I only got to see one game last weekend and that was the much anticipated replay between Ballaghadereen and Ballintubber on Sunday. The previous encounter was a right rip-roaring clash with Ballintubber denied a famous victory when Andy Moran scored a goal for Ballaghadereen almost at the death, to put his team in front with time almost up. Ballintubber did manage an equaliser deep into injury time and set up the opportunity to witness these two do battle again. The weather was perfect for football and I was really looking forward to a good game. I parked myself with a few of the Crossmolina boys, who were there keeping an eye on proceedings, as they play the winners this Sunday. No note taking required by these boys as Liam Moffett, the Crossmolina manager, was videoing the game from behind us, obviously for closer scrutiny later in the week in his effort to try and orchestrate another county title for the Deel Rovers. Sadly the game never really caught fire and once Ballaghadereen started getting ball into their forwards there was never going to be anything other than a decisive victory for the boys from the east. Andy Moran, who was having a really quiet championship campaign up until last weekend, played like an inter-county footballer and proved to be a right handful for the three defenders who tried to curtail his scoring threat. Andy has perfected the knack of shoving off his marker with his hand and demonstrated this tactic several times throughout Sunday’s encounter.
When you consider the huge upper body strength he has developed these last couple of years, you can understand why he is so difficult to stop with ball in hand. Beside him, in the full forward line, Barry Regan is playing great football. He is another big strong man with inter-county experience and has really blossomed into a great club player. His free taking from the hand was flawless and he and John Feeney had a right old ding-dong battle from the throw in. If Ballintubber were to have any chance of progressing to a semi-final they needed everyone to play at least as good as they had in the drawn encounter a few weeks ago. Sadly for them they didn’t, and will now lament the fact that one lapse of concentration in that drawn encounter has cost them dearly. Interestingly, Pearce Hanley, despite wearing the No 11 jersey on his back, played centre back on inter-county star, Alan Dillon. Alan did manage to shake off the Aussie rules kid on a few occasions, but had the choke out on several others as Pearse demonstrated his enormous fitness levels by driving the length of the field at every opportunity. On one occasion late in the game Pearse popped a free kick back to his goalkeeper around the 21 yard line. Having taken the return pass from him, he off-loaded to a team mate and within seconds was ahead of the ball carrier at the far end of the field in a scoring position and looking for the ball. This tactic of putting forwards defending is a ploy that worked extremely well last Sunday, as the Ballaghadereen boys were chomping at the bit to drive forward at every opportunity. One of the major talking points in football circles in this county has been the fact that this particular Ballaghadereen team hasn’t won the Moclair Cup. On the evidence of last Sunday’s performance I will be shocked if they don’t in 2008. Liam Moffett, and indeed all of the Crossmolina backroom team, will have to scrutinise, analyse and devise a game plan to put the shackles on a very formidable full forward line, a really good midfield pairing of James Kilcullen and Barry Kelly and a powerful attacking half back line. It will be a fascinating contest to see who goes forward to play Charlestown in the following week’s county final. It will be worth the money alone to see how the very formidable Pearse Hanley handles the mercurial talents of Ciaran McDonald. A must see if there ever was one.
Another one bites the dust
When driving to and from games throughout the summer I, and likely thousands of others, would tune into RTÉ 1 radio sport to find out how games were going on up and down the country. On a few occasions I heard John Myler, the Wexford hurling manager interviewed before or after a Wexford game. Rarely have I ever heard a man speak with such passion about, and belief in, his county’s hurlers. Here was a man who didn’t hold back when giving his realistic honest views on the state of Wexford hurling. I felt they had a future, despite a few hammerings in this year’s championship, with this man in charge. Oh how naïve I must have been as this week John was given the heave-ho by Wexford. To be honest, I felt kind of embarrassed, for no obvious reason as I listened to his interview on RTÉ Radio sport on Wednesday morning as he outlined what happened.
He had arranged a meeting with the Wexford County Board to discuss plans for 2009 and under the clear assumption that he was still very much the man that had the task of guiding their fortunes for another year. But during the meeting he discovered that a small number of players had indicated to the County Board that they had lost confidence in his man-management skills and his back room staff. The County Board “wished John well” and that was that! Ger Doyle, the Wexford County Chairman, and a small number of inter county players obviously didn’t see what I saw in the man and they decided to dispense with his services in a rather cheap manner this week. But then maybe the county chairman had a dream or a vision in the last few weeks that by removing the manager the fortunes of Wexford hurling will turn on its head. Maybe if he and his board members had shown a little more back bone and shouted stop when that small number of players had questioned their manager, it just might have been more beneficial in the long term for the future of Wexford hurling?
Ryan steps up a level
Meanwhile Glen Ryan, Kildare’s former centre back has progressed to senior management with Longford. He did manage his native county’s under 21s this year and has now decided to cut his teeth with a senior inter-county side. I have met Glen on a number of occasions and he always struck me as a real genuine GAA man. I wish him well. Realistically, in the short term, the best he can hope for is a good league run and perhaps a scalp or two through the ‘back door’ for Longford. But then who knows, he might just do a Wexford on it, surprise the football fraternity and go all the way to an All-Ireland semi final. The footballers I am referring to.