PAIRC LIFE: The brand new Pairc Uí Chaoimh will open this weekend with a Cork Co. SHC game, before Tipperary and Clare will play their All-Ireland SHC Quarter-final there on Saturday week. A day later it will be the turn of Waterford and Wexford. Photo: Eddie O’Hare/Evening Echo.
It is fair to say that the pairing of Waterford and Wexford in yesterday’s hurling quarter final draw was favourably greeted in both counties as the tribes facing each other across the Suir/Barrow estuary will each fancy their chances against the other. This will be the third championship meeting between the counties in four years the first being in the Nowlan Park qualifier of 2014 when Wexford emerged victorious in Derek McGrath’s first year in charge and the second being in last year’s quarter final when the Waterford manager had his revenge with an emphatic ten point win in Thurles.
There is no doubt but that Wexford will be happier facing Waterford than going in against the Tipperary team that beat them in the Allianz League semi-final. The match up looks perfect as the common denominator is that both have beaten Kilkenny in this year’s championship, results that could never have been forecast at the start of the year.
The exit of Kilkenny last weekend was welcomed by all of the teams going forward to the quarter finals and semi-finals as none would want to meet them in Croke Park at the business end of the championship. Tipperary will now fancy their chances against Clare having seen off Dublin as comfortably as was expected and while Waterford could not have had the luxury to look beyond last Saturday’s clash with Kilkenny the game against Wexford delivers the best chance of getting through to another All Ireland semi-final and after that, with Kilkenny gone and Tipperary on the other side of the draw, the prospect of an All Ireland Final appearance would be very real.
Last weekend was huge for the GAA with games in the football championship spread across the country but all eyes were on Thurles where between Saturday and Sunday almost 80,000 hurling followers descended on the town. When it comes to catering for big match day crowds in terms of moving people to and from the venue no other country town does it as well as Thurles. With that in mind people waited anxiously for confirmation of the venue(s) date and times of the hurling quarter finals.
BUSY N25 TO CORK
In their anxiety to fill the new Pairc Ui Chaoimh for a grand opening the CCCC clearly jumped the gun in declaring that the All Ireland Hurling quarter finals, regardless of who was in them, would be played in Cork on next Sunday week. That was before Wexford supporters gave the Leinster Council an unexpected bonus of a 60,000 plus attendance at the hurling final against Galway. With Croke Park again ruled out next week because of the U2 concert there will be a lot of disappointed ‘Yella Bellies’ should they have to travel to Cork and share the ticket allocation with Waterford supporters who would be likely to bring 20,000 for the same game. Just imagine the chaos with tailbacks to Dungarvan from Killeagh on match day and hopefully there would be no heart attacks in the Waterford area on the same day.
While the capacity of Thurles would be slightly bigger than that of Cork there would be less bother for travelling supporters on the day.
It was to be hoped that someone would be present at the CCCC meeting to put the case for a common sense decision that would see the hurling games taken out of Cork given the pairings that are in it, with neighbours Tipperary and Clare going to The Gaelic Grounds on a Saturday and Waterford and Wexford filling Thurles on a Sunday. Alas the GAA is not noted for sensible decisions and as we write confirmation has been received that the commitment to Pairc Ui Chaoimh will be honoured and both quarter finals will take place there with Clare playing Tipperary at 3 p.m on Saturday and Waterford and Wexford supporters clogging the road from New Ross Bridge to the Jack Lynch tunnel on Sunday for a 3p.m. start. Given the poor turnout of Clare supporters in Thurles on Sunday last the capacity of the New Pairc Ui Chaoimh is unlikely to be tested for a 6 p.m start on a Saturday afternoon. Sunday will be a different story.
No Demand for Second Tier
In football the luck of the draw means a lot and who would have expected Carlow to be facing into a third round qualifier at home to Monaghan. Fair play to the fourth division side they were not exactly disgraced against Dublin but took full advantage of their games in the qualifiers that pitted them against fellow Division 4 sides London in Ruislip and then Leitrim in Dr. Cullen Park. Waterford would have fancied themselves against either of those teams and with Tipperary and Clare reaping the benefit of playing against top opposition it should not be surprising that there is no real appetite in players to be involved in a second tier championship.
Likewise any notion of a so called ‘Super 8’ in hurling should be ditched as, based on the teams still standing going into last weekend, Limerick would be outside the top eight. It is time to put Kerry back into the Munster draw with a home game promised against provincial opponents and a path into the qualifiers should they lose. Leinster should carry on as is with Antrim being facilitated in some way in a seeded draw.
With 60,000 attending the Leinster hurling final this year and 45,000 filling Thurles for the Munster final the case for an open draw and doing away with the provincial championships in hurling will be very much on the back burner for considerable time to come.