Sports – Weekend Hurling And The Confederations Cup

Watching Cork batter Clare in the second half of their Munster semi-final, I came to the conclusion that the rebels were being made to look better than they really are. A strong breeze in their favour would account for a turnaround from the half-time deficit of three points, but the score of the second half was 14 points to four. That isn’t some weather-caused aberration. Clare imploded in the second half, especially in the half-back line, making a lot of bad errors and fouling indiscriminately, gifting Cork point after point.

They were also poor in front of goal, making a few chances for three points, but taking none of them. If Limerick can maintain the defensive cohesion they displayed for most of their game against Tipp, and hit Cork’s iffy backs for a few goals, I think they can win the Munster championship. I have little fear of Cork, and with the game in Limerick’s stadium, I think a lot of advantages have already fallen the Shannonsiders way.

A pity that Dublin couldn’t hang on against Kilkenny. Hurling at the senior level could badly do with the kind of shake-up that defeats to Tipperary, Kilkenny, and nearly Galway last weekend would represent. Dublin are unlikely to have the same chance to get one over on Cody in a replay.

I also want to note that TV3’s GAA coverage is one of the worst live sports programs I’ve ever seen. Cameramen have trouble finding the ball, replays are shown while the game is ongoing, the commentators are listless, Matt Cooper isn’t anywhere near sports presenter level and the whole thing has an intensely amateur feel. While I dislike Pat Spillane as much as any person with the slightest shred of logic, RTE generally offers a far superior product.

Speaking of Spillane, he claimed last night that the provincial system in football was still the best way for small teams to win a regional championship. Perhaps he can tell any of Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford or Clare at what point they can expect to end that 80 year wait for a Munster Football Championship? Ah well, as long as Cork and Kerry get their yearly game with each other. The provincial system is an antiquated joke in hurling that is being phased out, and is one of the reasons why football is dominated by a select group of teams. Pat Spillane and his ilk have their minds hooked to another era.

Aside from the political trouble happening outside the stadiums, the Confederations Cup has offered a decent amount of entertainment. I notice that when it comes to Tahiti, more disdain can be seen coming from professionals who question the point of even allowing them in the tournament in the first place. I would tend to sympathise somewhat with this viewpoint, mostly because there is zero benefit to any team on either side of a 10-0 drubbing like Tahiti suffered through last week, or the 8-0 last night. Spain looked bored with proceedings, and so was I.

Tahiti got a lot of support from people (though, not as much last night, maybe because their game wasn’t televised), but it’s important to recognise that it didn’t have to be this way. New Zealand, a team not that far above the level of Tahiti, ground out three draws at the last World Cup playing a very defensive game. Tahiti could have done that, reduced the damage or maybe even stole a point off Nigeria, but choose not to do that. It is Tahiti’s choice what kind of game they want to play, and if they want to open up and attack against Spain, so be it. But it is inaccurate to claim that the 10-0 scoreline was inevitable. If Tahiti are satisfied with that, fine, but New Zealand proved in 2010 that Oceanic teams can get something off the bigger nations. And they went on to lose to New Caledonia in the OFC Nations Cup, who in turn lost to Tahiti, so the difference between them isn’t that big.

As for the rest, I would fancy Spain to beat Brazil in the final, having barely broken out of first gear mode throughout the tournament. Some may decry Spain’s type of play as “boring”, but the system they have in place has become so refined, so tested, that tournaments of this sort are just another day at the office. The Iberians run up the scores as necessary, maintain possession, and wait for the medals to be presented.

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