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31 May 2007 Edition

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The Matt Treacy Column

Championships begin in earnest  

The hurling and football championships really began in earnest last Sunday with three intense clashes. Admittedly the actual hurling between Cork and Clare failed to live up to the excitement of the horseplay between the players as they arrived onto the pitch, but sure it’s all part of why we love it so much. For once the football outshone the hurling in terms of quality and spectator interest as Donegal overcame Armagh and Wicklow and Louth fought out another draw.
At Thurles some genius decided that the testosterone charged warriors of Cork and Clare be released into the tunnel leading to the field at the same time. This led to some unseemly scenes as both sets of players set about one another with gusto, essaying Half Nelson Slams and Monkey Flips that would have done the Hulk Hogan or King Kong Bundy proud. Fortunately, however, in common with WWF most of it was pretty harmless and they parted somewhat sheepishly once they realised that people were watching. Won’t someone please think of the children.
I suspect that the officials had, as per etiquette, given both teams designated times of arrival but that some amateur psychologist attached to one side decided that the best thing would be for the lads to hit the turf at the same time and sort out the opposition with a few shoulders and maybe the odd slap. Oh dear oh dear.
Now I know this tactic has somewhat of a tradition behind it, immortalised by Paudie’s “unmerciful boot up the backside” of a certain novice Dub, during if I recall correctly the preliminary exchange of pleasantries in I think 1985, but it’s like, soooo 1980s. Anyway, far be it from me to pass moral judgement except suffice it to say that if the idea was to put the other crowd off their game - and perhaps I am casting judgement in fact - then it did not work.
Cork were just too good and belied the predictions of some pundits that they are over the hill. At one stage they led by eleven points and it was more a case of them pulling up as they approached the finishing line rather than any great endeavour on the part of Clare that the result was a bit closer than that at the end. Now at least we can look forward to what should be one of the games of the year on June 17 when Cork meet Waterford. They never let us down.
In Ballybofey it looked as though Donegal were going to endure another agonising defeat at the hands of their old nemesis in orange. They had looked the better team for most of the match, had the majority of possession but just couldn’t put Armagh away. In fairness to them they had already demonstrated that some of the old failings, particularly the tendency to get involved in physical distractions cunningly laid for them to distract them from their game, had been largely left on the training field. They also survived what looked to have been the decisive score of the game when Oisin McConville found the net and soon afterwards Armagh were four points up with less than 15 minutes remaining.
Aidan Sweeney and Colm McFadden narrowed the gap but it just seemed to be slipping beyond their grasp as Armagh ensured that they wouldn’t even get a clear run at goal. Then as the sands drained away Brendan Devanney lobbed the ball into the square from about 40 yards out on the right sideline.
It looked to be destined for the waiting arms of Paul Hearty even as Kevin Cassidy charged towards him with all the desperation of a man chasing the last helicopter out of Saigon. Anyway he provided enough distraction to cause the normally stalwart Crossmaglen man to fumble his lines. The ball was in the net. Donegal had won and their long suffering  supporters rejoiced in a manner not witnessed since they realised that Gaoth Dobhair sheep farmers were safe from the threat of a fiendish Marxist corporation tax.
In fairness they deserved it and in overcoming an obstacle whose significance cannot be underestimated proved that they are the genuine article. A real threat to every other team in the country and surely an outstanding bet at 15/8 to win Ulster. Cue scenes of despair from Pettigoe to Dunfanaghy and unconfined joy in the streets of Gortin as word is leaked that Mattie ‘The Impending Doom Kid’ Treacy has backed Donegal. All resemblances to Bernie Lootz are purely imaginary.
I didn’t see the Wicklow-Louth match but by all accounts it is developing into a thriller and those of you who decide not to have your ninth pint prior to heading to Croker on Sunday will be able to see the denouement (that means the end for those of you from Nobber) prior to Dublin beating the lard out of Meath. Oh God! Why do I tempt the fates.
Finally a word of warning to Padraig Harrington. Actually, damn it, a word of warning to the Tiger himself. Ciara is playing the pitch and putt of her life. She only needs a bit of finesse and to abandon her rather disturbing habit of chanting “Psyche! Psyche! Psyche!” at her opponents as they prepare to address a difficult putt in order to progress. Be warned. Oh, and if you happen to see a child of not unpleasant visage sharing a green with a demented lunatic who is ploughing up the sward with a twisted putter, that will be Ciara. The demented lunatic will be.... Well, I think we all know who that is.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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