Usually at this stage of the sporting season my attention is focussed on just one of the teams I favour: Leeds United, who have returned to the top division of English football after 16 seasons in lower divisions. The All-Ireland finals in Gaelic sports (hurling and Gaelic football) are usually in September. Even when there are replays, the season is over by October.
This year, the Gaelic games are being played later than usual in a truncated season. Last weekend, the hurling team that I favour (Kilkenny where my father was born) were playing their All-Ireland semi-final against Waterford the same evening that Leeds faced Everton in the Premier League. Leeds kicked off at 5.30pm, Kilkenny at 6pm. I had two screens set up (laptop and tablet) and after the first 30 minutes watched both games simultaneously, with no break in the sporting action. The first half of the hurling continued throughout half-time in the Leeds game, and by the time it ended the second half had begun at Everton.
At that stage I was happy enough with how both games were progressing. Kilkenny were 7 points ahead and Everton v Leeds was goalless. When the hurling restarted it was harder to concentrate on both sports so I focussed mainly on events from Dublin. Unfortunately this turned out to be, as the cliché goes, “a game of two halves”. Despite being 8 points clear at one point, Kilkenny lost by 4 points. Waterford stormed back in the first 20 minutes of the second period. They went ahead just as Leeds took the lead at Everton (Raphinha’s first goal for the club, on 79 minutes). Leeds went on to win 1-0 but my pleasure at that result was overshadowed by the Kilkenny’s defeat. For Kilkenny the season is over. The All-Ireland hurling final, the weekend after next, will be between Waterford and Limerick.
Meanwhile in Gaelic football the semi-final line-ups next weekend are identical to 100 years ago, the year of Bloody Sunday: Dublin play Cavan and Tipperary face Mayo. My mother was from Dublin, and her mother was from Cavan, so I shall pay attention to that game in particular. Dublin have won 5 All-Ireland titles in a row and look good to win an unprecedented 6th title this season. I would trade most of them for another Kilkenny hurling title. The depth of my disappointment at last weekend’s result surprises me still.