4 June 2009 Edition
More than a game BY MATT TREACY
40 degrees in Thurles
DEFENDERS of Derry’s and Monaghan’s performance on the basis that it was part of the noble tradition of ‘Ulster’ football might do well to ponder the Tyrone-Armagh match last Sunday.
It was like watching two different sports. There is lots of ‘history’ in recent years between Tyrone and Armagh and there was a lot riding on the outcome of the game in Clones. Neither, however, used that as an excuse to drag proceedings into the gutter.
It was tough, uncompromising and featured some excellent open play and almost none of the cynical stuff we have come to associate with top-class football in recent years.
Maybe some people just bring out the worst in one another.
OTHERS bring out the best and there is little doubt but that the sight of the blue and gold raised Cork’s performance in Thurles by several degrees.
At times in the second half they dominated possession between the two 40s, something that was facilitated by Sheedy’s strange move of Corbett and Callanan into the corners. Tipp did enough in the end to come through but the tactical errors are something that they might do well to ponder. Indeed, had Cork been more accurate during the period in which they did dominate the result might have been very different.
Much attention was focussed on the performance of Aisake Ó hAilpín. As it turned out, he only scored one point and did not have the impact that some had perhaps hoped for. On the other hand, he did win some good possession in the second half and on two occasions that might have resulted in goals had he held onto the ball for longer or made better passes. He was possibly too quick to offload the ball, which is an understandable trait in someone making their championship debut in such circumstances.
Tipperary will be relieved to have gotten over what might have been a potential upset and remain on course for their defence of their Munster title and a tilt at the Cats. Cork, meanwhile, will await a qualifier against one of the beaten Leinster quarter-finalists: Offaly, Laois or Dublin/Antrim. It is a fixture they may look forward to with confidence and they are in a position now that few would have imagined in the middle of the spring strike.
NEXT Sunday sees a renewal of another great rivalry, that between Dublin and Meath. It is as old as the GAA, older in fact if one takes into account the even more ancient rivalry between football teams from the borderlands. And the first classics of the genre date to the 1890s when the two met in a number of finals including (quell surprise!) a draw and a replay.
They met intermittently over the succeeding decades but the modern saga dates to the 1950s, and perhaps to 1955 actually, when Dublin walloped the reigning All-Ireland champions by 20 points. Meath contrived a similar humiliation of Dublin in 1964 after the Dubs had won in 1963 but Dublin had faded badly in the late 1960s and early 1970s when Meath were serious contenders and took the title in 1967.
The heyday was from 1974 when Dublin beat Meath in the Leinster final en route to their first All-Ireland in 11 years, until the early 1990s with the great denouement coming in the epic four-game first round series of 1991. For Meath, however, the high point of the relationship were the three years between 1986 and 1988 when they beat Dublin in three Leinster finals in succession and once having removed the monkey from their back nothing would do them only to go and win two All-Irelands.
I was at the 1986 final, which was a dark, overcast, wet and gloomy day (or perhaps that is only how it appeared to us) and we were genuinely shell-shocked that Meath should have won. Offaly, maybe, but Meath were the team that always gave you a good game but in the end always succumbed. The times had changed.
Some would argue that the rivalry has never been quite so intense since 1991 but it is still the case that no matter what the objective relative merits of the two teams that the perceived underdog will invariably raise their game and there have been classics since. There are Dublin optimists and Meath pessimists talking about ten points. Don’t believe a word of it.
ANOTHER rather more low-key rivalry will be renewed in the first game when the Dublin and Antrim hurlers meet in the Leinster quarter-final. They have been more or less around the same level for the past 30 years or more and have possibly played one another more times than any other team apart maybe from one or two provincial rivals.
There has been little between them and when one has had pretensions the other has often brought them back firmly to earth again. The same factor will come into play on Sunday with very few giving Antrim much of a chance due to inconsistent league form and injuries. Dublin, on the other hand, are once again the victims of those periodic Great Expectations that grip both the Dublin hurling fraternity and some observers, although the expectation among the cognoscenti is always noticeably of a lower key.
Dublin too have a number of injury concerns, most notably to Ronan Fallon, the undisputed master of the centre half-back position and a serious loss to the team. It is a match in which Antrim have little to lose and much to gain. For Dublin, defeat would be an utter disaster. Almost unthinkable in the current climate but not impossible. The correct balance of that fear and the preparation that has been put in ought to be sufficient to secure a comfortable passage.
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.