16 July 2009 Edition
More than a game BY MATT TREACY
Heroism and grace under pressure
THERE were some uncanny resonances last Sunday of Dublin’s epic Leinster final victory over Offaly in 1979. On that day, Dublin won their sixth title in a row having been down to 14 men for the whole of the second half – and the winning goal was scored by Bernard Brogan.
Last Sunday, it was Bernard’s son, Bernard Minor, who kicked the clinching point, 30 years after his father had stepped into Dublin folklore to seal Dublin’s fifth title in succession and again having played almost 50 minutes a man down. It was a victory that few would have foreseen when Dublin left the pitch at half-time a point behind and seemingly under the cosh from a rampant Kildare side who, even before Ger Brennan’s dismissal, were running all over Dublin and had clawed back what at one stage was a six-point deficit.
Ger will perhaps regret his thumping of Ken Donnelly although there were few regrets being aired in The Auld Triangle afterwards! Anyway, Ken can have the consolation of knowing that he was not the only one with a sore head on Monday morning.
Of course, we are sometimes accused of over-celebrating such trivialities as winning Leinster but we recognise a good performance when we see one and when this team has taken to its slippers and pipe and cups of cocoa that match will be one of those that will be remembered. They may never win an All-Ireland, they may never even get to an All-Ireland final but, to be honest, none of us cared last Sunday night as we basked in the reflected glory of a team that has earned its place in the pantheon of heroes of bygone days. Heroism and grace under pressure. Can’t really ask for any more than that in fairness.
ELSEWHERE, the romance of the championship was kept alive by Wicklow who soundly thrashed Cavan and now have another Ulster team, Down, come to Aughrim at the weekend.
Wicklow have never won a Leinster title and have not even contested a final since 1897! While I am not a big fan of the back-door system, at least Wicklow’s being in the last 16 provides some justification and further advance is not beyond the bounds of possibility.
Down have been far from impressive and there is little to be taken from their easy win over a very poor Laois team last weekend. Wicklow will be on a huge high after their last two wins and there is no better man than Mick O’Dwyer to instill belief and confidence in his teams. It is certainly the stand-out tie of the round and hopefully Wicklow will advance to the quarter-finals.
KERRY were made work for their win over Longford who failed to convert territorial domination into scores and I suspect will be pleased enough to have a straightforward run out against Sligo next.
Derry and Donegal meet in Ballybofey and Derry should win that. The other tie match involving Meath must await the replay between Wexford and Roscommon.
Antrim’s biggest day in 30 years arrives on Sunday when they take on Tyrone in the Ulster final.
The last time there were in a final was 1970, a year after they had won the All-Ireland Under-21 title and with great expectations that they would carry that on into senior. They were beaten by Derry in 1970 and that team, in common with other Ulster sides of the period, was blighted by prison and war.
Antrim haven’t won Ulster since 1951 and it is unlikely that they will end that famine on Sunday. Tyrone look like a team that has its mind set on one thing and one thing only and sentiment will not prevent them overcoming Antrim. As I said before, football is less predictable than hurling which means that surprises are more common and that odds of 1/16 against Tyrone are ludicrous. It would probably require, however, some fairly unusual chain of events to unsettle Tyrone to the extent that they might lose. Still, stranger things have happened.
IN CONNACHT, Mayo and Galway meet in the final for something like the 35th time. Galway have won it 44 times and Mayo 41 times. It still carries bragging rights, of course, but both will be looking more towards a possible quarter-final spot with the Connacht and Leinster finalists on the same side of the draw, but that only comes into play if the beaten finalists overcome whoever they meet in the next after this round of the qualifiers.
Galway have looked to many like a better team although they were fortunate enough not to be beaten again by Sligo and have yet to impress as a team with genuine All-Ireland ambitions. Mayo destroyed Roscommon but that might not help them on Sunday.
The hurling qualifier draw clarifies things on that front.
Cork and Galway play on another with the winner to meet Waterford in one quarter-final while the winner of Limerick and Laois plays Dublin. Cork-Galway-Waterford will be in one semi-final with Kilkenny while Limerick-Laois-Dublin play Tipperary. Some interesting matches ahead.
The relegation round is turning into a farce. Wexford, who have won a match, could be relegated while Antrim are safe no matter what happens to them. There is an argument that none of the current championship teams should be relegated and that Carlow, as Christy Ring winners, should join Leinster. Whatever, but they need to decide soon and put an end to the current situation which is unfair and benefits nobody.
An Phoblacht Magazine
AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:
- Don't miss your chance to get the second edition of the 2019 magazine, published to coincide with Easter Week
- This special edition which focuses on Irish Unity, features articles by Pearse Doherty, Dr Thomas Paul and Martina Anderson.
- Pearse sets out the argument for an United Ireland Economy whilst Pat Sheehan makes the case for a universally free all-island health service.
- Other articles include, ‘Ceist teanga in Éirinn Aontaithe’, ‘Getting to a new Ireland’ and ‘Ireland 1918-22: The people’s revolution’.