Kieran McGeeney’s take on the melee that marred Armagh’s wonderful All-Ireland quarter-final with Galway ultimately descended into a fairly childish and unnecessary game of back and forth with a journalist yesterday evening.
The Armagh manager asked the question, “What happens if somebody pushes you? Do you push back?” when it was put to him that maybe the players themselves had to start taking responsibility for their actions.
What to do? It’s a pickle the GAA and its members have had to ponder far too often. We’ve seen scenes of a similarly ugly nature erupt at big inter-county games, at low-level club games and we’ve seen them at underage events as well.
McGeeney’s assertion that there are simple ways in which the Croke Park authorities can avert these things is worth examining. Prevent sides from entering the tunnel at the same time? After everything that had just preceded it?
Armagh had been six points and a man down with ten minutes to go and they earned themselves a crack at extra-time thanks to two injury-time goals and a last-gasp free by Rian O’Neill that shook the place to its core.
The adrenalin was flowing when David Coldrick pulled the plug on normal time. His whistle was followed by an avalanche of humanity sprinting for the Cusack Park tunnel. Imagine the steward or official trying to stick to processes and pathways in that scenario.
There is no quick fix to what we saw. This stuff is endemic in the GAA. The association needs to dig down to the roots of it rather than prune a few leaves.
Three hundred minutes and change in the weekend's All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals and for all the talk and takeaways, the ones still laughing hardest are the freetakers - or those who take a mark. Because they're taking the mick.
There are scores of exhibits from Croke Park, but just check out two. Aidan Nugent took a 42nd minute mark yesterday. He edged forward and then ran up 10m before knocking it over the bar.
Later Mayo's Jack Carney took a 10th-minute mark against Kerry, advanced it without fuss and should have pointed again - in keeping with Mayo's day he wided.
That's hardly the point. The liberties being taken now with freetakers and marks from the hand are ridiculous and inexplicable for the fact that it is so easy to rectify. Padraic Joyce may be correct about leaving penalty shootouts to soccer, but it's hardly a stain on our Gaelic heritage to introduce the referee's spray can and ensure that these kicks are taken from the correct position. It has reached an epidemic stage now - no freetaker is worthy of the name unless he is sneaking five or six metres extra to make the conversion easier.
Some day, it will prove decisive - and may demand a retake when one referee cries halt. Wouldn't it be better to prepare a proper solution?
The Cork football rebuild saw 53 players receive game-time this year across the McGrath Cup, League, and Championship.
But for several of the more recognisable names on that long list, their season was interrupted or cut short by injury. We’re thinking here of joint-captain Sean Meehan, whose second-half introduction on Saturday was his first involvement since the end of February, or Brian Hartnett, who missed all bar the last 11 minutes of the League before a second hamstring injury finished his inter-county season.
Meehan and Hartnett will be options in 2023, as will the returning Liam O’Donovan, Killian O’Hanlon, Conor Corbett, and Kevin Flahive. Maybe even Nathan Walsh too, if he can shake his luckless injury run.
2021 full-back Daniel O’Mahony will be seen in red next year and perhaps a few more who weren’t around the set-up this year might also rejoin the fold, namely the Clonakilty White brothers, Sean and Mark.
The point is that Cork were never in a position in 2022 to put out anything like their strongest team.
If they can get all of the above back on the pitch for year two of this rebuild project, then there are definite grounds for optimism.
The naming of Emmet Bradley at midfield in the official Derry team sheet, only to replace him with Niall Toner on matchday, has been a curious feature of the Ulster champions' march to the All-Ireland semi-finals. Bradley was named to start against Tyrone, Monaghan and Donegal in Ulster but on each occasion didn't actually start and manager Rory Gallagher went with the same ploy on Saturday, once again naming Bradley but replacing him with Toner in a 'late' announcement.
As a smokescreen, it worked quite well as Brendan Rogers, nominally Derry's full-back, started at midfield in place of Bradley, presumably catching Clare by surprise. Toner was utilised in attack while Shea Downey, wearing number 11, dropped deep into the full-back line to mark Podge Collins. It can't be the most pleasant arrangement for Bradley though he may have been coaxed by Gallagher with the guarantee that he would be the very first substitute to come on in each game. That's how it has materialised with Bradley again the first player called upon during the third quarter of their All-Ireland quarter-final win.
Colm Collins kicked to touch when asked after Saturday's defeat to Derry if he'll be extending his stay as Clare manager to a 10th season. If he leaves, there will be giant boots to fill. Of the 32 Championship games that he has presided over, Clare have won 15 and lost 16, drawing another. That's a 46% win rate in the Championship which might seem modest on paper until you compare it to what preceded his time in charge; just five wins from 21 Championship games in the nine seasons between 2005 and 2013, a 24% success rate. Clare hadn't even won two consecutive Championship games in the qualifier era before he took over, something they managed in both 2016 and again this season. In both of those years they also qualified for All-Ireland quarter-finals. As for the National League, Clare were a Division 4 team when Collins stepped up in late 2013 and are now firmly established in Division 2. In all, they have played 62 league games under the Kilmihil man, winning 27, losing 28 and drawing 7. Best of luck to whoever tries to improve on those stats in the future, particularly off a base of no provincial wins at minor or U-20 level in modern times.