities. But for the GAA, we have almost seen it in our master fixtures plan as being a nuisance. Where can we fit the Fitzgibbon and the Sigerson? Could we ask the students who are county players not to play for their Colleges? This is a terrible indictment of us and one of the plans I have for the Amateur Status Committee is to give a proper place to the Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cups in the calendar to allow those players, many of whom have scholarships from their colleges or provincial councils, to play and enjoy themselves. That’s a commitment I have given to Higher Education that I really want to fulfil.’’



The search for a new Republic of Ireland manager goes on, but meanwhile former manager Martin O’Neill has been appointed chairman of the League Managers Association in England to succeed Howard Wilkinson, who will retire when he turns 80 in November. O’Neill won the European Cup twice with Nottingham Forest during his playing days before a lengthy career in management followed. Wilkinson remains the last English manager to win the top flight league in England, as he was Leeds manager when won the last First Division title in 1991-92. O’Neill said: ‘‘I am extremely proud to be voted the new LMA Chair by my fellow managers. I am succeeding Howard Wilkinson who has, for over 30 years, overseen the growth of the LMA and served its members with great distinction, dedication and passion.’’


Former Republic of Ireland center-half Charlie Hurley died last week at age 87. Hurley won 40 caps for Ireland between 1957 and 1969 and was considered one of the best defenders in England throughout his career, where he was renowned for his aerial ability. Born in Cork City in 1936, Hurley moved to Essex with his family in May 1937 and began his football career with Millwall. He would later become synonymous with Sunderland, playing over 400 times for the Black Cats, and was named the club’s Player of the Century on the occasion of their centenary in 1979. Hurley finished his career at Bolton but it is at Sunderland where he is truly revered, earning the nickname ‘The King’ from their supporters. At the end their promotion campaign of 1963/64, Hurley finished second to England captain Bobby Moore in the vote for the Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year award. Paying tribute last week FAI President Paul Cooke said: ‘‘Our thoughts and prayers are with Charlie Hurley’s family and friends at this difficult time. It is over 50 years since Charlie won the last of his 40 caps but it is a measure of the esteem in which he was held in football that every Irish fan knows of the legend that was Charlie Hurley.’’                        

The death also occurred last week of former Welsh international Leighton James, at age 71. Capped 54 times by Wales, James played 399 games for Burnley in three spells and spent two years at Derby County. James also played for Swansea City, Sunderland, Bury and Newport County in a 19-year playing career before turning to management. He went on to manage a number of non-league clubs in England and Wales, the most high-profile being Accrington Stanley in 1997. In Wales managed Llanelli, Aberaman and Haverfordwest County. James also became well known in Wales after his playing days for some of his forthright views expressed as a radio pundit and newspaper columnist. He worked as a lollipop man at Penyrheol Primary School in a stroke in 2014.

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