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2 June 2005 Edition

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Diving and drama in Leinster dogfights

BY Matt Treacy

Croke Park

Croke Park

The defining moment in Kildare's win over Westmeath came when Denis Gleeson, the Westmeath full forward, found himself surrounded by white shirts and unable to get rid of the ball. Instead of accepting his situation with dignity, young Denis decided to feign injury to his head. Having cured himself through the self-administering of the ancient Indian technique of champissage, he then discovered an equally terrible affliction to his shoulder. Given that none of the Kildare players made any physical contact with him during all of this, we can only assume that Pádraig Nolan was sticking needles in the voodoo doll or that he was beset by cunning and unseen demons.

Anyway, the upshot of it all was that Denis' audition for the part of the dying swan — which would have assured him a place in one of Anew McMaster's fit ups or even one of Eamon Nolan's productions in Portlaoise — was sufficient to earn Ronan Sweeney a yellow card. That might have been inconsequential but for the fact that minutes later, Sweeney earned a second yellow and a sending off for a foul on John Keane.

Following that, Kildare, who had clawed their way back into the game after Westmeath had gone four points up, were possessed of demons of their own. Their righteous indignation was epitomised by Glenn Ryan. I have been tackled myself by Glenn when he was in a good humour, so I could feel the pain of the Westmeath players who 'bumped' into him in the torrid minutes before the break.

You might only have gotten short odds at that stage that no one else would follow Sweeney off the field but that tempestuous period sorted things out, and Kildare emerged for the second half as the clear winners in the psychological battle. Westmeath did make good enough use of James Davitt as the extra man in front of the half backs for a while but then Paudie took him off as Kildare began to dominate possession, use the ball cleverly and more importantly make the most of their scoring opportunities. Westmeath were far too dependent on Dessie Dolan and paid the price.

Kildare strike me as the sort of team that might just have the right blend of experience, youth, class and steel to put it up to some of the fancied contenders. Certainly on the evidence of Sunday's games, you would have to fancy them to beat Laois, who were like the fox in the Gingerbread Man. Offaly (in the part of Gingerbread Man) seemed to have survived numerous self-inflicted and potentially fatal errors, only to end up in the maw of the fox just as they, like the Gingerbread Man, having accepted a lift from the fox, must have thought themselves safe. The fox was one Ross Munnelly, who popped up to score a goal to win a game that Laois had little right to. No wonder the Daddy fox, Micko, was smiling.

It was game in which you always had the impression that Offaly's profligacy in front of the posts would come back to haunt them and yet they seemed to have ridden their luck right up until the sucker punch in injury time. Offaly, in the course of beating Louth, had run up 18 wides. Against Laois they surpassed that by one and the 19th was a close in free taken by Niall McNamee that drifted away to the left of the goal.

Had he put it over the bar, the worst that could have happened was that the Laois goal would have taken it to a replay. As it was, Offaly must be feeling rather depressed.

The Jacks

and the Royal

This coming Sunday sees Leinster's equivalent of whatever longstanding intense sporting rivalry you can think of. There are very few Dublin/Meath matches, of dozens I've seen, that I can recall having been settled long before the final whistle. And some have been so close that they took their toll in frayed nerves and chewed digits. And that was only the referee!

The most famous, of course, were the four games that Dublin and Meath played in the first round in 1991. I listened to the first three drawn games on a little radio in the 'rec' in Portlaoise, with Seán Healy from Trim. Myself and Sean accumulated an enormous series of bets as the weeks progressed, in the jail currency of steaks, pizzas, fries, and anything else that was edible.

The third replay was televised on a Saturday afternoon so I got to see the whole disaster take place before my eyes. Dublin eight points up. Keith Barr misses a penalty. Meath make their traditional final assault but it was surely too late. Then the sequence of passes from their back line through a Dublin midfield and defence that suddenly resembles the Petrified Forest. Kevin Foley gets the ball. Kevin Foley (Foley, for feck's sake!!) rattles the back of the net. Meath win.

So I get to feed Seán and half the jail for several weeks. Actually, that's not quite true because every time I ordered a steak or a big fry for Sean, he would arrive up from the 'threes' to return half of it. So I didn't starve but I was still depressed. Sean died a few years ago but I hope he is sitting somewhere with his little radio, smoking roll ups and muttering under his breath about referees and whinging Dubs. As for the match — praedae suae victor est!

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

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