THE failure of the Antrim footballers to beat Wicklow is very serious for the county. Not only because promotion is out of their hands. More importantly, they were beaten very badly. The scoreline can’t be overlooked, 7-11 to 0-7. It is such a stark contrast from how they were playing at the start of the year. The old phrase that managers like to use is a team doesn’t become bad overnight, but can it go wrong after seven months. Patrick Morrison says that players need to be given a break because of the time spent away from competitive football. All eyes are on how the Saffron footballers respond this weekend.
MOST of us in the weird world of GAA journalism want as many matches to proceed as possible because it helps to keep us in a job. I’m not gonna pretend that I’m any different, but nevertheless I don’t see the logic in the Irish Government’s decision that inter-county matches at underage level shouldn’t go ahead. We’re a couple of days out from an All-Ireland U-20 final, so it’s desperately disappointing for the young footballers from Dublin and Galway, and it’s almost as sore on u-17 players who have been waiting more than half-a-year for their competitions. It would’ve been played off in a matter of weeks so it just seems unnecessary in the extreme, particularly given the lack of notice.
SO Down have been promoted to Division Two without kicking a ball post-lockdown. And what? Leitrim conceding to Paddy Tally’s men and Longford doing likewise to Cork isn’t their fault. Derry are the losers here but, let’s be honest, there is no way Down were going to let it slip against Louth for the second year in-a-row – and Rory Gallagher and the Oakleafers would agree with that. Down go up because they played good football in the first five rounds. They beat challengers Longford and Derry, they battled well in Tipperary for a draw and they eased past Offaly on the road. They competed with Cork too. Well deserved.
THE knives are out already as Tyrone suffered a bad enough defeat to Donegal at the weekend. The four-point deficit at the final whistle was flattering, but it’s too early to completely write them off even if there’s a good chance they could be completely out of the running in a fortnight’s time. Tyrone are generally better when their backs are against the wall – they beat Dublin in the league this year six days after the worst defeat of Mickey Harte’s tenure against Galway, and they’ve reached the quarter-final of the championship at the very least every year since 2014. So Tyrone fans shouldn’t give up hope.
DOWN’S automatic promotion to Division Two without actually kicking the ball will no doubt be met with delight in the Mourne county as they get to play in the second tier next year. Any suggestion that Derry fans should feel chagrin is met with short shrift. Derry lost to Down earlier this year so they shouldn’t go up. At the same time, Fermanagh were forced to play a game when they were understrength, and then they get relegated. On first glance it doesn’t really seem fair on Fermanagh. However, it is in keeping with the rules. A team either fields or forfeits. The fixtures are set, and the game must be played. But I’m minded of how club competitions are run. At league level, teams can often get games switched if both teams agree. So there’s a level of freedom at club level not afforded at county level. Who says county football is king?
ONE of the most underrated Armagh players of the last 20 years has been Clonmore’s Brendan Donaghy. Since making his championship debut in 2007 with a stormer in the dramatic defeat to Donegal, he has been nothing short of brilliant even if injuries did hamper his involvement at times. When he isn’t there, like on Saturday against Roscommon, the Orchard defence look far more suspect. There’s a problem coming down the line though. Donaghy was 34 in April, and picking an obvious replacement is not an easy task.