THERE IS a certain awkwardness in watching Peter Canavan’s analysis of sons Darragh and Ruairí on the Sunday Game. A magnificent Irishness, where a fear of being brash leads to the complete and utter opposite. It gets to the point you almost have to restrain yourself from driving your own clan into the ground.
Canavan senior has made no secret of the fact he and his boys talk very little football. It’s a barbaric situation that he will happily sit and openly discuss Tyrone with half the country, the same things he wouldn’t dare say at the dinner table. But it makes complete sense.
And speaking to the GAA Social podcast last year, it was a contributing factor to his decision to turn down a coaching role with Mickey Harte a few years back:
“Whenever I was playing I didn’t have that baggage of anybody related to me in charge of the teams. I was my own man.
“With the likes of Darragh and Ruairi they’ve got to enjoy their own careers and make the most of it. With me not being there it makes it a bit easier for them.”
Age was another chunk of Canavan’s rationale, which is somewhat ironic just a little over the road in Kinawley, County Fermanagh. Manager Dom Corrigan has had a few more birthdays than the Tyrone legend. He’s a little further down the line in this peculiar position where putting family first is so frowned upon.
At the weekend, Kinawley met Derrygonnelly in the Fermanagh Division One league final. As finals go, it was typically tight, typically tense. On 42 minutes, Kinawley trailed Harps by a solitary score. The eldest of three Corrigans makes a decision.
Ruairí on, Tomás off. A father swapping one of his children for another. Football comes first. Not quite enough to sound the alarm bells of injustice quite like the parable of the prodigal son, but a mad scenario nonetheless.
When the game went to extra time, you could blow it out of proportion and say it was a masterstroke. When Conall McGovern fired the killer blow into the Kinawley net just seconds from the end, you could blow it out of proportion and say perhaps it was the wrong call.
You could turn anything into the butterfly effect if you sat long enough with a pen in your hand and hours to kill. The reality is that substitution was just one of a million decisions made in a game of decision making.
For Derrygonnelly, the form book now reads nine wins out of ten. 2022 undoubtedly still stings, a year that will go down as a failure when for most teams in the Erne County it would be par in the worst case scenario.
A defeat to eventual winners Enniskillen Gaels in the SFC semi-final meant it was the first time Harps failed to progress to the championship final since 2014. This year now becomes the one that cements the continuation of a legacy, or the end of an era.
Kinawley would have been equally aggrieved to see their townie rivals go on to secure the crown. A little over a month separated their final round group win over Enniskillen and Simon Bradley’s side’s final victory over Erne Gaels of Belleek. Beating the eventual champions is always a bitter pill to swallow.
So close yet so far would be harsh to adopt as a running theme for Brian Ború’s, but it is a fair assessment of both last year’s SFC semi-final defeat and the weekend’s loss in the league. A Gary McKenna red could well have given them the initiative in extra time in the latter, but it wasn’t to be.
2022 IFC champions Devenish St Mary’s now provide the championship opposition on September’s second weekend, where little other than a win will suffice. Particularly if Corrigan’s charges are to qualify for an automatic semi-final as they did 12 months ago.
For Enniskillen, it all kicks off with a trip to Ederney next weekend. Again, the Gaels faithful will expect a win, although their league campaign wasn’t hugely inspiring, including a defeat to Ederney in Round 9. A crunch clash with Derrygonnelly ended in an all-too-comfortable five-point defeat, like a pin to the balloon of their status as reigning champions.
Yet that is what they are, and with good reason. Conor Love’s 2-1 in last year’s final victory over Erne Gaels will remain fresh in the memory. We have seen on plenty of occasions in the past that the league matters little once the ball is thrown in for championship.
Derrygonnelly meanwhile will host Roslea, as they aim to continue an impressive run of form. An extended 2021 season that ended in an Ulster SFC final defeat to Kilcoo perhaps derailed last year, but at the moment, they are the side to beat.
Garvan Jones has been in superb form, while Conor Burns may be one worth keeping an eye on. Paul Greene and Sean Flanagan’s charges have looked very tactically astute, particularly on kickouts, with former Leitrim boss Shane Ward amongst the backroom team.
The small matter of the league is done and dusted, and the ninth of nine Ulster championship campaigns is about to kick off.