7 June 2007 Edition
The Matt Treacy Column
All for another day
James Joyce’s father, John Stanislaus besides being noted for a fine singing voice and a fondness for whiskey, had a good turn of phrase. One of his favourite expressions was that something, usually the weather, was as unpredictable as a baby’s bottom.
Last Sunday’s weather was certainly unpredictable as was the Leinster quarter final between Dublin and Meath. Although perhaps it was predictable in its very unpredictability. If you follow my meaning. That fine phrase sui generis – meaning something that defies categorisation – was surely coined to describe the footballing relationship between the two counties. Although what exactly lads like Roscelin of Compienge would have made of it all must remain a matter of speculation.
Beforehand, veteran observers of this ancient rivalry smiled benignly at callow young chaps who were predicting with certainty the outcome. But then if some of their seminal memories are of Dublin beating Meath by 10 points in the 1995 final under a Simpson’s sky, ours are of dour battles lost on overcast summer days that seemed to augur the coming of the End Times.
One thing it would not be, we felt certain, was dull and pedestrian. Dublin and Meath do not do dull and pedestrian. Dublin and Meath are to the mundane as Sophocles is to the people who write the scripts for Australian soap operas.
For a while it seemed as though Dublin would indeed mock the gods and prevail. Despite missing some good chances they built up an early lead in a period when Meath appeared forbidden by some divine proclamation to venture beyond midfield. But we knew it would not last.
Steadily they clawed their way back before a Graham Geraghty goal was disallowed because he was adjudged to have pushed Ross McConnell in the back. Now we are used to seeing Dublin panicking following an opposition goal but last Sunday we were treated to the sight of panic besetting them in the aftermath of a goal that never was. As legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi once said, if confidence is contagious so too is lack of confidence. Kick outs and passes went alarmingly astray and allowed Meath to continue their siege of the Hill goal and draw level.
What saved Dublin’s half was a punched goal from Alan Brogan who got onto the end of a long pass from Conal Keaney, eerily similar to the one that had won the day for Donegal the previous Sunday. Brogan’s goal also stood despite suspicions about him having been in the square. The Meath people around us took it mostly with aplomb – it’s all relative! – and we knew that the fates would ensure that the great cosmic ledger would be balanced before the day was out.
Dublin began the second half in a similar manner to the first and again carved out a five point lead before again missing opportunities to extend it to the stage where a comeback would have been highly unlikely. Instead the Meath genes told them that they had weathered the best that Dublin could throw at them and again they came back. Chiefly due to the brilliance of substitute Cian Ward who ensured that all the hard work was made to pay with five well taken points from frees, 45s and the final sideline kick to level affairs.
In fairness Dublin did not wilt under the comeback and never allowed Meath to take the lead. Twice they appeared to have scored the crucial winning point before Meath responded and the final chance also fell to Dublin but it was ballooned into the Hill instead of between the posts. Ah, for Jack Sheedy in such times.
And so there was nothing for it other than to shake hands with our neighbours and head off for a contemplative pint or two to consider whether Dublin had thrown it away or saved it. Strangely you can usually tell after a draw which team has the psychological advantage by the demeanour of the supporters afterwards but last Sunday nobody was giving anything away. Both sides appeared grateful for having been there to bear witness and even more grateful that there would be another day.
Whether there is another day for one of the main protagonists is unknown as I write but will probably be more apparent by the weekend. I am of course referring to one Mr Geraghty. My opinion for what it is worth is that at least one of his tackles on David Henry deserved the ultimate sanction. However he was not caught by referee Jimmy McKee, who I thought handled the game in the right way, and I have difficulties with players being tried afterwards by camera.
Nothing else about a match can be changed by reviewing the video evidence so perhaps the best thing all around is to leave things as they are. Had he done serious injury to another player that would be a different matter but the Dublin players concerned got up as quickly as they could and got on with it. That is the tradition. Leave it on the pitch.
It was possibly best summed up when at the very end, three or four players who up to the whistle had been thundering into one another with all the abandon of young rhinoceroses helped one another to their feet and shook hands. All for another day, and pray God we will be there to see it.
Ad Victorem Spolias!