Poor Mayo. Poor, poor Mayo. I'm sure the last thing they want now is sympathy but it's hard not to feel for them on yet another All-Ireland final loss. Even Galway lads might experience a pang this week for their neighbours.
Mayo brought one of the best teams to a replay and still at the final whistle were just pipped by a single point. Beaten by a better team and in some ways, possibly beaten by themselves.
When Mayo and the Dubs meet, the eye is always drawn to the Lee Keegan v Diarmuid Connolly battle. The most naturally gifted footballer of our generation against the tightest of markers. More often than not it's Keegan who has come out on top.
I created an illustration (above in GIF form, below in original form) based on their duel, on the premise that whoever came out on top may well lead to their team claiming the Sam Maguire. In the illustration, I have the "mountain" that Mayo must climb illustrated in the profile of Diarmuid Connolly's head and famous jawline. The jaw may be more pronounced than real life but only slightly so! His marker, Lee keegan is seen hanging off the cliff face, trying to reach the summit where he could finally get his hands on the Sam Maguire.
There is a mountain goat just below him, chewing a Dublin jersey - a nod back to the drawn game where Connolly was left with his jersey in shreds.
I had a leaning towards Mayo before both games. I feel we were robbed of what may have turned out to be the greatest of clashes in the Keegan and Connolly saga. Keegan had notched ahead in this battle, scoring a superb goal before the ridiculous black card intervened and left Connolly without his admirable foe.
Dublin turned the screw and sent on the best of their bench to reclaim the cup for the second year running.
Mayo are left dangling for yet another year.
On the 4th of June, Meath defeated Antrim in the Christy Ring Cup Final by a point. Antrim were huge favourites going into the game but the Royals seemed to claim a famous victory. However it turned out that the referee and the scoreboard operator had the incorrect score at the end and the game had actually ended in a draw.
After a few days deliberation both teams agreed to a replay of the final on the 25th June in Croke Park. Again, the men from the Glens were favourites to win but the Meathmen pipped them with the last puck of the game in extra-time.
Meath captain James Toher is one of the very few to lift the same cup twice in one year.
It was like Groundhog Day for the Royals...
Pádraic Collins, better known as Podge, is back on the inter-county hurling scene this year having concentrated sole with the county footballers last year. Podge's father is the current football manager and his brother is also on the team.
Podge stood out in the minor and U21 grades for Clare and made his debut for the seniors in 2012.
A year later he played a huge role in securing an All-Ireland for the Banner County after a replay victory over Cork. He was nominated for Hurler of the Year and won his first All Star that year.
He's one of the most exciting players around and covers every blade of grass for Clare.
It's tough being a Wexford GAA follower these days. The U21s gave us something to shout about for the past 3 years but limped out tamely in their first game this year. The senior hurlers were poor against Dublin and the footballers lost out on League promotion from Division 4.
From the highs of the hurlers beating Clare and Waterford in 2014, the footballers competing for Leinsters, to where we are now, down near the bottom of the pack again, it's tough to be a yellow belly!
Learning to make GIFs lately and I thought the boul Davy was ripe for "GIFing" up.
Here, Davy follows the play on the sideline, when suddenly an incident occurs. Davy disagrees with the incident of course and vents his frustration, typically towards the poor referee in charge.
As ever, Davy's blood boils when he doesn't get his way and he blows his top.
Good ol Davy.
It's be a boring place without him!
Had to come up with a new Board Game for the Official 2015/16 GAA Annual. Here's the result.
2015 was the first year since making his debut in 1999 that we didn't see Henry Shefflin in action for the Kilkenny seniors.
One of the greatest hurlers ever, he collected his 10th winning medal after last year's All-Ireland win against Tipperary in a replay. He decided to call it a day in early 2015, leaving behind an illustrious career in the Black and Amber.
The comic strip I made here was inspired by an article in the Irish Times by Keith Duggan (Link here)
I had originally sketched this out earlier in the year but completely forgot about it until the recent news of his upcoming autobiography.
He proved a big thorn in Wexford's side down through the years but every county that came up against him and his team felt the brunt of his powers too.
Long live King Henry.
Well this image exploded!
It was a special moment though and one that I felt I had to capture in some way. ‘Hurler on the Ditch’ strips usually have some comical (to just me maybe!) element to it. This one told a different story.
Watching it at home on my couch, the game was already special in itself but Noel McGrath stepping on to the Croker sod again, in the 62nd minute, added an extra element to the occasion. A man - a young man - who had just come back from a battle with testicular cancer - was thrown into the heat of this contest played out before our eyes. A lump in the throat moment then as all supporters applauded him onto the field. He wasn’t sent on for wholly sentimental reasons either. The sides were level and he was needed to win the game for Tipp. He almost did too!
At first I had planned on just an image of Noel McGrath but I thought the whole story and background to it could be told better in a strip. The quote, I partially took from the TV series “Friday Night Lights” and just reworded a little. The story seemed to touch a lot of people (over 3000 likes unbelievably).
Then cancer does touch a lot of people too.
My own father died 7 years ago, aged 54, from a very short battle with cancer. He died the night before Kilkenny’s 3-in-a-row All-Ireland win against Waterford actually. Being a proud Wexfordman, that would probably have killed him anyway but for the oul cancer getting there first!
But, as Noel McGrath showed that Sunday….there are some battles you win!
Download a free Hi-Res poster of it here to print off yourself at home
The Hurling championship will hopefully spark to life this weekend when we have the Quarter-Finals between Dublin and Waterford and Cork and Galway. The games, the crowds, the match programmes, the consequences - they all get bigger this time of year.
All four teams battle it out for the chance to take on either of the big guns - Kilkenny and Tipperary, in the All-Ireland semis at Croke Park.
A lot of talk these days about tactics playing a bigger part in hurling - mainly due to Waterford's defensive strategy which brought them huge success until they came up short against Tipperary in the Munster final a couple of weeks ago. Kilkenny have played sweepers for a few years now and Clare adopted that tactic too to deliver a Liam MacCarthy a couple of seasons ago.
Anyway, it was interesting to read on GAA.ie Brian Hogan's viewpoint on the game since he's retired.
Hogan believes a team's hunger is still what drives them on more and that tactics only play a smaller part.
You can read the Brian Hogan piece here
This all brought back to me a famous Cyril Farrell quote when working as co-commentator for a Kilkenny game on RTÉ.
I recreated it in the illustration below-