3 November 2005 Edition
Opposition strengthened after Melbourne debacle
The Mickey Harte school of opposition to the International Rules Series will have been considerably strengthened following last Friday's debacle in Melbourne. It was horrendous stuff and it was fortunate that none of the Irish players suffered serious and lasting injury. It was played in a mean spirit and the assaults on the Irish players had nothing even to do with winning, as an Australian victory, almost certain before the start, was confirmed by the end of the first quarter.
I would guess that many GAA people here were unsure whether to be more outraged by the behaviour of the Australians, or embarrassed by the apparent failure of the Irish team to defend themselves. Mind you there is not much you can do to defend yourself against someone attacking you from behind or attempting to decapitate you when you are running at full tilt with the ball.
Of course there is a tendency to sanctimoniousness on the part of some of those wringing their hands over what happened last Friday. You'd think that there was never a sly dig thrown in any football match here, and that the legendary hard men of the game were all gentlemen who would give you fair warning before setting about re-arranging your features for you.
Some of the best stories indeed are about off-the-ball or indeed before-the-ball incidents. One of my favourites concerns Lar Foley who was in the dressing room playing with a Dublin team in the 1960s. In the midst of his pre-match peroration there was an unmerciful hammering on the door accompanied by a roar. "Come out ye fuckers, we're ready for ye." Lar calmly lifted the latch, thumped your man and replied: "We'll be out in a minute."
Dublin became the first county to hold a county hurling final under floodlights last Friday in Parnell Park. Despite the belief of some that there would be plenty of murky corners for chaps bent on hooky business to hide in, there seemed to be few problems that could be blamed on the technology.
It is a sad comment, however, on a county final that the presentation to the winning team should take place in front of around 200 people. Thus it was when UCD received the trophy following their victory over St Vincents. I would hazard a guess that the only ones who bothered to stay out of the 2,500 spectators were the families and friends of the players. Everyone else was there to support Vincents, and that included the vast majority of those whose affiliations or sympathies are with other Dublin clubs.
Indeed there was a palpable sense of disappointment that once again the premier club prize in the county had been taken by what amounts to an inter-county selection, many of whom have already won the provincial and national honours with the likes of Kilkenny and Tipperary.
And lest that seem like a parochial resentment on the part of Dubs, it is a sentiment shared by many country people living in Dublin but who have thrown in their lot with local clubs either as players or mentors. I have no idea of what he thinks about UCD, but Ned Rea who won an All-Ireland with Limerick in 1973 is a good example of the latter.
Rea hurled with Faughs and won two or three Dublin senior medals in the early 70s. Faughs were founded in 1885 and hold the record for most county championships at 31. Harry Boland was on the winning teams of 1914 and 1915. After the 1920s when Dublin hurling became dominated by players from outside the county, Faughs in common with a number of other clubs was mainly comprised of countrymen.
That changed in the 1980s when the club moved to Templeogue and established their first juvenile teams. It is unlikely that UCD will ever make the same contribution despite what Babs Keating says regarding their training programmes and their raising of the standard.
Mind you there are Dublin hurling people who argue the same point and we debated that after the match in Craobh Ciaran's. I remain to be convinced. I can recall being passed at speed on numerous occasions by Caitríona McKeirnan when I was running in the Phoenix Park but I don't think it made me any faster.
In fairness to Vincents they did their best and were not disgraced by the six points margin at the end. Cathal Fallon had a good game in midfield and Tomás McGrane was dangerous in the forwards. Overall, however, they lacked sufficient players of inter-county standard to match the students. Best for them were Pa Morrissey and Tommy Fitzgerald of Tipperary who scored 2-6 of UCD's 3-13.
The class of UCD was reinforced just two days after defeating Vincents when they overwhelmed Killyon, the Meath champions by 28 points. UCD now go on to face Offaly champions Birr in the Leinster quarter-finals.