IT wasn’t pretty but both Gort and Craughwell will share the same sense of relief to be still in the championship after Sunday’s lack-lustre, error ridden county semi-final in Athenry.
Neutrals would usually jump at the opportunity to see two of the county’s perennial title contenders over the past number of years do battle for another sixty minutes, but leaving Athenry around about 4pm on Sunday evening, few appeared too excited about the prospect of this weeeknd’s replay.
Things can only improve though surely? Granted the playing surface at Kenny Park, which had looked pristine prior to the first semi-final clash between Liam Mellows and Cappataggle, deteriorated as the day went on, players were blessed with as good an afternoon as could be expected this time of year for a game of hurling.
The game itself though, fell well short of expectations as defences dominated and even on a pitch as big as Kenny Park, space was non-existent in the middle third.
Albert Mullins’ botched attempt at an over-head pass (which resulted in a free out for a throw) when a simple shot on goal appeared on, summed up the comedy of errors that was the opening half.
Despite all of that however, and after a dreadful opening quarter where the only utterance from the crowd was the audible groans as numerous shots drifted wide and countless balls were spilled, the climax to the game gave fans a snippet of what these sides are capable of.
Last year’s clash between these two at this very stage provided a thrilling climax and after an abject 50 minutes of hurling, both sides got their act together realising it was there for the taking, as the pace of the game eventually shifted out of third gear.
That was in large part due to the exploits of Jason Grealish and Niall Healy as both men grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck in an attempt to haul their respective sides over the finish line.
Full report in this week’s Connacht Tribune