Footballing renaissance on the way for the GAA

Sometimes in life you can be lucky. And the well worn truism that you are better to be born lucky than rich has many supporters. Well, I am thinking of becoming an advocate of that maxim because last Saturday night I was fortunate enough to have been at Croke Park for a stunning evening's entertainment. It was a privilege and massive pleasure to have been in attendance on a historic and memorable evening for the GAA.

The game between Dublin and Tyrone was a marvellous 70 minutes of action packed football with some breathtaking displays and scores from the likes of Stephen O'Neill, Sean Cavanagh, Jason Sherlock (I will come back to him later ), and Bernard Brogan. Then the celebration fireworks and lights display that followed was also magnificent to witness. All in all it was a tremendously successful evening for the GAA.

As Eugene McGee, who is not a man associated with exaggeration or hyperbole, pointed out in his analysis from the Setanta studios after the game; "When the GAA do things right, they are a credit to themselves and to the country.”

Indeed the whole thing was a bold statement by the GAA to celebrate 125 years of its existence. Hopefully 2009 will continue in such a positive vein on the GAA fields of the nation. Obviously with the Government finances in rag order and the public sector hoisting up their slacks after hearing of their pay cut - sorry pension levy fund - during the week, anything that helps to blow the recession clouds away for a few hours every weekend is to be appreciated.

On that point, bear with me and I'll give you a quick insight into the world of teaching at second level in the lower divisions. A few weeks ago, one of my favourite and most gregarious students in third year, who would not have too much interest in "edumacation" asked the following classic during business class.

"Sir, what's the story with this renaissance that is all over the news? Every time we switch on the news at home it’s renaissance this, and renaissance that. And why has it caused all them boys in Limerick in Dell to lose their jobs?"

Renaissance indeed.

And on to the football

One point that has to be made about the football last Saturday night is that it was great to see the sickening sight of people being constantly body checked taken out of the game. There is nothing more negative for a game than people being unfairly checked as they try to play a running game. Admittedly some GAA devotees will feel that a certain physicality has been taken out of the game with the new rules too and they have a point. However what Pat Daly and his team are trying to do is find the happy medium between both sides of the fence.

I was in Mullingar on Sunday to see Westmeath go down unluckily to Galway and put themselves in a poor position as regards avoiding the quagmire of relegation later in the season.

Considering that they face Derry (away ) on Sunday week and follow that up with Mayo (away ) in round three and then have Tyrone at home you can see why they could have done with collecting two points last weekend.

What will be even more galling for Tomas O' Flaharta is that the defeat came about as a result of a completely unnecessary collision between John Keane and Francis Boyle as they chased a high ball, it was that error of judgment that opened the door for Galway.

Denis Glennon who had been a threat all through had just shot them ahead and with Barry Cullinane red carded and Finian Hanley also gone on a yellow, the impetus was very much with the home side.

However their extra man at the back, and it is a role that Doran Harte plays superbly, leaves them short of manpower up front and once that soft goal which was well taken by Jonathan Ryan went in, their challenge seemed to crumble. One player from Westmeath who really caught the eye was young Tommy McDaniels who started as a substitute and shot three fine points from play.

With news that experienced midfielder Martin Flanagan will be out of action for four months after his recent ankle operation you can see why Westmeath are one of the bookies’ favourites for relegation to Division Two next spring.

*Dublin's Jason Sherlock has had to contend with plenty of criticism of his ability over the past decade and a half. However, it is to his immense personal credit, professional approach, and positive attitude that he is still doing the business 15 years after he won his all-Ireland medal.

And last Saturday night in Croke Park he was as sprightly as a spring lamb. He gave 2008 All-Star full-back Justin McMahon the complete run-around, hit two fine points from play, and was one of the best forwards on view. Fair play to him.

He is a terrific role model for youngsters all over the country in whatever code as regards staying the course and looking after themselves. Your sporting career should be a marathon, not a sprint.


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