We waited fifty three years for an All-Ireland senior hurling final replay, and then we got two in a row. Fate can be unusual.
There has been a noticeable levelling off in standards, but coming after last year’s draw between Kilkenny and Galway is a surprise. Now Cork and Clare must occupy their time for three weeks preparing for the replay.
For many of the Clare players the focus switched immediately to under-21 final once they departed Croke Park. Manager Davy Fitzgerald bemoaned the fact that many of his under-21 players would have to focus on that final, but that game was a stroll.
A delay of three weeks to the replay is not satisfactory. It must be difficult to keep the players focused for that time after the heights of an All-Ireland final. Ideally the replay should be played the following Sunday, but logistically that would be difficult with an all-ticket game in a full Croke Park.
In addition, there is a long-standing arrangement with the Camogie and Ladies Football Associations to use Croke Park for their finals. And there is also the All-Ireland football final on Sunday.
Aside from the long delay which the players have to endure, the club fixtures in both counties have been seriously discommoded. Cork has an impressive track record of getting games played. Nevertheless, the extra three weeks will cause difficulties.
The Clare club scene has also been upset. Assuming there is a winner in the replay, the Clare players will see relentless activity during October and November. Whether the county has representatives in the Munster club championships is now a matter for the Munster Council.
There will be plenty of time to analyse the prospects of both teams in the replay. Clare know they should have won the first day, yet will be grateful that they produced the levelling score.
Cork don’t have to be told that their play was ragged for three quarters of the game. Clearly there is major scope for improvement. The All-Ireland hurling final may have been the major sporting story of the week but vying for the headlines was a raft of inter-county mentor changes.
John Allen’s past history of not prolonging his stay with any team meant he departed Limerick after two seasons. He achieved a lot and the winning of a Munster title was reward for his trojan efforts.
Of course he will be bitterly disappointed at his side’s tame performance against Clare in the All-Ireland semi-final. Limerick is not the first and certainly will not be the last team to freeze in the Croke Park cauldron.
The reappointments of Anthony Daly in Dublin and Liam Dunne in Wexford were anticipated. Daly has unfinished business. Dunne has a far more challenging task. Offaly is on the lookout for a new manager after Ollie Baker’s departure.
In Kilkenny the departure of Martin Fogarty would have been a surprise. His replacement by James McGarry and Derek Lyng was not. Fogarty has been the astute statistician and analytical brains behind the Kilkenny squad since he arrived on the senior scene in 2004.
His ability to read the play and tactical nuances of opponents was regularly used to good effect as Kilkenny won six All-Ireland titles. The Castlecomer man made an immense contribution, and he will be back some time.
James McGarry and Derek Lyng are good choices as selectors. Their commitment as players under Brian Cody’s management was unquestioned and their performances typified the type of individuals Kilkenny needs to get back to the top of the ladder.
The appointment of the two former All-Ireland medal winners is for the long term. They are starting their inter-county apprenticeship under the best tutor in the game. Michael Dempsey’s continued involvement was crucial and is most welcome.
Brian Cody has assembled an excellent team. The appointments last week were a timely reminder to everyone that Kilkenny is already planning for better days ahead even before the 2013 All-Ireland title is decided.