All-Ireland finals left me feeling cheated

All-Ireland final day is one of the best days of the year.

Well, it should be anyway.

Three or four of us either go up Saturday for the Kilmacud Sevens or belt up early on Sunday morning. Last weekend due to family commitments we opted for the Sunday gig and were in Jury’s opposite Croke Park well before noon.

One of the men we travel with has a terrible fear of being late for games. Especially All-Irelands.

He got left behind as a youngster after he missed a plane, and despite huge amounts of counselling, he has never gotten over it.

So there we were.

In good form and in good time, all set up for what should have been a most memorable day.

Instead by 5.05pm, I was, and I was not alone in this, feeling well cheesed off and almost cheated by the two games that we had just endured.

The minor final was a dour and sluggish affair that never took off at all.

Watching Aidan Walsh miss a very easy early free must have given all Mayo people watching with fingers crossed a sickening feeling of impending doom.

A raiding Shane McDermott had a good goal chance too but he opted to take an extra solo and the chance was lost.

To have won, Mayo needed to be very clinical and efficient with every opportunity that presented itself. They were not.

Fair play to Armagh for winning their first minor title in 60 years, but the standard of fare was extremely poor. Compared to last year’s superb game between Mayo and Tyrone, this contest failed to take off at all.

The best bit of play on show were the three incredible points by Armagh corner forward Robbie Tasker in the second half.

Mayo will be dejected to have lost another final, however some of the players on view appear to have the correct attitude and application to go on and have a good career in Mayo U21 and senior jerseys.

Michael Schlingermann produced another clean sheet and adds to Mayo’s impressive line of quality keepers. Keith Rodgers at full-back, Ciarán Charlton at number five and Cillian O’Connor all caught the eye. Team captain Aidan Walsh had one of those days when nothing seemed to go right for him. However he is a talented young player and the Castlebar man can bounce from his minor losses.

There was an awful lot of scrappy play from both sides and the quantity of persistent hand-passing made it a difficult game to enjoy. Armagh were constantly going across the field and going backwards to keep possession and the third quarter in particular was turgid stuff.

If this is what we were getting from the carefree minors, it was hard to expect free flowing and exciting football from the seniors.

Kerry play their own brand of “puke football”

I interviewed Tyrone’s Ryan McMenamin a few years ago and he said, “If we beat Kerry playing puke football, they must like it, as they have copied us completely”.

That line came back to me last Sunday in the last quarter when Kerry had twelve men behind the ball and just kept Cork out from the scoring zone.

It was terrible to watch, and on numerous occasions we were treated to the view of Paul Galvin jogging back to act as an extra shield in front of the full back line.

It may be effective, and Kerry did win, however it is anything but appealing to watch and left a sour taste in my mouth.

It cost €70 Euro for our tickets and when you added up a few other bits and pieces, diesel, some fixings, a few match programmes, you’d have little change from €140 for the day, and the three of us who travelled felt very let down by the games.

Football supporters want excitement and good quality games.

Massed defences and five hundred hand passes in a game might bring success, but GAA punters are a discerning lot and I would consider what was on show last Sunday as incredibly mediocre. If that is what is going to be served up on an annual basis, the desire to attend the biggest show in town on the third Sunday in September will decline significantly.

Nobody wants to be disappointed by what they see after putting a lot of time, effort, expense, and a day away from the family to attend Croke Park.

My overwhelming emotion when I pulled in home at 9.30pm, last Sunday night, thirteen hours after leaving home, was that I was sorry I had gone.

The enjoyment from the games did not even come close to compensating for the effort expended in getting there.

Next year, depending on who is playing, I will think long and hard about making the trip. Managers may say that they don’t care what it looks like, once they win; well, if enough of them follow that mantra day in day out, they could find themselves playing to empty terraces and stands.

They will collect the cups, but there won’t be anyone to dance their jigs to.


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