Surprises sprung and records set on a lively GAA club weekend

Kilmacud and Ballygunner claim three-in-a-row while St Brigid’s and Cushendall upset favourites in provincial deciders

On the first weekend in December, a number of windows opened on the GAA’s advent calendar.

All told, five provincial titles were decided with just two more to take place next weekend to complete the line-up for this season’s All-Ireland semi-finals.

There was a couple of unexpected results. St Brigid’s from Roscommon, who hadn’t won the Connacht football championship since 2012 when they went on add the All-Ireland, were outsiders against Corofin in Hyde Park on Sunday afternoon.

The new champions were from the start energetic, lively and ferociously accurate both in a defence that shut down Corofin and in which Roscommon All Star nominee Brian Stack excelled and in attack where his county colleague Ben O’Carroll raided with intent for his 1-7, 0-3 from play.


Unfortunately for the Galway champions, they were none of those things and but for a couple of well-crafted goals would have been even farther adrift than the 1-13 to 2-5 final score.

Manager Jerome Stack was delighted that his youthful team – largely in their early 20s – reaped the harvest of such an impressive and dominant display.

“Look, absolutely, but we got a good start and the goal we got from the penalty. I do think we were doing well at that stage, but you can often do well and come away with nothing so that was great.”

Liam Silke’s goal before the break could have been a lifeline for Corofin.

“Obviously up to the minute before half-time I would have been extremely happy but these things happen. Maybe because we’ve gone through a couple of games where its been tight and we’ve had to battle and it could have gone either way – maybe that [is why] we weren’t shells-shocked on it.

“We just regrouped and said we’d go about our business, we had maybe a rough spot for the first 10 minutes of the second half but then started to get our dominance back again.

“The forwards, Ben [O’Carroll] can come up with scores that a lot of people can’t, but the work rate amongst all of the boys up there from making hard runs to make options and getting back defensively was tremendous. They’ve put in a huge effort, and I’m delighted for them.”

He also praised full back Brian Stack, who made a big contribution from reining in key Corofin Forward Gary Sice to scoring and assisting at the other end – all after he had taken an apparently bad knock in the semi-final.

“He’s a brilliant footballer for Roscommon and a brilliant footballer for St. Brigid’s. Like, if you saw the game we had here where he went off towards the end, most fellas would have said that he’d play no more football this year. That’s not Brian Stack though, he’s a different man and made of different stuff.”

They will play the Munster champions, Castlehaven or Dingle, in next month’s All-Ireland semi-final.

There was history made in two provinces, as the three-in-a-row mark was reached for the first time in the Munster hurling championship when Waterford kingpins Ballygunner complemented their unprecedented 10 successive county title by winning the province for a third straight year.

Goals from Dessie Hutchinson and Kevin Mahony helped towards a 2-24 to 0-17 win over Clare champions Clonlara, which elevates them to a share of the most Munster titles won – five – alongside Blackrock from Cork.

Manager Darragh O’Sullivan said that the club had also known lean times on the road to this weekend.

“It’s brilliant. We’ve been here enough times after being beaten in Munster finals. Days like this when you see the whole of Ballygunner out, you can’t beat it. We’re delighted with the win.

“That’s why it is amazing to be where we are as a club. To be alongside Blackrock now for most Munster titles and when I was playing, we couldn’t win one. And we couldn’t get over the Clare teams. Now to say that we are equal top, level with Blackrock, three-in-a-row. Huge achievement for the lads.”

On Saturday, Kilmacud Crokes set a similar mark when defeating Naas 1-14 to 0-10 in Croke Park to win a third successive provincial title. A late scoring burst by the Dublin champions slightly distorted the scoreboard after a very competitive match but they were deserving winners.

Like Ballygunner, Kilmacud rise to join the leading teams on the roll of honour, fellow Dubliner club St Vincent’s and Portlaoise, with seven Leinster championships.

The All-Ireland hurling semi-finals will be played in a fortnight. Ballygunner take on St Thomas’ from Galway. There was a slight surprise in Ulster when Ruairí Óg from Cushendall defeated a fancied Slaughtneil. Well on top, the Glensmen had productive outings from man of the match Ed McQuillan, who scored 0-4 from play, and Joseph McLoughlin with 0-3.

They will face Kilkenny champions O’Loughlin Gaels, who survived an exciting Leinster final against Dublin’s Na Fianna on Saturday in Croke Park, snatching a win at the very end with a terrific free from captain Mark Bergin. But Gaels’ man of the match was Kilkenny’s Paddy Deegan who dominated the middle of his team’s defence and also powered out for 0-5 from play.

Fixtures for the hurling semi-finals will be made this week.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times