THINGS didn’t go to plan for Cavan against Dublin but it was great to see Martin Reilly producing a typically all-action display. He swung over the opening point after just 14 seconds and after that he mixed it up between kicking a few more beauties and saving a certain goal on his line. Reilly probably hasn’t done enough to earn an All-Star, but at least he is in the conversation. The former Burnley player has been playing for his county since 2007 and every time he goes out he gives it his all. An Ulster title this year was very well deserved.
I SAW a photo at the weekend of one Cavan player with tears in his eyes after their defeat to Dublin, and a couple of them didn’t want to chat to Gaelic Life this week as they were obviously too disappointed. I suppose that says something about their approach to taking on the best team in history – they weren’t just there to make up the numbers but saw it as a real chance of reaching an All-Ireland final. They obviously weren’t over-awed by the occasion as they started strongly, but Dublin’s class and superior strength and conditioning told on the day. The All-Ireland final against Mayo should reveal just how close Cavan are to breaking into the top four or five teams on a more permanent basis.
I’LL admit, although I watch a fair bit of ladies football, I don’t watch a whole pile of camogie. I’ve found a lot of the county games quite poor when I have tuned in, although watching the likes of Sleacht Néill and Loughgiel battle it out has generally been an enjoyable experience. With four Ulster counties in an All-Ireland double-header on Saturday, I watched on. And I was glad I did. Two excellent contests followed with plenty of physicality, good score-taking and drama. The performances of Niamh Mallon, Sara-Lousie Carr and the Donnelly sisters, Ciara and Leanne, were excellent and I’ll definitely be tuning into more in 2021.
IT looks like it is that time of year now, it comes around so quick doesn’t it? The seasonal fixtures/system debate. It happens once a year, but I wish it would be every day. I’d like to publicly put forth my suggestion for fixtures with a few (Santa?) clauses. First of all, I want to make clear that we need a tiered system. We need teams from the same level to play each other for trophies. Only by doing this will they improve. I am going to call this the league, and I think it should have four tiers. The top tier for the best teams, and the fourth tier for the weakest. And a system of promotion and relegation will be in place. Secondly I think another tiered system must be put in place. A competition for teams that might not have a chance of winning the All-Ireland, but who are still good enough to win some games. Teams will be divided by geography as I think that that helps to promote identity and rivalry. I will call these the provincial competitions. And I am also in favour of amalgamations. In a big way. I think the best players should get a chance to play against the best players. So I suggest that counties that are in the same province should come together, and compete against the best players from the other three provinces. I am going to call this the ‘Railway Cup’ because Railways were an old style of transport that was massively economical and popular, but were sidelined to make way for another fad form of transport that made money for rich white men, and destroyed the environment.
THE Tailteann Cup was called the least-desired competition in Irish sport by Irish Times journalist Sean Moran, and maybe I’m clutching at straws here, but if it’s good enough for the girls then why not the lads? The Down and Armagh camogs, not to mention the Fermanagh footballers, won’t have cared that they won All-Irelands at ‘B’ or ‘C’ level on the weekend that’s just passed, and the same will apply if Antrim win the Joe McDonagh Cup. It’d take a few years to get used to but maybe over time it will prove a success. Then again – maybe not.
WHEN the final whistle was blown after what was a beautiful performance by Dublin, a maestro like display by a team we have been privileged to watch for the last decade, one might have expected flowers to be cast from the gallery. But it was not to be. The only reason that the pundits did not fawn over the Dublin team was perhaps that they have run out of superlatives. I felt it a little disrespectful that some guys response to Dublin’s excellent performance was to criticise the system. What Dublin have done is to produce the game-plan for playing football beautifully. They should be lauded, not ignored. The game-plan is simple. Don’t take the ball into contact, force the opponents to go into blind alleys, and crucially make sure you can score from a variety of positions. If there is any criticism, it is of those teams who have not learnt that strategy yet.