What a wonderful weekend of sport it was

John Delaney, CEO Football Association of Ireland cuts the tape at the official opening of the Ballyheane AFC astroturf pitch assisted by Ballyheane's Walter Tuffy. Photo: Michael Donnelly

John Delaney, CEO Football Association of Ireland cuts the tape at the official opening of the Ballyheane AFC astroturf pitch assisted by Ballyheane's Walter Tuffy. Photo: Michael Donnelly

The TV licence was worth paying for, if only to have had the benefit of sitting back last weekend to watch some of the greatest sporting moments of the summer. I have to be honest here, I felt rather guilty last Sunday evening having spent the majority of the previous two days watching hurling, football, golf and boxing. I am a farmer’s son and the guilt kicks in automatically if I spend any bit of time indoors on a fine day!

Padraig Harrington’s exploits at the British Open were compelling viewing. How could anyone with an interest in sport not be enthralled at the conviction with which he won his second British Open? The confidence just oozed through every pore of his body as he smiled his way down the back nine on Sunday evening. The greatest golf shot I had witnessed prior to last Sunday evening was Christy O’Connor junior’s two iron into the 18th at the Belfry when playing in the Ryder Cup a number of years ago. Harrington’s second shot at the 17th on Sunday evening surpasses that of Christy’s in my book. Harrington pulled the trigger from over 270 yards, into the teeth of a swirling wind, rolling the ball to within a couple of feet of the cup for an outrageous eagle. It was such a wonderful sight to see “our” Padraig making the greatest golfers in the world look like mere mortals. I have no doubt that if the “Tiger” had been fit to play, with the type of form Padraig was displaying over the weekend, he wouldn’t have denied the Irishman of winning back-to back-Opens. The result proves that nice guys can win.

Ulster final served up a thriller

Two of our provincial showpieces were down for decision last Sunday. Most followers of football outside of Dublin and Armagh were keeping their fingers crossed for the two underdogs in both matches. We had a thriller in Clones on Sunday, with everyone’s favourites Fermanagh producing a fantastic second half recovery to snatch a draw at the death, when it looked like they might cruelly be defeated.

This Fermanagh team have been wonderful these past four years but, unfortunately, they have no silverware to show for their endeavours. They looked down and out when they were in arrears by eight points with just 30 minutes left. But this year’s championship has been all about teams who look quite ordinary in the first half of games producing Lazarus- ike recoveries in the second half. This Fermanagh team has many fine qualities but arguably their greatest quality is their refusal to throw in the towel when they look down and out. They tapped into their resolve tank and produced sparkling football in those 30 minutes to force the draw their efforts richly deserved. The last time prior to last Sunday they appeared in an Ulster final was in 1982. Now they get to experience the buzz of playing in two such finals in the space of a week. I hope that feel- good factor continues for them for another while in this year’s campaign.

The Dubs hit top gear

The Dubs really produced a sparkling display of power football last Sunday. This was their best football of the year to date. One had to feel sorry that it happened to be Wexford that were caught in the eye of the storm. The excitement and romance of being involved in a Leinster final had no fairy tale ending for the Wexford boys. What a pity it ended up the way it did, because this Wexford team had contributed so much to this year’s championship. In fact, it was the half-time whistle last Sunday that upset their rhythm. They had been doing so well up to that point, only trailing by three points at the break. Unfortunately they trailed by 23 by the end of the match. The Dubs are beginning to play with a swagger and a confidence at just about the right time of the season. They were lucky up to now to have the spotlight off them as a result of their ordinariness in their matches played to date. But now Pillar and his troops will be the team that will attract the spotlight of the media. It will be interesting to see how they cope with that additional pressure in the weeks ahead.

Opening the back door

We had a plethora of back door championship games last weekend, where counties were presented with an opportunity to relaunch their season. I saw it as an opportunity to make a few quid by trying to predict ten or 12 results in an accumulator. I rang around a number of my “contacts” midweek to establish their expert opinions. Michael Mc Geehin, an old army colleague of mine, is involved with the Limerick footballers. I called on Thursday night to see what he thought of my selection. Meath were 2/7 to beat Limerick. I wanted to know how things were going down there and to wish him well. I was startled to discover that he was very confident of a home victory and he left me in no doubt that he felt I should back Limerick to beat Meath. Unfortunately I thought his judgement was clouded through loyalty to his team and I included Meath in my accumulator to win. Word filtered through midway through the first half that Limerick had Meath on the rack. I got a text at one stage in the second half to inform me that Limerick were leading by 20 points. I couldn’t believe it and to be honest it has to be one of the biggest shock results since the introduction of the back door system. Colm Coyle didn’t waste any time in announcing that he was stepping down form his managerial post. Darren Fay and Graham Geraghty have decided that there is to be no more for them either and have decided to call it a day. Incidentally my bet went “down the swanee” with that upset in Limerick. I had all other results up at the very decent odds of 35/1. Colm Coyle wasn’t the only casualty with other managers feeling the heat up and down the country. Pat Roe (Offaly ), Luke Dempsey (Longford ), and Donal Keoghan (Cavan ) were three others to call time after defeats in the championship.

Most of the other games went as expected, with the Derry/Monaghan game the most difficult to predict last weekend. As it transpired it was a game that could have gone either way. Derry were a little over reliant on Paddy Bradley and this ultimately cost them in the end. The result got Monaghan’s season back on track after a few horrible defeats in recent months. Remember they were so unlucky last year, falling at the quarter final stage to Kerry, but were arguably the team of the year with their open, enterprising style. A lot of people thought they would drive on and consolidate the form of last year with a big say in the destiny of trophies this year. They may still do so and after taking the scalp of a formidable Derry side, they are very much back in the groove now and I wouldn’t be surprised if they beat Donegal in Ballybofey tomorrow.



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