Donal O'Grady: 'It is a great cultural weekend'
By Cian O'Connell
As Galway, Dublin, Tipperary, and Clare prepare for the AIG Fenway Classic Donal O’Grady believes the Super 11s series offers an ideal opportunity to experiment.
The former Cork and Limerick manager is widely regarded as one of the most astute hurling minds with the St Finbarr’s clubman adamant about the potential that exists ahead of the trip to Boston for the fixtures on November 19.
“I'm looking forward to it, I was there in 2015, it was a fantastic occasion,” O’Grady says. “I think the big thing with it being a collaboration between the GAA and GPA, AIG are sponsoring it, but the reaction from the people over there, the Irish-Americans, and Irish people living there, some of whom can't come home with Green Card issues, there was just a fantastic atmosphere.
“They were all thrilled that the Fenway Classic was on. I know that people are coming from wide and afar again this time.
“It was mostly from the Boston area before, but a lot more people from around America are coming. It is a massive thing, there is a great cultural weekend. I think that the Super 11s is the centrepiece of that.”
O’Grady believes that the Super 11s can fulfil a useful role. “The penalty as it is now in hurling, that came direct from Super 11s,” O’Grady states.
“The Super 11s use a TMO which isn't being used in the GAA at the moment really even though it is in a way with HawkEye. That is something that might come into the game in the future.
“It can be used to experiment with rules to see how players like it. You can trial things with it. You can just trial it, I would see it as having a great future, particularly overseas because that is what it is designed for. It could be used for experimenting with rules certainly.”
Two years ago O’Grady witnessed a lively clash involving Dublin and Galway. “Dublin and Galway took it seriously on the pitch, that is what resonated with the fans that day aswell,” O’Grady adds.
“They saw a full blooded contest and the people who have bought tickets, it will probably be a full house again. The last time 28,000 were there so you will be looking at near enough to a full house, what made it for them was the full blooded nature of the contest.
“That is what they are looking forward to again. You have a few good rivalries there obviously with Clare and Tipp. There is a rivalry too between Dublin and Galway because of the Leinster Championship for the past few years.
“With the new Dublin management adds another little thing so it should be very competitive, that is what the fans will come to see.”
O’Grady thoroughly enjoyed watching the 2017 All Ireland Hurling Championship unfold. “It was a very successful year, it was probably one of the best Championships I have seen for many years. Galway obviously were my favourites and the favourites of many people from early on in the year.
“I felt that Micheal Donoghue got it right, they showed how good they were in the League from the time they beat Waterford in Salthill. Their graph was rising very steeply from then on.
“They deserved to win, two or three other teams will be fairly happy with how their year went overall too. We are facing into a new system now next year.”
Who will make an impact when competitive inter-county action resumes in January? “If you look at the quality and standard of the teams this year and using this year as a benchmark you would say Galway were the top team,” O’Grady acknowledges.
“Second team I'd say was probably Tipperary, then you have Waterford and Cork together, very close together. Those four teams were the best.
“I think Kilkenny could be down for a while, Wexford are coming, whether they have the firepower or not to really make an impact; Limerick from the Under 21s success they might pick up one or two more, but they have a lot of them already.
“I think it is going to be a major challenge, then Clare weren't too far away in the Munster Final. It is going to be interesting, especially when teams have to play one week after another. You could find a team beaten by a point in their first two games will then be out of the Championship by June.” Intrigue will be attached to the new system; O’Grady will continue to assess, monitor, and appreciate the game.