Tipperary hurlers crush Cats in All Ireland decider

Tipperary are All Ireland hurling champions for the 28th time after a comprehensive win over a 14-man Kilkenny side in the rain-soaked final at Croke Park.

The Cats led by five points after 21 minutes but a well-timed goal and a controversial sending off swung momentum towards Tipperary who went on to claim their third title of the decade.

Brian Cody's men had the better of a scrappy opening period but a goal from Niall O’Meara kickstarted Tipp’s revival. Then, just before half-time, former Hurler of the Year Richie Hogan was dismissed for a high challenge on Tipperary’s corner-back Cathal Barrett.

Niall O’Meara celebrates after scoring one of Tipperary’s three goals in the All Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Niall O’Meara celebrates after scoring one of Tipperary’s three goals in the All Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Tipperary led by a point at the interval, 1-09 to 0-11 but, like their old rivals have so often done to them, they came storming out in the third quarter.

Captain Seamus Callanan and John 'Bubbles' O’Dwyer, heroes of the 2016 win against the Cats but ineffective until that point, struck 1-01 apiece to send Tipp streaking eight clear by the 42nd minute.

Kilkenny needed goals after that but Tipperary used the extra man to good effect, Ronan Maher superb in restricting Colin Fennelly to a single point on the day and, though TJ Reid led the fight to the end, Tipp’s substitutes again all got in on the scoring spree to close it out comfortably by 14 points.

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Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy said his players had answered their critics.

"People have questioned their character, and their ability to go into the trenches," the Tipperary manager told RTÉ Sport's Clare MacNamara after the game

"Today they gave all the answers inside the white lines, and ultimately it's not about me, it's about that wonderful group of players that have given me everything since the middle of November.

"Thankfully they get their just rewards today."

Veteran Kilkenny master coach Brian Cody said Tipperary were the superior side, but stressed that losing Hogan was an important moment in the game.

"Richie was sent off and that obviously changed the complexity of the game in a serious way," he told RTÉ Sport after the game.

When asked if it was a harsh call, Cody replied: "I wasn't expecting a red card, I was very close to it obviously. I can't definitively say, I'm not going to start making excuses or crying about things either.

"The only thing I will say is you need to be very, very certain to issue a red card. And there was a big discussion for quite a while between the referee and linesman. He went over, examining people and everything else.

"Obviously he wasn't too sure himself but you'd want to be very, very sure to issue a red card." 

The defeat completed a miserable day for Kilkenny after their Minor team was hammered by an impressive Galway outfit, 3-14 to 0-12.

Kennelly defends AFL recruitment of young Irish stars

Sydney Swans coach Tadhg Kennelly says he understands the frustration of some GAA fans who see talented young players abandon Ireland for a crack at Aussie Rules.

But the popular Kerryman defends the pathway as a great opportunity to play professional sport.

Two years ago Kennelly was criticised in the Irish media by his former Kerry team-mate Tomás Ó Sé for his part in taking top prospects away from GAA in his role then as AFL Talent Coordinator.

“I see both sides of the argument,” the now 38-year-old said in a revealing interview with the Irish Echo.

“I understand if I was a young man at home in Kerry and I’m watching Mark O’Connor go and play for Geelong.

“I wouldn’t be happy. It would be tough to watch because that’s what you bleed at home, you bleed Kerry football and you don’t want to see your best talent going.

“But I also see the other side of the argument. He’s a young man getting an opportunity to play professional football, getting to challenge himself in a game he knows nothing about and an opportunity to put it up against people in a game that you don’t know. I understand both sides of the argument. Which one’s right? Who knows?”

Kennelly is in a unique position of having reached the pinnacle of both games: in 2005 with the Sydney Swans and in 2009 with Kerry.

“I’ve been able to live both of them, going back to play football at home and getting to play as a professional here with the Swans,” he said.

“It’s a tough one and I see both sides of the argument. But I also understand there’s been close to 70 Irish players that have come out here. There’s only a handful of us who have played over 150 games of AFL football, the majority go back.

“That’s the first thing I say to players or anyone who talks to me about coming out here. It’s f**king hard and it’s a hard thing to do because you’re playing a game you knew nothing about, you haven’t been able to grow up with it, you don’t understand it and it’s tough. The majority of players go back and they go back better Gaelic footballers because they have lived in an environment of being a professional for a couple of years.”

In 2009, Tadhg Kennelly became the first irishman to win both an AFL Premiership and an All Ireland Championship.

In 2009, Tadhg Kennelly became the first irishman to win both an AFL Premiership and an All Ireland Championship.

Kennelly is also a veteran of International Rules, having played in six series. While he is a fan of the concept, he is not confident that the hybrid code can find a way forward.

“It’s difficult, it’s hard and I understand the demands on both codes as far as the GAA and AFL are concerned,” he said.

