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13 June 1997 Edition

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Sportsview: Out for the match

I met Seán Lynch at Cootehill on Saturday. He was out of Long Kesh to be at two great spectator sports. The first was the election count for Cavan/Monaghan. It was a game with plenty of cheering and flag-waving and our side went home happy at half-time, leaving the others to play the whole match and a bit of extra time. As Prionsias de Rossa might say, ``It's not over till the transfer deadline expires.''

For Seán it was then on to a more nerve-wracking occasion - to see his native Fermanagh take on Cavan in Clones. The bookies had Cavan well ahead but their supporters were nervous. One man in Ballyjamesduff told me that Cavan teams are lighter now, not like the mighty men of the fifties. More spuds and buttermilk and hairy bacon needed, he reckoned.

Fermanagh's win in the B All-Ireland had been a confidence booster for a team with a smattering of top class players and the Cavan people had heard about this young team who had been training very hard.

The Cavan nervousness was justified for Fermanagh should really be through to the next round instead of facing a recount next Sunday. Their goal, late in the second half from Raymond Gallagher, which tied the scores, was a belter which you'll see plenty of times in replays of the Championship.

The other half of the O Caoláin fiefdom fared even worse. Derry steamrollered Monaghan and looked very strong indeed. We even saw Joe Brolly back to blowing kisses to the crowd. When he last was at that carry-on, every full-back in the country muttered that next time he'd be blowing them through his gums. If they can catch him...

Not often you get two players from one team sent off in the first ten minutes and then see the other side disintegrate in panic. Kildare it was who had two corner forwards dismissed for stupidly striking out off the ball. Laois kept their two spare men in their full back positions and instead of playing a patient, hand-passing game which would have been relatively simple possession football, they wasted pass after pass. Kildare kept their nerve, added plenty of determination and had a famous victory.

But, for all the excitement of the football championship, it remains a couple of thousand first preferences behind the hurling. The difference is, hurling flows. And that's because the rules suit the game and even allow for the type of hard knocks which would have fat men with water bottles running onto a football field from all directions.

Clare against Cork in the Munster Hurling semi-final was a case in point. Stirring stuff, well worth finding a way out of the Blocks to see. Clare triumphed in the end and have plunged Cork further into the gloom. The once mighty county completely lost their way against Limerick last year. This young side has restored some pride but they still have a way to go.

Final word must go the Irish Times's superb sportswriter, Tom Humphries. He wrote on Monday about his journey to cover the Derry v Monaghan match:

``Seeking to explain, or at least shed light on, the election of Caoimhghín O Caoláin in Cavan/Monaghan, John Bowman [on RTE] held up a piece of election literature from the Sinn Féiner which didn't have `Sinn Féin' emblazoned all over it. John Bowman waved the paper in Chamberlain fashion and opined that O Caoláin had been running virtually as an independent.

``How dumb could the people of Cavan/Monaghan possibly be? Joining the long tailbacks leaving the towns of Monaghan and heading towards Derry for the football, one could see nothing but green, white and orange posters with massive Sinn Féin logos and O Caoláin's face peering down. The candidate has been knocking around Monaghan so long and for so many elections that if he announced last week that he had switched to the PDs he would still have drawn his regular vote.''

By Brian Campbell

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