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24 May 2007 Edition

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The Matt Treacy Column

Donegal to face biggest test so far

On the way to Croke Park on the bus last Sunday I overheard a man in his sixties behind me become increasingly irate. I find it is always prudent to pay attention to such developments in order to be prepared for any sudden assault from the rear should Mr. Angry decide that the best way in which to deal with his issues would be to set about a random stranger with a blunt instrument.
Finally he had enough. “Ah mother of Jaysus, there’s another one. That’s not right.” And he jumped up to head down the stairs to disembark from the bus. “Let me off here brother.”
His wife shouted after him in vain. “Leave it Mick, sure it’ll be gone in a few days. Your dinner will be ruined.”
I glanced out the window and it became clear that the object of Mick’s wrath was a large poster advertising a candidate for one of the parties of Neo-Gombeenism. I relaxed in the knowledge that if Mick was a lunatic then there was every chance that he was one of our own lunatics, consumed with righteous indignation for Ireland and the working man.
I was wrong. Because at this moment Mick was clambering up the lamppost and attempting to remove, not the poster, but an offending article attached to the poster. The article in question being a Meath flag. He was unsuccessful and the bus pulled away leaving him with all the appearances of a chap about to succumb to a major coronary event. And by God if he did I trust that he was laid to rest in the Blue and Navy.
I glanced around in sympathy at his wife and silently nodded. She smiled wanly. “He does hate Meath so he does” was her only comment before ringing her sister to tell her that they’d probably be a bit late and not to put the football on the television.
It’s a good job that Mick did not go to Croke Park. He would not have liked what he would have seen there. Not one bit. Meath were just too strong for a Kildare team that was admittedly short its two regular midfielders and which struggled in all areas of the pitch.
It has often been remarked that the flour bags are too dependent on John Doyle and once it became clear that Anthony Moyles was getting the better of him when he was moved out to centre half forward, the jig was up. Kildare’s old failing of carrying forwards who  can’t score proved to be their undoing. Only Doyle and Tadhg Fennin – with just four points from play between them – managed to trouble the umpires and teams just cannot afford such profligacy at that level.
As if this was not bad enough Padraig O’Neill, who was moved to the edge of the square, had the added misery of watching his marker Darren Fay, who the Kildare selectors perhaps erroneously believed would be at sea if pulled far out the field, score Meath’s first goal.
It is hard to know how good Meath were, or potentially are. Five of their starting forwards scored with ten points coming from play. They showed considerable cleverness inside the 40 and will be a handful for the Dublin defence even with the absence of Brian Farrell who will be missing having been red carded for an off the ball incident. He is likely to be replaced by one of the Hill’s old favourites, failed Blueshirt candidate in Meath West Graham Geraghty. I can already see Mick’s blood pressure rising. If, please God, he is still with us.
The first match on Sunday between Wicklow and Louth was far better to watch. Micko seemed pleased at the end after Tommy Gill, who had an excellent game, pointed to earn them a replay in the last seconds of added time. In truth though, Wicklow really ought to have won as they were the better team. Louth’s persistence and constant quest for a goal eventually saved them but you’d never have taken them for 1/3 favourites. Most Wicklow people I spoke to afterwards felt they had left it behind but I wouldn’t be so sure. If anything Parnell Park might better suit them.
Elsewhere, the Via Dolorosa that is the lot of Mayo people continued in Pearse Stadium where Galway beat them out the gate. Mayo now face a lengthy wait and an uncertain sojourn through the qualifiers. Their chances of surviving into the latter stages are moot and possibly best reflected in their drifting out to 16/1 to win the All Ireland.
In Clones, Tyrone avoided a similar fate when overcoming a determined challenge from Fermanagh who belied their poor form in the league to put up their best performance against Tyrone in the championship for a long time. Tyrone looked far more fragile than might have been expected and it is clear that Mickey Harte’s selection problems are far from having been resolved.
They will need to be addressed quickly before they meet the winners of this Sunday’s mouth watering clash between Armagh and Donegal. It is a repeat of last year’s Ulster final but now the expectations have been reversed with Donegal favourites to overcome Joe Kernan’s side.
I would not be so certain. Donegal have a bad record against Armagh in recent years and it will be the biggest test so far of not only their football ability but their psyche and no better man than Dr. Joe to shine the harsh probing light into any potential weaknesses that might lurk in the collective sub conscious of his opponents. Not to be missed.

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