“There’s a lot going on, a lot on their plates. It’s hard to get momentum up because it’s a year, two years between games and it’s hard to get the momentum going.

“I’m a huge fan of it, it’s an opporunity for you to represent your country which both codes don’t get and you talk to any player who’s played in it, they absolutely love the experience and love playing for their country. I hope it does continue because it’s an opportunity to represent your country.”

Having spent his entire AFL career at the Sydney Swans, Kennelly returned to Sydney Cricket Ground two years ago and is now defensive coach.

He is also a member of the club’s Hall Of Fame having played 197 games for the ‘bloods’ becoming the first Irishman to win an AFL premiership in 2005.

In the extensive interview, Kennelly also revealed that if Kerry had not won the 2009 Championship, he may have stayed on in Ireland.

GAA calls time out on International Rules, Wild Geese game

Pearce Hanley is talked by Jobe Watson during the International Rules Series in Perth in 2014

Pearce Hanley is talked by Jobe Watson during the International Rules Series in Perth in 2014

There will no international rules series or Wild Geese Trophy hurling match in 2019, the Irish Echo has learned.

Since the last international rules series in 2017, there had been discussions about bringing the series or at least one of the test matches to America as the AFL looks to promote their game stateside.

But the Irish Echo understands that the GAA has reservations about taking the hybrid code to the US nominating the scale and style of the chosen venues.

Alan Milton, GAA Director of Communications, told The Irish Echo: "The GAA continues to work with the AFL on a five year plan for the International Rules Series. A number of issues, primarily relating to venues, meant it was not possible to stage the series this year.”

The AFL has made it clear that the decision to postpone the series was not theirs.

An AFL spokesperson told The Irish Echo: "The GAA has communicated to the AFL they do not plan to play an International Rules Series this year. We are yet to have a detailed discussion as to what the result of the GAA’s decision means for the AFL and its players."

The last international rules series took place in 2017 when GAA stars travelled to Australia but lost a tough series to their hosts. Australia took the first test in Adelaide by ten points and although the second test in Perth was closer, it still went to the home team, this time by three.

Action from the Wild Geese Trophy challenge match between Kilkenny and Galway in Sydney last November.

Action from the Wild Geese Trophy challenge match between Kilkenny and Galway in Sydney last November.

The series has been held every two years on average since its revival in 1998 but there was talk of not revisiting it after a bruising series in 2006 although the series returned in 2008 regardless.

Since that time, the number of Irish players - both male and female - playing Aussie Rules has soared. This weekend, seven Irish players will line out for their AFL clubs: Conor Nash and Conor Glass (Hawthorn), Conor McKenna (Essendon), Colin O’Riordan (Sydney Swans), Mark O’Connor and Zach Tuohy (Geelong) and Pearce Hanley (God Coast Suns).

Meanwhile the apparent financial failure of the Wild Geese Trophy event in Sydney last November appears to have influenced the decision to put that concept on the back burner.

The inaugural Wild Geese trophy match took place at Spotless Stadium, Sydney last November as part of the Sydney irish Festival. Then reigning All-Ireland champions Galway came back from fourteen points down to draw the match with league winners Kilkenny and claimed victory in a 65 yard free-taking contest.

The Wild Geese trophy match was enjoyed by fans in Sydney but the hurling was supposed to be a feature of a two day Sydney Irish Festival that should have also boasted music from Damien Dempsey, Mary Black, Lunasa and Saint Sister. However just five days before the event, it was announced there would be no music stars and the festival was cut to one day.

The debacle fed into a legal case being brought against the GAA by cide brand Bulmers (Magners in Australia).

Many took to social media and other outlets to complain about the poor organisation of the event, late notice, queues at bars and lack of children's entertainment.

Although the Wild Geese Trophy was supposed to have a future, it is understood to have been loss-making prompting the GAA to look at the impact it had on other fixtures.

"The GAA President has also established a Fixture Review Committee to examine the Association's various competition structures,” Alan Milton told the Irish Echo.

“In that context it was deemed prudent not to proceed with the Wild Geese competition this year but the staging of competitions such as this will form part of that review process."

Cider brand sues GAA over Sydney Irish Festival

An ad for last November’s Sydney irish Festival which ran into problems over poor ticket sales.

An ad for last November’s Sydney irish Festival which ran into problems over poor ticket sales.

The widely-criticised Sydney Irish Festival, which took place in November, is now part of a legal claim against the GAA.

The manufacturer of Bulmers is suing the GAA in Ireland’s High Court, claiming it reneged on a deal to put the cider brand on tap in Croke Park, according to The Times.

In its action Bulmers, owned by C&C Group, is claiming it had an agreement for “pouring rights” in GAA headquarters. But the liquor company also wants to recover sponsorship money it claims it is owed relating to the Sydney Irish Festival, a GAA event in Australia last November, because the event did not go ahead in the way it had been presented to the cider company.

