Here are the main talking points in the GAA world over the weekend.
Sidelines not always cut above
After the obligatory paeans to the art of the sideline - though with many an eye-roll regarding pleas for two points if you get the ball over the bar - managers may have to rethink their approach to those restarts.
More than once yesterday in Thurles an attacking position petered out when the player taking the sideline made contact not wisely but too well, with respect to the bard.
Putting the ball across the goal rather than going for broke is surely going to be on the agenda at a few inter-county training sessions this week. If the ball sails between the posts that’s fine, but if it doesn’t your defence won’t thank you for a restart that may - going on yesterday’s evidence - land within 20 metres of your own goal.
Recycling the opportunity by landing the ball in the far corner is surely a more attractive proposition, particularly as we saw yesterday a couple of instances of the coach’s bane - the well-struck sideline which lands in a free opponent’s hand . ..
It’s going to be a very long week for Derek McGrath and his Waterford camp as the condensed nature of the Munster SHC could see up to six first-team regulars miss out on what is, arguably, their most important game of the year. Had he not left Cusack Park yesterday evening with a small hospital full of patients, the Waterford manager would have been in a position to leave Austin Gleeson and Pauric Mahony - neither featured in Ennis - out of the Tipperary game next Sunday. But with Barry Coughlan (hand), Tadhg de Búrca (collarbone), Darragh Fives (calf) and Noel Connors (back) nursing injuries, the squad, all of a sudden, has a terribly depleted look about it. The window for this quartet to regain full fitness is incredibly small. There’s also the small matter of appealing Kevin Moran’s red card to make sure he, too, is not marked absent at the Gaelic Grounds.
‘The magic of the championship is days like this’
Turlough O’Brien wasted no time in making his pitch. A few hundred supporters were still loitering about on the pitch in Tullamore after the defeat of Kildare when he explained just why a ‘B’ Championship would never work, regardless of name or structure.
“It is getting the opportunity to play on days like today that is really important. That’s why I am such a strong advocate of not having a tiered championship, because you can see it here and what we did last year. The magic of the championship is days like this. You can have tiered championships and ye (media) lads will have no interest in covering it.
Look at the Christy Ring and all the rest of those competitions and, while hurling is a different animal, every football county can beat everybody else. If there are structures and organisation in place then every one of us can compete. I would hope that we have provided inspiration to other Division Four teams that they can do likewise.”
It was ironic that Championship life without Diarmuid Connolly began for Dublin in Portlaoise. Almost a year to the day since Connolly tangled with linesman Ciaran Branagan at O’Moore Park, resulting in a ban that ruined his summer, Jim Gavin was back at the venue with his team. Branagan was there too, this time as the referee, though Connolly was a notable absentee. Gavin wasn’t even asked about the St Vincent’s man afterwards with the presumption now being that the star forward is gone for the summer. What more is there to say. It’s a pity because while Dublin racked up 4-25 in his absence, he would have been at the very least a useful option later in the summer. The way things are shaping up, they’ll still win Leinster at a stroll without him.
Offaly’s awful situation
Four months after weeping with joy when Offaly beat Dublin in the league at Croke Park, Michael Duignan must have shed tears of anguish on Saturday. A 24-point defeat and suspensions for Oisin Kelly and Ronan Hughes has left them up against it to beat Dublin next Sunday and avoid relegation. They can feel a little let down by the system. Should there be relegation at all? The situation in Munster is obviously different. And how fair was it sending Offaly, or any team for that matter, out four weekends in a row. Dublin had two games, then a break, followed by two more games. Again, the inequity of the situation has impacted on Offaly.
Ulster obstacles to crowd-pulling
Yes, do not adjust your newspaper. You read that right.
The Ulster Championship, that bearpit of sledging, hostility, massed defences, cultural explosion and packed terraces, where it ALL MEANS SOOOOO MUCH MORE UP HERE produced a Championship crowd of 5,589.
There are a few reasons for this, but chief among them was the pig-headed insistence that this game would go ahead, not just on the same day as the Champions League final, but at the same time. How it could not have been moved back to a 3pm throw-in will elude those with sense. However, there is the added point that prices have gone up this year in Ulster to a whopping £30 in, with U16s now charged a fiver for entry.
That has not gone down well.
In 2000, a game between these two attracted a crowd in excess of 16,500 to Casement Park. Some fresh thinking is needed drastically.
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