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22 May 1997 Edition

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Sportsview: Fighting reported in Ulster

By Brian Campbell

Down and Tyrone meet again on Sunday after a scrappy but exciting draw.

Down have a reputation in Ulster as a team of college boys. For some, it explains their arrogance and it gives other counties a justification for roughing them up a little bit. Combine that with Tyrone's burning desire to wipe out the memory of their mauling at the hands of Meath last year and Sunday's match in Clones was always going to see some fireworks.

At the back of every Tyrone supporter and player's mind was the thought that they couldn't live with the rough stuff. Of course anyone who has witnessed a Tyrone club game soon forgets that impression. But still, they had to prove it on the big stage.

Enter Down. It was a rough game but not as bad as it might have been. Down have long ago shown that they can handle themselves and both teams gave as good as they got without it ever getting out of hand. Peter Withnell was sent off for what RTE called an off-the-ball incident but which was in fact a fair enough attempt at a shoulder challenge. He didn't seem to be such a big loss, maybe because when he gets the ball he often doesn't know what to do with it. Too much soccer in his brain.

Down should have been dead and buried in the first half but a silly penalty let them back in. Paul Donnelly gave it away - maybe in the replay he should play football and forget his hard man image.

Before this game Down supporters were far from confident. Training has been stop and start and the team is made up of veterans and debutants with few of the solid, experienced players which a Championship winning team needs. But the draw will have given them confidence. That said, I still think Tyrone will have too much for them on Sunday.

Packie Bonner had his testimonial on Sunday and by all accounts it was a bit of a shambles. 20,000 fans paid £15 a head towards a player who may have given the Irish soccer team good service but he was paid well for it and he's not short of a bob or two. To put more money in his wallet and have to watch an end-of-season kickabout is the height of stupidity. Take my advice, don't go to any more testimonials. You'll be fifteen quid better off, you'll not be bored to death and some rich guy won't feel quite so smug.

If Eric Cantona really has retired I'll be sorry to see him go. The man didn't say much but he had class. The TV clip that summed him up for me was the one in which he chipped the keeper: the ball sailed slowly through the air, hit the far post and rolled into the back of the net. As his supporters went bonkers there was Cantona standing with his chest out and with a look of supreme arrogance on his face. His stance was copied by every young footballer who scored a goal.

And then of course he kung fu kicked a racist fan. He will be missed.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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