Went to Omagh last Saturday night for the Tyrone v Derry game, it’s no joke of a trip from the city of the tribes and took the guts of four hours. Indeed!!! “Boo-hoo for you” - I hear you say. Get out the smallest violin in the country and we’ll play you a tune. “We’ve no sympathy for you, Silke. And you getting well paid to go”.
However, and this is hard to believe, but the worst part of the entire 150 mile journey is the goddamn N17 from Galway to the far side of Tuam. Before we talk football, can we motorists who live in this part of the world ask why there has been no real improvement in that stretch of road for the past 30 years?
Claremorris is bypassed, Kiltimagh, Knock, and the like, Sligo is a breeze to get through, but when you hit Tuam or Claregalway, you can lose 20 minutes at the drop of a hat.
And you can multiply that by two on a Friday evening. Why, oh why, should Galway people and those that pass that way on a regular basis be second class citizens as regards the super highways that they have in other parts of the country. Next time a politician knocks on your door looking for your vote, ask them what they did for you when the gravy train was rolling. Why was Claregalway not bypassed? Why is Tuam such a bottleneck at peak times? Where was their vision of the future, or did they not have any? Rant over.
Back to the beautiful game
The other aspect of the weekend that proved sobering was the fact that the standard of football in Healy park, Omagh on Saturday night was far superior to that which was on display in Tuam last Sunday.
The biggest difference was that Tyrone made so few mistakes when in possession, they work so hard off the ball and have a huge panel for Mickey Harte to choose from. They played a very fast tempo and regularly had 12 men behind the ball and then broke at speed through the likes of Sean Cavanagh, Philip Jordan, Davy Harte, and impressive newcomer Sean O’ Neill at centre back.
They were minus five All-Stars players last Saturday night, Enda McGinley, Justin McMahon, Ryan McMenamin, Stephen O’Neill and Brian Dooher, and yet they delivered a top-class victory.
Name any other team in the country, including Kerry, who could be without such talent and still defeat the likes of Derry. Tyrone are the team to beat in 2009.
Mayo deservedly beat Galway last Sunday and Galway supporters can have absolutely no complaints. We got what we deserved. Nothing. When the game was in the balance in the vital fourth quarter it was Mayo who really tore into the game. When O’Mahony was over Galway he always preached the need for massive work-rate and pressure from the forwards to stop defenders coming out with the ball, and that system was obvious for all to see last weekend. The number of mistakes, fumbling play, and poor decisions made by Galway defenders was incredible. They seemed incapable of clearing their own lines and were swallowed up on numerous occasions by ravenous Mayo tackling. Liam Sammon will have to swallow hard, think long and deep about his team selection and make some brave decisions between now and the championship.
Based on last Sunday’s performance there have to be major questions as to whether Barry Cullinane is the person to man the middle of the field.
Galway did not have one single big fetch in that area for the 70 minutes and appeared to lack legs in the second half when they were cleaned out by Ronan McGarrity and Tom Parsons for long stretches.
If that happens it is tough to win tight games. Let’s get real here. Galway conceded 1-21 in the championship last year against Kerry and when you rewatch that DVD, many of the reasons why that happened become very apparent. Perhaps it is a reality check for some Galway supporters who were getting so far ahead of themselves it was nonsensical. And when you have the likes of Eugene McGee — who should know a lot better — talking in the Irish Independent of Galway being possible All-Ireland contenders after a few league wins, perhaps some people swallowed the bait, rod, and the entire boat. Galway have only won two All-Irelands since 1966. Unfortunately no other county in the province has won one for nearly 60 years. They are not easily won and loose talk about winning this and that should be confined to high stools and men with a lot of porter on board. And the next time you are cheesed off sitting in heavy slow-moving traffic around Tuam or Claregalway and you are wondering who will lift Sam next September, keep your predictions to the usual suspects rather than outrageous long-shots who inhabit the counties west of the Shannon.