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“Frankly, I’ve no story to regale you with about old people having to walk two or three miles to see a hurling game on a computer”
After Donal Óg Cusack’s rant and the over-the-top criticism of GAAGO of recent weeks I was expecting more uproar last weekend when the Clare versus Waterford hurling game wasn’t shown on RTÉ.
Yet there was no sign of ‘the Great Hurling Man’ on Liveline or any other media outlet. Would it have anything to do with the fact that the match turned out to be a turkey?
I swear if the ‘Hurling Men’ had their way, there would be a 15-minute tribute to the sport before the Angelus every evening, eulogising Mackey, Ring and Cúchulain’s game.
I’m confused as well, because not a single older person contacted me about the GAAGO platform and not being able to see a game of hurling.
Frankly, I’ve no story to regale you with about old people having to walk two or three miles to see a hurling game on a computer.
Why, because elderly people in rural Ireland have far more pressing issues to worry them.
Like the closure of their garda stations, their post offices, and the fact that no GP will be found for the locality when the current doctor retires.
Where their only social outlets to meet people – the local shop and pub – are closing.
They are the things worrying our seniors, not GAAGO.
Anyway, Donal Óg is still at it, still digging in the hole.
His comments about the Tailteann Cup, that it was a Grand National for also-rans, were way out of order.
As a former leader of the GPA, and still its president, it was a cheap shot, demeaning our players, and not helping hurling’s cause in any way.
And by the way, while we are on the subject of streaming, I regularly use Clubber, another excellent streaming service where you can pay to watch club games.
They had five matches available to purchase last weekend – two Munster Ladies Football semi-finals, the Munster Camogie Final, and two Joe McDonagh Cup matches, Kildare-Down and Kerry-Laois.
Did I hear anyone complaining about those games not being free-to-air? Like hell, I didn’t.
Because what we’ve heard over the last few weeks has been selective, opportunist and populist – and I hope now we move on to far more serious issues in the GAA world.
So to the more important bits. Let’s examine the Ulster Final, the only serious provincial football final.
For close to 50 minutes it was modern Gaelic football at its very worst, a really tough watch at times.
Fear of losing permeated both teams’ play.
The stats said it all, there were just six turnovers in the first half.
Why? Because no one carried the ball into a tackle.
When I see 30 players packed into one half of the pitch, and the other half empty of bodies – sorry, that is not a proper sport.
After 30 minutes of ‘action’ the footballer with highest number of possessions was the Derry goalkeeper Odhran Lynch, with 31.
Thankfully, for the last 20 minutes and the extra time, a proper match broke out.
Derry won because they ensured the match was played on their terms.
Once ahead, they played patient, composed football – controlling the tempo and the pace of the contest.
The Derry men are a serious outfit with leaders all over the field, they are comfortable with their game plan, and physically strong all over the field.
And in Shane McGuigan they have a vital piece of the modern Gaelic Football jigsaw – a marquee forward.
Yet before they start dreaming of All-Irelands, this team still has a couple of big mountains to climb.
The obvious one is that they must win a big match in Croke Park.
In losing to Galway there in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, and to the Dubs in this year’s Division Two League Final, Derry’s weaknesses were well exposed.
Additionally, they must come from behind in a big game, and they need to find more impact from the bench, too.
Yet I still see their forwards as their biggest Achilles heel.
Only one forward other than McGuigan scored from play in the Ulster decider.
That is not a statistic of future All-Ireland champions.
As for Armagh, they must take a lot of positives from the match.
They are still in the All-Ireland series and will be difficult opponents for anyone.
They showed great character in Clones, in constantly chasing the game, but what they lacked was common sense.
Armagh did not use the wind well, when they had it at their backs during the first half of the contest.
And, in the first period of extra time, when they had the wind again, and an extra man, they should have gone for Derry’s jugular, instead of playing cagey football.
Instead, they scored one point in the period.
That is why they did not get that elusive Ulster title.
And so, dear oh dear, to the Leinster Final.
The Connacht and Munster Finals were between a Division One (Galway) and a Division Four team (Sligo) and a Division One team (Kerry) and opponents (Clare) who were relegated to Division Three.
But Leinster’s showpiece was between the counties who finished second and third in Division Two. It ought to have been a contest.
What went wrong with Louth? I’m reminded of Mike Tyson’s famous phrase, that “everyone has a plan until they get a punch in the mouth.”
While Mickey Harte was in his pomp as Tyrone manager, making Kerry’s life hell, I remember asking one of their players what were his real qualities.
And the player said it was his ability to study the opposition, identify their strengths and key players, and come up with a scheme to stop them.
Unfortunately, Mickey must have been carried away by the euphoria in Louth in recent weeks – foolishly believing his team had a chance and could go toe to toe with the Dubs.
As for Dublin, these lads are a pale shadow of the six-in-a-row side.
But they are still one of the top-four sides in the country.
You can find flaws in every team and make arguments against all of them, but the Sky Blues are still there – with Kerry, Galway and maybe Tyrone or Mayo – as possible Sam winners.
What was interesting about Dublin was that they had out, for the first time this year, what was surely very close to their best team, with Stephen Cluxton, Jack McCaffrey, Brian Howard and Paul Mannion all starting.
They were sloppy for the first 15 minutes, wasted four goal chances and, that rare bird, we saw Cluxton’s kick-outs malfunction.
Yet when the Dubs hit the turbo button, at around the 15th minute, they were very impressive and simply blew Louth away.
Rule them out of winning the All-Ireland? Even I’m not that stupid.
But thanks to the GAA’s mangling of their inter-county season, it will be another few weeks after the round-robin phase, and the All-Ireland quarter-final, before we know where Dublin stand.