26 June 2008 Edition
Galvin, Gladiators and Gauls
I WAS, very uncharacteristically, sitting in a hostelry nursing a bottle of stout and watching Fermanagh and Derry when a chap came over and asked me if they were going to show the football.
Okay, fair enough, it’s Ulster and it sometimes more resembles The Gladiators or one of the scenes in Eastenders when all the women in the pub start flaking one another but, fair dinkum, they do their best. So I just nodded towards the screen. “There you go. It’s on.”
He looked puzzled and gazed for a moment or two at the screen.
“No... The f-o-o-tball.”
The football. There you are, there’s the football.
“No!!! Russia and Holland.”
Oh, that football. I was certain that it would be on and that I would be gone but, in the meantime...
MY bookie-busting powers had advised last week that “Fermanagh on a good running day could upset predictions.” And to think that some of you used to make fun of my pre-match analyses. Dear, oh dear. You could be living in the south of France if you followed my tips (on the run from the bank).
Fermanagh started well but managed to give away a goal after 12 minutes and might have blown it altogether had Ronan Gallagher not made a brilliant save from a penalty a few minutes later. Then, almost as though they had seen the worst that could happen, they got on with things and there’s few teams that look less hassled and nervous than Fermanagh when they get into gear.
The worrying thing was that they were failing to make the most of the possession they had and went in two points behind. Even with the second half wind they struggled to make it pay on the scoreboard.
Then Barry Owens was sprung from the bench and for a full back he scores a mean goal. After that, Derry seemed to lose heart and became the latest Ulster team to belie predictions of great things this year.
They exit via the back door into a qualifier round that has all the attractions of a pool of piranhas. Teams that go winning through their provincials will have a more than usual advantage. And, for the first time ever, Fermanagh could be one of them. Which would be nice. And then Dublin will beat them. Which would be even better!
I DON’T really want to talk about the Dublin hurlers.
Next weekend, the footballers play Westmeath in the semi-final and they’ll probably get a bigger crowd than the hurlers did. That’s what they call irony, I believe.
If this game was being played anywhere else I’d give Westmeath a great chance. The way they are playing this year suits a tighter pitch and it might just be the case that Croke Park will provide too much space for the Dublin forwards, assuming they get their usual supply of ball from midfield.
It might, however, turn out that the Westmeath backs will still have the pace and the stamina and the head to close Dublin’s main threats down for over 70 minutes. They did beat them in Navan in the league final but Dublin are a different team in the summer and in Croke Park.
I wouldn’t make too much of the fact that Dublin were weakened by the suspensions back in April but they will be a different proposition and will most likely prevail.
If they don’t, hot dog sales will plummet dramatically and the bottom will fall out of the future market for tomato sauce and mustard and Arnotts shirts for the portly of stature.
If they do, they will face Wexford who last Sunday qualified for their first Leinster football final since 1956.
Wexford are a serious team and made Laois look even worse than they are. What is more they won on a day when eight Wexford players scored and Mattie ‘only’ got six points. As I said after the Meath match, they are a far different and better team than they’ve been in the last three or four years and will probably give Dublin a real test in the final.
THE Paul Galvin saga continued with the news that his six-months suspension had been upheld. Not much of a surprise given the recent history of similar appeals and the determination of the GAA to stand over initial decrees.
Also in the news were the Ballinagh club from Cavan, who were suspended en masse for six months for an attack by club members on a referee. A number of individual members were also given suspensions.
The person alleged to have assaulted the referee was given eight years. It’s not the first time these boys have been in trouble and the nature of the incidents leaves them with little sympathy.
Finally, courtesy of Ballybough Jimmy (or is it Billy?), an appalling joke vaguely connected to the ongoing cure for insomnia that is the European football championship.
Julius Caesar arrives back to Rome from his triumph in Gaul. Called on to make a speech, he addresses the Forum. “Friends, Romans, countrymen. I bring you tidings of a great victory. The Gauls are crushed. 50,000 of them slain by my legions.”
He is interrupted by Brutus.
“Actually, Caesar, you only killed 25,000 Gauls.”
To which Caesar responds: “Ah, but Brutus, everyone knows that away Gauls count double in Europe.”
I’ll get me coat...