Saturday 22 October 2016

Curveball: Green-eyed Munster can only envy the Leinster SHC


AS we pen this intro, Hurling Man is already entering that familiar state of wide-eyed mania that can foretell one thing only - the Munster championship is almost upon us.

He will cease to make any coherent sense about work, family, politics, Ireland's Eurovision prospects, variable mortgage interest rates or an even greater scandal - the price of a pint.

He may be a 'Yes' man or a 'No' man but when he enters the marriage referendum polling booth today, he will struggle with that most basic of motor skills - writing an 'X'.

His abrupt loss of functionality has got nothing to do with some moral dilemma and everything to do with Clare and Limerick on Sunday.

His brain is fried; his head melted. Ask him to explain that stupefied grin on his face and he will stammer: "It's the M-M-Mawnster championship ... this S-S-Sunday ... in T-T-Tom Semple's old field. G'wan the Banner! Plough into 'em, Limerick!"


Visitors from Mars - or Monaghan - will presume he said 'Monster' and sprint for cover, fearing an invasion of green-eyed goblins and goliaths. Pedants will ask if he's referring to the Munster football or hurling championship, and be shot on the spot for treason.

Curve Ball has a genuine fondness for the dominant species of Hurling Man - Home Erectus Munster Championship Man.

However, in the Referendum Day that's in it, we feel compelled by the interests of balance and fairness to give the other side of the debate, one that questions the omnipotence of this ancient Irish institution.

Thus, here are five compelling reasons why, in the sporting pantheon, our beloved 'Monster' championship ranks marginally ahead of the O'Byrne Cup ...

(1) Only two Munster counties have won the All-Ireland SHC title in the last nine attempts - Tipperary in 2010, Clare in 2013. Leinster has gorged itself on the other seven, irrefutable proof of the superior strength of ... eh, Kilkenny.


(2) In those last nine years, not once have the Munster champions gone on to snare Liam MacCarthy. The last county to achieve this tantalising double was Cork in 2005. Clearly, being best in your own back yard is no measure of national supremacy.

(3) How can any county claim to be undisputed Munster hurling champions when the province's most successful GAA county in terms of All-Ireland senior titles doesn't even enter the competition? (If you don't believe us, try adding Cork's 30 hurling and seven football titles, then compare it to Kerry's 37 football titles and one hurling All-Ireland from all the way back in 1891 ... hah!)

(4) The greatest hurler of all, with the statistics to prove it, never played in the Munster SHC. Sorry, did you say Christy? It's Henry, not Christy, for Chrissakes!

(5) Whoever loses in Thurles on Sunday will have another shot at the All-Ireland.

But if Laois lose to Westmeath on the same afternoon, their summer will almost certainly be over - and if Carlow lose to Antrim, the Henry Shefflin Cup beckons.

Ergo, the most important matches this Sunday take place in ... the Leinster hurling championship. Case closed!

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