I drove away from Ballina last Sunday afternoon feeling pretty miserable if I am to be totally honest. Yes, Crossmolina had won the championship encounter against their near neighbours Ballina Stephenites, but the game had attracted much attention for all the wrong reasons. There was an ugliness and a nasty undercurrent from start to finish throughout this encounter. Two players were sent off during the game and, as we now know, Ronan McGarrity suffered a serious injury that may possibly jeopardise his participation in the Connacht final on Sunday week. I am conscious of not elaborating on the issue to any great extent, as I am led to believe that there is to be an investigation into the game and a number of incidents that took place during it. I fully endorse and welcome this investigation and if any player from either club is found to have broken the rules, then there is a mechanism in place to deal with those issues. I sincerely hope McGarrity is fit to play against Galway as I fully recognise his importance to the Mayo football team. Needless to say his loss would be significant as Mayo do not have another midfield player of comparable ability to replace him. I wish him well and sincerely hope he recovers sufficiently to take his place in Pearse Stadium.
The win leaves us on three points, the same tally as Knockmore in our group. Knockmore were pushed all the way by Ballinrobe last Saturday and were mightily relieved to come away with a win. That victory means that Ballinrobe have no chance of making it to the quarter finals as they lost their first round match to Ballina. Crossmolina play Ballinrobe in a months time and I want to make it known right now that Crossmolina will be taking nothing for granted for this encounter. Needless to say the big match in this group will be between Ballina and Knockmore. A win for either team will guarantee its progress through to the next stage. The Knockmore boys were there in numbers last Sunday, no doubt devising their strategy for what could potentially be a cracking game in four weeks time.
Should have stuck with the gardening
I watched the Armagh v Monaghan first round qualifier game last Saturday on TV at home. I had spent most of the afternoon down the back garden strimming. Grass had grown about six feet high in the preceding days after the heavy rainfall, and some trees were in danger of being smothered. It was another job that had been put on the ‘long finger’ and I was anxious to get it finished before the game. I didn’t get anywhere close to getting the job done as I spent half the afternoon on the phone to players and made a few dashes into the house to see how the ladies’ Wimbledon final was progressing. The football was one of the worst I have witnessed in quite a while. It was a complete waste of an evening. It’s not often that I come away from a game regretting that I had watched it, but last Saturday was one occasion when I wished I had stuck to the strimming.
The qualifiers and all that
I didn’t get to see the Limerick v Cork Munster final live as it clashed with our game in Ballina. A couple of us went upstairs to the Stephenites club house after the match and it was there I learned that the “referee had robbed Limerick”. For the second time in a number of weeks, Mick Curley, chairman of the referees’ committee had to come to the defence of one of its members. It was generally felt that Cork were awarded a rather dubious penalty in the first half. When I saw it later that evening, I would have to agree that it could be categorised as being a ‘handy’ one. I think Limerick would have won their first Munster final in 113 years had this penalty not been awarded against them. They played brilliantly, but as their towering and hugely impressive midfielder John Galvin said afterwards, he has no provincial medal after a decade of coming close to winning one. What a shame as Limerick have been one of the unluckiest teams over the last decade or more.
Any team coming into the second round qualifiers tomorrow evening, after a victory last weekend, has the advantage over their opponents. The reality is they have got the winning feeling back into their systems and the confidence boost that a championship victory generates.
The pick of the qualifier games this weekend for me is the clash of Tipperary v Sligo. Tipp are having a mighty season. They won the division three title earlier this year. I watched that game on TV and was hugely impressed with their ability as a team. They are well organised, appear to be well coached, and have a scatter of very good fit footballers all over the field. Sligo, as we saw two weeks ago, are no slouches either and they, more than most, will realise that they could and possibly should be preparing for a Connacht final and not a second round qualifier. Of all the games this weekend, this would be my game of choice to view if I had the option. I suspect if Tipperary were good enough to travel to Dundalk and beat Louth last Saturday, then they should have enough momentum to shade what should be a close one. I gave my old friend Tommy Carr a call on Monday evening to chat about their round 2 qualifier draw. His team, Cavan, have the unenviable task of travelling to Aughrim tomorrow evening to take on Micko’s Wicklow. I don’t envy him. It’s a horrible draw for Cavan. No matter what happens in this one, he can’t win. Cavan would normally be expected to beat Wicklow but after Wicklow proved the pundits wrong and took the very formidable scalp of a decent Fermanagh side last Saturday, their tails are up and I wouldn’t be too optimistic of Cavan’s chances. Micko is obviously in buoyant mood and defiantly claimed his side would have a fighting chance against any opposition this weekend. He will be licking his lips in anticipation of making it through to the next round and even more back slapping days ahead. Tommy, understandably believes his side will win, but deep down I think he knows he’s up against it. Anyone who got to watch the brief highlights on Sunday evening would have seen enough to suggest that these Wicklow boys are playing with enormous passion and commitment. They overcame the blow of having two players sent off, their centre forward in the first half followed by their very impressive giant of a midfielder, Thomas Walsh, late in the second, but still maintained their composure to record a hugely impressive win. They fought tooth and nail in the dying minutes to prove once again that any visiting team to fortress Aughrim will have to play mighty well to have any chance of coming away with a victory.