Sunday is a special day in the Irish sporting calendar.
The All-Ireland Hurling Final is one of two national finals held in Ireland, with the Gaelic showpiece taking place in two weeks time which will attract another 82,300 sell-out crowd at Croke Park.
To the uninitiated eye, hurling is a 15-a-side game played with a stick called a hurl and a ball called a sliotar.
It is similar to Lacrosse with the main objective being to hit the ball over the opponents’ crossbar for one point, or under the crossbar into the net for one goal, which is the equivalent of three points.
The Gaelic Games – an amateur sport where players play for the love of the game – may not have the showbiz status or riches of other sports, but it is a fundamental expression of Irish identity.
It captivates summers in Ireland, milks all the limelight in the national press and is the main topic of conversation for many people in their day-to-day life.
For anyone unknown to this magical game, this year’s hurling championship has been the greatest of all time with many of the matches close affairs and little separating the top seven teams.
Gaelic Games is paramount to the Irish people’s way of life and captures the imagination, like art for the Italians and cuisine for the French.
The men or warriors who play the game have normal day jobs and train four nights a week for free. It’s not a sacrifice for any of them, they do it because they love the game and the ultimate ambition is to one day lift the Liam McCarthy Cup – the trophy awarded to the winners of the hurling championship.
And after nine months of gruelling training preparing for that one sunny day in mid-August, the season boils down to 70 minutes in the sporting cathedral which is Croke Park.
Galway will be bidding to win back-to-back titles for the first time since 1988 when they face a young Limerick side, who have not tasted national success since 1973.
Limerick – the home base of Munster Rugby and a city with a population of 195,175 – boast a team with an average age of 23.4, nine of whom were starters in the All-Ireland U-21 winning side of 2017.
These Limerick youngsters may be born to win, but their opponents go into the game as firm favourites as they bid to win their sixth title. And, at times this term, Galway have played frightening hurling, winning most of their seven matches with ease to advance to another through to the final.
What makes them special is Joe Canning. The reigning Player of the Year has been at the heart of the Tribesmen’s exploits for over a decade and has been the tipping point to their success in recent years. The 29-year-old is your Tom Brady or LeBron James figure and shows a real physical presence, neat distribution and keeps the scoreboard ticking with every opportunity.
David Cooper here with our key sports headlines on Friday.
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Antoine Griezmann insists Atletico Madrid winning the Super Cup justifies his decision to extend his stay at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano.
The 27-year-old was a key target for La Liga champions Barcelona, but announced he would stay at Atletico during the World Cup.
Diego Costa’s superb brace and goals in extra time from Saul Niguez and Koke saw Los Rojiblancos overcome their Madrid rivals.
The 27-year-old is undergoing tests to assess the seriousness of the injury.
Arch-rivals Real Madrid have won the trophy in each of the three years since, an unprecedented streak that has rankled at the Nou Camp even though the Catalans won La Liga in two of those three seasons.
Skipper Virat Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri led the proceedings as the Indian cricket team celebrated the country’s Independence Day in London last night.
The team is currently locked in a battle with England in the five-match series and are preparing for the third Test at Trent Bridge which gets underway on Saturday.
As India celebrated its 72nd Independence Day, Kohli and Shastri unfurled the tricolour at the Taj London.
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