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Football and hurling leave most other sports in the shade

By Joe Kernan

There is no more exciting sport when played at the highest level than hurling.

Further proof of this was supplied on Sunday when Clare and Cork served up a thrilling draw in the All-Ireland final.

It was an absorbing game that left the crowd breathless at the finish. I was privileged to be there and I can’t wait until the replay comes round.

Seldom has the capacity of the GAA to entertain been so successfully tested than of late.

We have had a series of high-quality matches in both football and hurling that have erased the memory of the turgid fare we endured in the earlier stages of both competitions.

While I admit to having a soft spot for Clare, I would not begrudge Cork their draw and I feel they might take some form of psychological advantage into the replay.

Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald is normally ebullient and outspoken but it was clear that he was keeping his comments in relation to referee Brian Gavin in check at the finish of the match.

It has to be admitted that Cork benefited from at least

three ‘soft’ frees from which they scored points that had a significant bearing on the outcome of the game.

While replays generally tend to lack the appeal of initial fixtures, I feel that in this case the interest will be phenomenal.

I know that both sides are unhappy with the 5.00pm throw-in time which is set for Saturday, September 28 but I think it is a decision which has been taken in conjunction with the Gardai and therefore must stand.

The quest for tickets is already in full flight and the fact that admission prices have been reduced will undoubtedly encourage many people to get to the match in person rather than settle for watching it on television.

I can never remember a season in which so many fervent football followers have been taking such a keen interest in the All-Ireland Hurling Championship.

There is no doubt that the quality of the play has been mesmerising and has helped to attract new followers in droves.

Without a single extra euro having been spent on advertising or marketing, hurling has reached a new high.

Instead of marketing gurus deploying their well-tuned sales rhetoric, the players did their talking on the field and we all responded by digging deep into our pockets to get right behind them.

That’s what helps make a sport thrive and long may it continue.

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