I get an odd gig doing commentary for RTE Radio One and last week I was given my choice of four games. I opted for the Down v Sligo match in Cavan as it was the nearest to home. I left in good time and had the luxury of arriving at Breffni Park with time to spare. I enjoyed the company of Joe O’Connor from Ballintubber (Cillian’s uncle ) for the best part of an hour before the game. Joe is a garda based in Ballinagh and understands the nuances of Cavan football inside out. We chatted about the Cavan football scene, as like us here in Mayo, Cavan are on the look out for a new manager after the departure of Tom Carr. Tom Reilly from Belmullet is the County chairman up there and has the onerous task of selecting a new man to take charge. The word is that there aren’t too many jumping out of the woodwork looking for it.
The match itself was delayed by 10 minutes due to a logjam of traffic coming from Sligo. I watched both teams going through a warm up routine on the back pitch and I could see from a distance that the Sligo boys looked very deflated and flat after the ambush in Castlebar six days earlier. Clearly it was not physical fatigue as four of the teams in action over the weekend had played the previous weekend and most of them still looked fresh and eager. After the opening 10 minutes I could see that Sligo were showing all the symptoms of a massive hangover as a result of the defeat at the hands of Roscommon.
I felt genuinely sorry for Sligo as six days is not sufficient time to recover after such a loss. They have endured a horrible week and after a season that was so promising, with promotion initially to division two followed by two massive wins over the big two in Connacht, they looked a sorry sight at 8pm last Saturday. In fact if this were a boxing contest the towel would surely have been thrown in and the referee would have called a halt to proceedings five minutes after half time. The longer it went on the more difficult it became for the jaded looking outfit. Sport can be so cruel sometimes.
The same applies to poor Louth. Their bubble was burst with the awful decision that meant they weren’t presented with the Leinster title two weeks ago and yet they deserve great credit for putting up a creditable performance against Dublin last weekend.
I listened to a live feed of the Cork v Limerick match on headphones from the Gaelic grounds. The little bit of excitement created by the closeness of the game, not the quality, ensured that I hadn’t much to do by way of commentary in Cavan. Cork were pushed all the way by a gallant Limerick side and almost dumped, most people’s favourites for the All- Ireland title this year out of the championship. Nothing new in that, I hear you say, as for the last decade or more Limerick have been the ‘almost’ team of the GAA.
It could be time for a shake up as Monaghan also looked a pale shadow of the team that had a look of real quality ten days ago. They are a team on the drift and their manager ‘Banty’ McAnaney (the ref’s brother ) must be considering his options after giving it his all over the last six years. They more than likely need a fresh face in charge and lots of fresh faces on the field as quite a number of those lads have made enormous sacrifices over a number of years and with nothing to show for it, it will be difficult to squeeze anything more from them. Kildare, on the other hand, are beginning to stretch themselves and if Johnny Doyle can rediscover his scoring boots they too could progress this weekend over Meath. Now that has the hallmarks of being a game of real substance.
There are also another couple of mouth-watering matches to look forward to this weekend, with the two double headers at HQ. I am looking forward to them all for different reasons. I was hugely impressed with Down last Saturday, notwithstanding the feeble challenge of Sligo. They have great forwards, two powerful midfielders, and despite being a little porous in defence, I think their clash with Kerry has the potential to be a cracker. Kerry look a little vulnerable at the moment with both Tomás Ó Sé and Paul Galvin, two of their best players, ruled out of this one. When you count the other defections from last year, one wonders could there be a shock on the cards here?
The Tyrone v Dublin is another ‘must see’ match and, with the Dubs having improved in every match since their Leinster Championship defeat, it too has the makings of a great encounter. However Tyrone are well ahead of most counties at the moment in terms of consistency of performance and mental attitude and I doubt they will be found wanting.
Roscommon have drawn Cork and the Rossies will take encouragement from the gallant performance of Limerick last Saturday. However, I feel the Rossies will hit the capital with an attitude of enjoying the day out.