The golden point
THERE was some chat on social media about the Tyrone final being sent to a replay if Dungannon missed their last kick. There were a few messages from people who said that that was unfair as it would be ‘making up the rules as they go along’. I’m reminded of the time that the Antrim County Board chairman walked onto the field and stopped a penalty shoot-out last year because he felt that it was morally wrong for a team to win that way. Everyone’s super dead on about players when it comes to penalties. We don’t want them to suffer the mental anguish of having to try and win a game. Do we feel the same about them training for 11 months of the year though to prepare for a championship run that might only last for four games? The way I see it, penalties aren’t unfair because they put pressure on players, they are unfair because they don’t decide the best team in the game. I’d say a better rule would be to have a golden point. That was suggested in this publication by Jack Brady a few weeks ago. The team that scores first in sudden death extra time is the winner. Now that would be drama.
Pitch invasions aren’t the supporters’ fault
LET’S forget about Stephen Nolan for a second, because that’ll only muddle’s one thinking (and my own thought processes are muddled enough as it is). I’ve grappled over whether or not pitch invasions are understandable in the current circumstances, and I accept it looks bad from the outside looking in, but it’s not fair to blame the Dungannon supporters who obviously got caught up in it all. I saw one tweet describe the supporters as ‘sociopathic’ (taking it a little far, don’t you think) and at the end of the day it’s up to the people in charge to ensure that the games are adequately stewarded and that the protocols are followed. Even that isn’t a guarantee that a pitch invasion won’t happen – I heard that the stewards aren’t allowed to so much as touch a spectator at the moment. Everyone’s generally doing their best, very few people, including myself, have done everything perfectly, and with the R rate rising rapidly, my instinct is that GAA members will rise to the challenge in the same way they did at the start of the lockdown.
Standardised finishes long overdue
IT was a head-scratching weekend following the thrills and spills of the club action. More stories written, more heroes made – and yet I was still left confused. Three finals in Ulster were level after 60 minutes. Belleek and Forkhill went to a replay at that stage in the Armagh Junior title, Ballycran and Portaferry played extra-time in the Down SHC before heading for a replay while we all know that the Tyrone final went to extra-time and then penalties. How are we still at a stage that allows three matches to be finished in different manners even though they are club finals? It’s not right and Croke Park need to come up with a standardised finish, or if they do have one, make sure all counties are aware of it.
What an opportunity for
Kingscourt and Crosserlough
aWE’RE used to seeing Castlerahan, and to a lesser extent Cavan Gaels and Ramor, lead the way in Cavan in the last five years, so there’s a novelty factor about this weekend’s decider between Crosserlough and Kingscourt. Cavan Gaels were favourites to win the title, but they produced a pretty turgid performance and lost to eight points against Kingscourt in the semi-final, while an attack-minded Crosserlough did the business after extra-time against Castlerahan. Crosserlough are bidding for their first title since 1972 and it seems like this could well be their time, but Kingscourt have three or four of the best players in Cavan so it could go right down the wire. Luckily for us it’s being broadcast live on RTE.
Tyrone club football’s X-Factor
DUNGANNON’S Tyrone Championship win at the weekend was remarkable. Not only had it been 64 years since the Clarke’s had won the title, but they were an intermediate team a few years ago. They beat Trillick in the final, who were their opponents in the 2014 Intermediate final. So in Tyrone, making the transition from intermediate to senior success is easy. I don’t know too many other Ulster counties where that could happen. Monaghan perhaps, but the rest of the counties’ senior championships are difficult to break into. There are a couple of conclusions that you might draw from that to explain why the two levels are so close. Tyrone has a better spread of talent across the county. The intermediate champions Edendork have a couple of key county players. Or you might also suggest that Tyrone are winning the numbers game. The top two leagues, which define their championship levels, are 16 teams apiece. That promotes great competition, as there are lot of teams and different styles to play. But the key to Tyrone’s success for me is rivalries. They can find rivalries anywhere. They don’t just do the neighbouring rivalries. They do East v West, they do rivalries with teams that have county players. They can even get a rivalry out of a game against a team that has a manager they don’t like.
More of the same?
WE’RE nearing the end of the club championships and I’m keen to see what trends emerge regarding a changing of the guard. Of the five football finals played, only two – Kilcoo and Cargin – have managed to retain their title, although the holders are alive in three of the remaining four county deciders so that figure should jump. Hurling has leaned a big more towards more of the same though. Dunloy, Mullahoran, Slaughtneil and Castleblayney have already retained and Middletown, Setanta and Ballycran are all in their respective finals. Tyrone is the one county guaranteed a change as Eire Og ended Dungannon’s three in-a-row hopes.