Yesterday saw Kerry’s most dispiriting defeat to the Dubs for some time. After the 2011 final, most acknowledged they were the classier team and that they fell victim to a late smash and grab from a ravenously hungry outfit with a sense of destiny about them. In 2013, such was the nature of the game, even the losers were elevated by having taken part.
Not true of yesterday’s game — a thoroughly fitting conclusion to a dissatisfying season.
After stocking up on wides in the first quarter, Kerry took a serious licking in the 20 minutes leading up to half-time. In the second quarter, they were unable to cope with the pace and vigour of the Dubs. By contrast, their own attacking play was ponderous.
The second half was a more frantic affair. The introduction of Kieran Donaghy was crucial to the supply of post-match talking points. He evidently felt that Kerry’s first-half display was sorely lacking in narkiness and immediately set about rectifying that.
They do say that if a man acquires a reputation for rising early, he is thereafter at liberty to rise at noon. Northerners have long complained that these southern darlings have, on the great ‘cynicism’ question, been availing of several sneaky lie-ins for some years now.
However, it now seems Kerry’s cynicism is a matter of public record. Donaghy’s Barry John Keane impression on the 45s provoked howls of disgust on the Hill. But then Dublin kept their end up in this department too.
Stephen Cluxton’s determination to keep Kerry in the game from the kicking tee caused great consternation among Dubs fans. But he made up for this with his time-wasting which unquestionably proved to be his greatest contribution yesterday, draining every possible second out of those run-ups.
But then moaning about something as endemic and inevitable as ‘cynicism’ in high level sport is rather quaint. The problem isn’t so much cynicism (players will do what they can to gain advantage) as that the rules don’t adequately punish it.
Either way, the Dubs of the 2010s now rank alongside the side of the 1970s. Give it time and see will the romance grow...
The cliché that dare not speak its name
Amid the myriad games of chess and of shackles being thrown off and of teams obstinately remaining in second gear throughout, there was one cliché that barely made its presence felt at all in the 2015 Gaelic football season.
‘Be good to see someone else win it’, while now effectively the motto of the All-Ireland hurling championship (to the point where it’ll probably be used on an ad campaign next year), barely got a run-out among devotees of the All-Ireland football championship.
The absence of this phrase, a monument to Irish sporting egalitarianism, from terrace discourse, demonstrates how far down we are on the road to a two-tier championship. The proposition was just too fanciful to be indulged.
And thus, naturally, for the final, we had one team attempting the back-to-back, while their opponents were looking to end a famine stretching back two years.
Good to see someone else win it? Good to see someone else get a sniff.
Why second tier competitions are bad news
Apart from a few deluded inter-county players, reasonable opinion everywhere is queuing up to endorse the concept of a second-tier championship.
However, this writer has misgivings about second-tier competitions owing to an unfortunate experience in primary school. It is a salutary tale. Our fourth class soccer team had successfully battled through the fraught group stages of the notoriously competitive Longford and District Schoolboy League. We proceeded to win our first play-off game, only to fall at the semi-final stage.
The class above us, with whom we enjoyed a healthy rivalry (we were a precocious bunch), failed quite miserably in their attempt to qualify from their group but proceeded to win the ‘Shield’ (which I unsuccessfully sought to rebrand as the loser’s competition).
They then paraded this tattered looking plaque around the school as if it was the World Cup, bringing it on an exhaustive classroom by classroom tour.
Accompanied by their pathetic bauble, their captain walked into our class with an insufferable smirk on his face.
Our own teacher, who proudly flaunted her ignorance of sport at every available opportunity, inquired whether ‘this lot’ (ie. the mob she had to teach) had won anything themselves.
The smirk of their captain became more pronounced as he gleefully essayed the word ‘No’. No silverware for these clowns.
This hardened my heart towards shields and second-tier competitions forever.
More mischief on social media please
2016 could yet be the golden age of the Twitter ‘spat’.
If there’s one thing Twitter has taught us, it’s how much GAA players love the Premiership. Those backward militants who railed against the abolition of Rule 41 would be crestfallen to see the ocean of tweets of a Saturday from Tipperary wing forwards and their ilk lamenting the Pool’s failure to replace Suarez.
Many of the more high-profile players simply use Twitter to retweet messages from sponsors and occasionally compose the odd personality-free tweet in support of some good cause or other.
But the potential for mischief is endless...
During the aggro-laden denouement of the Dublin-Mayo drawn game, Galway’s Damien Comer tweeted his sympathies to Diarmuid Connolly, remarking that Lee Keegan instigated the row and ‘it’s not his first time’, an obvious reference to Keegan’s comically blunt cynicism at the end of the Mayo-Galway game.
Naturally this fusilade provoked a volley of responses.
Aidan O’Shea, meanwhile, also explored the mischief-making potential of the medium last Thursday.
While a Mayo County Board meeting was in progress, he issued a wonderfully gnomic tweet, asserting that logic and Mayo GAA were complete strangers to one another. Despite repeated pleas to expand on this, O’Shea, like a first class enigma, refused to do so.
Hurling returns to America
Not for the first time, hurling will be played at Fenway Park this November, albeit not classical hurling (test match hurling, if you will) but ‘Super Hurling 11s’, a variant of the game specifically designed for junkets such as this.
Ticket sales are said to be brisk. It is understood the musical stylings of the Artane young lads band have been forsaken for the Dropkick Murphys. It is obligatory to have the Dropkick Murphys on in the background when speaking about the Irish in Boston.
The last time hurling was played at the home of the Red Sox in 1954, Cork defeated the entire US, presumably without breaking too much sweat. But then GAA teams’ triumphs in the US of A don’t always inspire much fanfare.
When Ireland defeated Italy 1-0 in the Giants Stadium, one fairly detached GAA pundit said he couldn’t understand all the fuss about the heat, referring to a game he had played in the same ground back in the day, whereupon now deceased Hot Press scribe George Byrne, the self-proclaimed coiner of the terms ‘bogball’ and ‘stick-fighting’, became irate and asked what business he had comparing soccer at that level to ‘what was essentially a drinking weekend’.