It is understood that C&C Group believed that sponsorship of the festival was linked to securing “pouring rights” in Croke Park.

The two-day festival in Sydney, which was sponsored by Magners, as Bulmers is known in Australia, was reduced to a one-day event due to lower than expected ticket sales. Held in the Sydney Showground, the festival included a hurling match on November 11 between league champions Kilkenny and Galway, the All-Ireland champions of 2017.

Plans for a “family fun day” on November 10, featuring hurling clinics, amusement rides, player autograph sessions, activities for kids and a Guinness World Records attempt to make the world’s biggest Irish stew, were all cancelled just five days before the event.

Galway revellers at the ill-fated Sydney Irish Festival.

Galway revellers at the ill-fated Sydney Irish Festival.

Well-known ballad singer Mary Black, urban folk performer Damien Dempsey, electro-folk outfit Saint Sister and enduringly popular trad band Lúnasa had been scheduled to perform on the first day of the weekend festival. The announcement of the change was met with disappointment and rancour, especially from those who had booked travel from other states and/or time off work. The late change left them out of pocket on air fares and accommodation.

Many patrons who attended the event were quick to criticise the organisation of the day with long queues for the bars. When some reached the top of a long queue, they were further frustrated to find out they could only get two drinks per person.

Paul Sergeant of Paul Sergeant Events, who was the local organiser of the festival, told The Irish Echo that the hurling had been a huge success but “we were deeply disappointed that we had to make the difficult decision to cancel the Saturday events and we apologise for the inconvenience it will have caused.

“There has been plenty of positive feedback about the day but it was spoilt for some by their experience at the bars. The venue operator has to adhere by RSA [responsible service of alcohol] requirements specific to every event, hence the drinks limit and bar closure times,” Paul Sergeant said.

“We have discussed the issue of lengthy queues with the venue operator and they apologise for being unable to meet the huge demand.”

Asked if another festival is planned for the coming years, Mr Sergeant replied: “The 2018 event was very much a test event. A thorough de-brief will be held … and that will determine what happens in the future.”

Michael Cusacks double winners at Pearses sevens

Winners: Michael Cusacks ladies football team. PIC: Darken Sportz

Winners: Michael Cusacks ladies football team. PIC: Darken Sportz

MICHAEL Cusacks of Sydney were the big winners of the Padraig Pearses sevens, completing a double victory of both the hurling and ladies football titles. New South Wales took cups in three of the four codes with Sydney’s Cormac McAnallens also coming out on top in the camogie competition while Garryowen made sure the football title remained in Victoria.

Pearses sevens is the biggest club GAA tournament in Australia with participants coming from as far away as Western Australia and this one proved to be the biggest yet. The full day of family fun also included a petting zoo, live entertainment and an exhibition match by Kids GAA Melbourne. Special guests were Conor Nash and Conor Glass, two Hawthorn Irish AFL stars, who presented trophies to the lucky kids.

Michael Cusacks came out on top against Melbourne Shamrocks in the hurling final. Cusacks captain Frankie Culleton, said: “Over the moon, we were. When we start off the season, we try to focus on sevens and that’s our first goal of the season. You need a lot of luck down there as well.

Michael Cusacks men's hurling team winners.  PIC: Darken Sportz

Michael Cusacks men's hurling team winners.  PIC: Darken Sportz

“We had the two buses coming back so we had a cup on each bus but we weren’t long meeting up with each other when we got back. We headed out onto the town. We celebrated well anyway. “We won it two years ago and that was the first time we won it in the history of the club with the hurling. That was big but it was very special to be able to captain the side to win it as well.” Cusacks’ lady footballers had to overcome Cormac McAnallens to take the club’s other crown of the day. Captain Grainne McGread said: “It was an unbelievable day, such a great atmosphere and I think it’s probaby the highlight of the pre-season competitions that all the teams in Australia go to. There’s such a good atmosphere and everyone goes there for the football and the craic as well.

“I think it’s been nearly 10 years since Cusacks have won it so it was really good especially for the older girls who have been there and then the new girls as well, winning it and being successful for their first season. It’s motivated us to continue our success this season and definitely push us forward and start the season as we mean to go on.

” Cormac McAnallens got revenge in another code when they beat Michael Cusacks in the camogie final. Their captain Maria Brody said: “It was fantastic to get it because we have never won the camogie there before. We’re absolutely over the moon. It’s fantastic to get the win.

“A lot of our team this year are new players that are just out this year and they had never experienced the sevens before. I’ve been in Australia five years and I’ve been playing with Cormac McAnallens five years so it was great for me to get the win after five years of losing or getting to finals and getting hammered by other teams like Michael Cusacks but finally it was our turn this year. It was such a pleasure to be captain as well after five years of playing. Cusacks are our big rivals so it was extra sweet to beat them.”