1 March 2007 Edition
The Matt Treacy Column
GAA to become just another tenant at Croker?
GAA members will have heaved a tremendous sigh of relief at the news that former President Sean Kelly has never felt so proud to be Irish and a member of the GAA. Huzzah. Now it appears Kelly is attempting to subvert the Central Council of the GAA and Congress by declaring that “there is no going back.” The chaps are here to stay and the chaps will stay as long as they damn well please. Indeed, forget about the GAA having to extend the opening, their ambitions have risen. As one of the Irish Independent’s 17 rugby correspondents said last Monday, Croke Park “ – is the only magnificent stage for occasions like this.” Eh, hello. Were you lot not supposed to be building your own place then?
Already, people who led the campaign to get rid of Rule 42 are raising the notion that the GAA, should just sign over Croke Park to the “nation” and become another tenant. A privileged tenant of course. Almost certain to get Croke Park for the semi finals and finals of the “stick fighting” and “bogball” as one of the less reticent cheerleaders for the FAI would have it. Unless of course Sir Bobby Robson’s team has a crunch game against the Outer Hebrides on the same day. Or the Blackrock Leinster Junior Cup team needs a run out before they play the ‘Nure’.
Des Cahill even hinted that the GAA change the date of the All Ireland club finals on St. Patrick’s Day because they clash with a rugby match in Italy. Sure why not cancel the jaysus thing altogether? And let Crossmaglen and Crokes and Ballyhale and Loughrea toss for the titles. I am certain they’d much prefer to be watching something on the telly than playing that oul nonsense.
Finally, one word on the anthem issue. At the Armagh/Louth league match on 11 February a British Army helicopter decided to make its presence known in its usual unwelcome and disruptive fashion. Curiously none of the media pundits who were so gushing about the healing process that took place at Croke Park thought the incident worthy of mention. Or even that it was perhaps ironic that at the very time that we were putting all “that oul stuff” behind us, that Her Majesty’s forces should choose to remind us, that as the cliché goes ‘they haven’t gone away you know’.
A highlight of last Sunday’s Donegal-Dublin match in Ballyshannon was the appearance of an Alsatian dog. Possibly he is related to such canine heroes of the big screen as Rin Tin Tin or Bingo the runaway circus dog or even Lassie and that he was coming to the aid of some of the Donegal players who were giving passable impressions of orphan children who had been run over by trains or shot by evil Nazi fugitives. Jackie Cooper would have been proud.
Or, like the rest of us, he may have simply been fed up watching a woeful game of football and decided to get his teeth into the ball and bring the whole thing to an end. End eventually it did and in fairness it was one of the few explicable toots on his whistle that emanated from Brian Crowe.
The result leaves Donegal almost certain of qualifying for the new Division One next year and well placed to reach the play off stages in April. Brian McIver has inspired them with a new sense of purpose and let it be known that he will not tolerate any of the off field messing that has blighted Donegal in recent years.
Last Sunday they were better drilled, more direct and played better as a team than a Dublin side that still looks as if its days and nights are haunted by the collapse of last August against Mayo. They will look different, and presumably stronger, come June but it is difficult to see them improving to the extent where they will pose a more formidable challenge than last year.
It is early days of course and too much should not be read into the league. As in fact was proven in Cork on Saturday when the home team comprehensively defeated a Tyrone side that had been unbeaten in the McKenna Cup and league to date. They did lose Eoin Mulligan in the second half to a red card but the game had already slipped by them at that stage.
Mickey Harte will not be too disappointed and in terms of surviving in the division it will mean more to his Cork opposite number Billy Morgan who still faces some tough matches and requires at least four more points to be in with a chance of remaining in the top flight.
Of course teams who fail to qualify for play-offs or promotion will play down the significance but the fact is that for the past number of years a disappointing league run has almost invariably been followed by a poor showing in the championship. In the last five years it has been won twice each by Kerry and Tyrone and once by Armagh. Enough said.