Time to get back to the nitty gritty of the club championship

The club championship kicks off this weekend. It is a fact that the majority of teams that play this weekend believe they will be good enough to win their respective matches. However 2011 will undoubtedly cough up its fair share of surprising results. We also have sufficient proof that, on any given Sunday, the majority of teams in the county are capable of beating each other. Form in the league counts for nothing when championship comes around. We have several teams sprinkled around the county that excel in beating more fancied opponents. Our Crossmolina boys are off to Garrymore this Saturday evening to play against a team that rarely suffers in the confidence department! I am very aware of how formidable they can be in their own back yard.

I was also aware that they were down in Ballinrobe last Friday evening having a peep at our match against the local side. We did our best to realign our selection to create some confusion. I hope it worked.

Tomas Tierney tells me that Westport’s championship fixture v Ballintubber will be James Gill’s last before he departs for San Francisco on a work placement for a few years. I expect the Covies will be pumped to deliver a performance of substance to mark James’ departure. They will make life very uncomfortable for the county champions.

Pat Holmes has high expectations for Castlebar Mitchels. Despite the fact that he has lost a few to the US for the summer, their good form so far this year augurs well for a positive start against Aghamore.

Charlestown are old warriors and won’t lie down for any team. Their encounter with local rivals and championship aspirants, Ballaghadereen, is, arguably, the match of the weekend. We have played both this year and from what I see there will be little between the sides. Ballagh might be the fresher side and I will be surprised other than a positive result for them.

No relaxing Bank Holiday weekend for the Mayo seniors

I hear the Mayo senior team has been diligently exorcising the ghosts of the dismal championship performance against London. They had a vigorous Bank Holiday weekend that commenced on Thursday evening with a workout against Donegal in Sligo. I think Mayo were beaten by a point, but that won’t be a concern. They apparently trained again on Friday and again for most of Saturday. With the panel instructed to do two weight training sessions and an aqua pool session this week, not to mention a couple of nights training with their clubs, one would expect that fitness should not be a problem on June 26.

Last weekend failed to light the championship touch paper

After club training last Sunday morning I settled myself at home for the TV GAA action in the early afternoon. Boy, was it was hard viewing. I don’t know whether you agree with me or not but I have only witnessed one good game of championship football so far this year, the Ulster Championship meeting of Armagh and Down.

With the exception of the first half of the Meath v Kildare match, which was reasonably lively, the second half of that game and the Dublin v Laois encounter made for poor viewing. The great game can be so pedestrian and lifeless when the absolute priority of two opposing teams is the retention of possession at all costs. Meath came into their match with Graham Geraghty’s return a bigger talking point than the game itself. Ironically enough it was he who commanded lots of column inches after the match as a result of his direct involvement in scoring a perfect goal that was subsequently disallowed by the men in the white coats, after being told to do so by the referee. Meath were trailing by four points at the time and the goal would undoubtedly have re-ignited their challenge, a challenge that had become rather feeble at that stage. It is not the first time we have witnessed slipshod officiating at this level and unfortunately it will be just one of many before the championship concludes. The GAA has unquestionably made some enormous advances in recent years, but we have not managed to eradicate mistakes of this nature on match days. Mistakes like we witnessed last Sunday should not happen in modern GAA. Personally I would like to see the square ball abandoned entirely. It is just too hard for officials to adjudicate whether the man or the ball is in the square first. Were it abandoned it would liven things up a bit for goalkeepers. They have been a protected species for too long. Kildare possess enormous fitness levels and, as a result, will prove difficult to beat. Yes they have failings. Their shooting was simply awful at times. Although they kicked 18 wides they never really looked like losing the game.

I listened to Banty McEnaney’s post match interview on RTE Radio 1. It was very obvious that he was under pressure. It is almost certain that he had suffered as a result of a few of the old die hard Meath supporters giving vent to their frustrations after the game. As I said so often in the past, management can be a lonely landscape at times.

With that game out of the way, I looked forward to a Dublin team with a reputation for entertaining. I was disappointed. Their match against Laois spluttered to its inevitable conclusion with the Dubs doing just about enough against a poor Laois side. The Brogan brothers dovetailed brilliantly to set up some classy scores, and Dermot Connolly occasionally caught the eye, but elsewhere the Dubs looked ordinary enough. Elsewhere Tyrone did what they had to do, which was to crank up the old engines and kick start their season with a solid performance against Monaghan. This was my pick for a charity bet last weekend. Unfortunately I backed them minus two points. My charity bet went south for the second week in a row. I fancied Down to beat Armagh the previous week.

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