Hurling the big winner with O’Neill

Liam O’Neill’s Congress address focused on a number of key areas. The Laois man outlined the initial work being undertaken on the next GAA Strategic Plan and the excellent response received to a recent on-line questionnaire, writes Nickey Brennan.

Liam O’Neill’s Congress address focused on a number of key areas. The Laois man outlined the initial work being undertaken on the next GAA Strategic Plan and the excellent response received to a recent on-line questionnaire, writes Nickey Brennan.

Over 14,000 responses were received, 10% from outside Ireland. The respondents covered all areas of the GAA giving what the President described as a positive outcome. The process identified a number of areas which could be improved.

The President expressed frustration at the pace of discussions with camogie and ladies football towards their integration with the GAA. This process also includes GAA handball and GAA rounders. There was a clear determination, though, that this issue will be high on his agenda in his final year.

The President expressed a strong view on the structure of Féile-na-nGael and Féile Peil na nÓg, plus the national Scór competitions. Changes in the format will be outlined in more detail in the coming months. Whether the changes will suit everyone remains to be seen.

Hurling was the big winner in the President’s address with significant additional funding being made available over the next five years. Antrim, Laois, Carlow and Westmeath will be the primary recipients of the funding but it remains to be seen what impact the money will have on the game.

The President again reiterated his desire for a debate on the state of hurling. He concluded: “we may decide to change some things or we may decide to postpone change, but change will happen!”

With a large delegation from overseas present the President lauded the growth of the GAA abroad, noting that the Middle East County Board was present at Congress for the first time. It was a fine address from the President.

Ten goals, 10 substitutions and €10 into Nowlan Park on Sunday. No argument about value for money in this NHL clash!

Those fortunate to be present saw another classic encounter between the game’s greatest rivals. This tie was untypical of most Kilkenny and Tipperary encounters, with defensive frailties sending alarm bells ringing for team mentors.

Kilkenny’s ‘never say die’ attitude was again at the heart of their first League win of the year. We expect Kilkenny to battle, but in a February league tie when a side is down 10 points huge heart is required.

That ‘never say die’ attitude was typified in particular by Colin Fennelly who is oozing leadership right now and is currently the top performing hurler around.

His speed and athleticism bamboozled Tipperary, especially in the second half when he was being marked by Brendan Maher and Conor O’Brien.

The importance of a strong squad was again emphasised by the introduction of Paul Murphy, Richie Hogan and Eoin Larkin. All three make a telling impact, unlike Tipperary’s substitutes, whose introduction made little difference.

Man of match

Tipp’s Seamus Callanan vied with Colin Fennelly for man of the match. He caused endless problems for a Kilkenny defence that was far from assured. It did improve immeasurably after the break.

Tipperary’s roving style caused Kilkenny huge problems in the first half with the Cats defence unable to cope with the pace of their opponents. But Tipp’s decision to opt for an extra defender in the second half badly backfired.

Such a tactic demanded a much higher work rate form the attack, but it was not forthcoming. Aside from Callanan, Tipperary had no player in the second half who came anyway close to matching the efforts from the opposition.

In a tense closing 10 minutes Richie’s Hogan’s control of midfield was a major help to Kilkenny.

With the breeze in their backs the entire team sensed another Tipperary scalp, and they went for it.

Late goals from Mark Kelly and Colin Fennelly made it another memorable result for Kilkenny.