In the midweek champions league game Juventus played host to Barcelona at the Juventus stadium. Barcelona had been in bad from with a 2-0 loss to Malaga the weekend previous, although anything can happen in the Champions League as they demonstrated in the earlier round against PSG scoring 3 goals in the last 5 minutes. Juventus were in great form and were being tipped as slight favorites. The game started quickley with Juve keen to press Barcelona’s back 4. After only 7 minutes this came to fruition with a super finish from star striker Paulo Dybala. After the goal Barcelona seemed to settle a bit and nearly levelled through Andreas Iniesta. Then Juve broke quickly and once again that man Dybala buried his second goal with a delightful finish. 2-0 and Barca were stunned. In the second hald Barcelona had some chances but were given the ultimate penalty once again when centre half Georgio Cheillini rose above Mascherano to head in Juve’s 3rd goal and the stadium was rocking. Juventus then took the sting out of the game and held onto their clean sheet. The second leg at the Nou Camp is sure to be an entailing encounter with Juve’s rock solid defence. As Barcelons proved before though , anything is possible.
In the Champions Cup quarter final Munster welcomed the European giants Toulouse to Thomond Park. The 2 teams had a lot of history in the competition with Munster beating them at the same stage 3 years previous and also beat them in 2008 to win the competition. Munster were hot favorites going into the game but Toulouse would not be taken lightly. Th egame got off to a frantic start with Munster going 10 nil up through a try from John Ryan , the extra from Tyler Bleyendaal and a penalty from the New Zealander. Munster went in at half time up 13-8. In the second half Toulouse were awarded a dubious try and came within 8 points of Munster. They were under big pressure but their class soon shone through with a Darren Sweetnam try which oulled them away. The game was rounded off with an Andrew Conway try and the game finished 41-16 in favour of the Irish province. Munster will now face defending champions Saracens in the semi-final in the Aviva Stadium Dublin and its sure to be a cracker.
On Sunday the 9th of April Dublin and Kerry came head to head once again to try and capture the league title. Dublin were on a winning streak of 36 matches and had drew with Kerry in Killarney earlier on in the year. Kerry would have to put in a huge game if they wanted to win but would have had apt inspiration with the retirement of Colm Cooper earlier on in the week. Both teams got off to an even start in Croke Park trading points. Paul Geaney kept Kerry in touch throughout and at half time Dublin led by 1. In the second half the game really came to life with Kerry playing some beautiful football and led Dublin my 5 points at one stage. Both teams had black cards in the first half but the replacements were doing very well for both teams. Kerry then missed a golden opportunity for a goal which would have surely out Dublin to the sword. With that came the introduction of Paul Mannion who inspired Dublin and kicked 1-3 to put them within a point of Kerry. In the dying minutes Dublin had a free 50 metres out to level the game but it agonizingly hit the up right. There the game ended and Kerry ended the streak to win the league title.
On Wednesday the 5th of April Limerick minors took on Tipperary in the Munster minor quarter final in Semple Stadium Thurles. Both counties have had recent success in the minor grade with Tipperary winning the All Ireland last year. Both team were keen to get off to a good start but Tipp began to get the edge when they were leading by 3 points. They then stretched the lead and got a goal, Limerick responded well with a goal of their own through Dylan O’Shea. Paul O’Brien got the teams level with points from frees and the side were level at half time. In the second half Limerick were brilliant and Dylan O’Shea’s second goal on the 34th minute rekindled their challenge. Limerick kept at it during the game and eventually drew level at 2-16 to 3-13 with the game nearing an end. Paul O’Brien then got 4 points in quick succession and Limerick led. With the game finishing up Limerick led by 2. In the dying moments Niall Hoctor got a decisive goal for Tipp to win it. The game ended with Tipp tapping over 2 more points and ran out winners by 3 points on a scoreline of 4-15 to 2-18. There was an attendance of 2567 in Thurles.
Before the game Ireland were top of group on 10 points 4 ahead of Wales. There was a cracking atmosphere in Dublin in the build up to the game and it was sure to be a full house in the Aviva Stadium. When the game started both teams were very cagey with no real chances being created at either end of the pitch. Wales owned the ball for large periods of the first half with Ireland mostly living on scraps. Joe Allen was very influential for them and kept the ball really well. The teams went into the half time break tied at 0-0. In the second half the crowd really got behind the Irish team. With the game threatening to open up a bit Gareth Bale fired Wales’ first real attempt on goal wide of Darren Randolph’s post. Bale was Irelands biggest worry as he had so much attacking prowess. With 20 minutes to go Ireland captain Seamus Coleman burst onto a ball only to be hit with a horrendous tackle by welsh left back Neil Taylor. Coleman was hurt bad and suffered a double fracture in his right leg. Taylor saw red and Wales were down to 10. Cyrus Christie came on for him and caused real problems for Wales. In the end neither team could break the deadlock which left Ireland joint top on 11 points. There next game is at home to Austria and it is sure to be a cracker!
On Saturday the 25th of March John the Baptist community school contested for the Paddy Buggy cup. The game took place in Semple Stadium Thurles and was the curtain raiser to the Croke Cup final. This year had marked a huge year of success for the school with 5 All Irelands won in the school.
They were playing St. Mary’s of Belfast who were playing ‘A’ hurling in the north. The game began at a frantic speed and hospital went up by 3 points. They then began to pull away from the northern side with points from Dylan O’Shea and a well taken goal from Eoin Sheehan. They were leading by 5 6 points and were beginning to show their dominance. Sean Teefy at half forward was dominating and supplying great ball into the inside forwards. Just before the half time break hospital got a crucial goal through Ryan Tobin which sent them in at the break leading by 10 points. In the second half the game became more even and the northern team got it back to 5 points at one stage. In the end hospitals class and superior hurling skills shone through with Mikey O Grady and Paul O Heney giving tantalising displays. Hospital were crowned All Ireland Champions on a score of 2-14 to 1-8.
Two weeks later the replay of the east final was played on a hot balmy evening in Cappamore. It was sure to be another cracker and Dylan Conway had got his red card rescinded. The first half passed in a flash and Caherline were leading by a point at half time. There was tubs of ice cream being sold at half time like they were going out of fashion. The second half started at a frantic speed and there was ash plant flying. Ballybricken started the better and Dickie Power tapped over 3 points from frees with Paul Hedderman getting off the mark from play with a point from the sideline underneath the stand. Going into the last 10 minutes it was 17 points to 15 to Ballybricken. The monk hit the puck out and it was snapped by Davey Wixted who cut through the Ballybricken defence like a hot knife through butter, he hit the 21 and riffled the ball passed Shane O Neill into the top corner before giving the obligitory fist pump. The chips were down and the came was in the melting pot, with a point in the game Ballybricken won a free which was tapped over by Dickie Power. The puck out landed and Jimmy Lonergan bust out with the ball and dropped it over the lat. The roar went up and BallyBricken were crowned east champions.