It was Sigerson Cup last weekend so senior inter-county football teams had an opportunity to regroup and conduct a ‘where are we now’ review of their opening two games of the National Football League. In Mayo’s case the review might have involved the use of a ‘head doctor’ in order to establish how the team can mix the brilliance of the extraordinary second half comeback against Donegal, with the ordinariness of their performance in the first half.
Getting back to the Sigerson Cup last weekend, Cork IT won the competition. As they were the hosts of the final weekend it was appropriate that they should win it. Dublin Institute of Technology provided the opposition in the final on Saturday, a team that would have had Barry Moran lining out were it not for injury. His non-availability, coupled with the absence of Mark Vaughan from their ranks, may have been the difference between winning and losing. Kevin Mc Loughlin from Knockmore did line out however with DIT and from what I hear he played very well throughout. I have always been a fan of this competition as I firmly believe players who play and train with their colleges are normally exposed to good quality coaches and are better players because of it.
Championship levels already
I have conducted my own little bit of research and as far as I can establish Mayo had a plethora of players playing Sigerson football this year. Mark Ronaldson was the star of the UCD attack. Conor Mortimer was the main man with DCU. Donal Vaughan and Tom Cunniffe played with GMIT, Tom Parsons with Sligo IT, Ger Cafferkey and Kieran Conroy with NUIG, and Ger Brady with the Garda team. Enda Varley and Seamie O'Shea togged out and played with UL. All of those players are involved in the current Mayo set up with one exception, Ger Brady. All have championship levels of fitness at the moment, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a number of them playing this Sunday in Charlestown.
This weekend’s encounter against Westmeath is an absolute ‘must win’ game. If I am being totally honest I believe that Mayo will almost certainly be relegated if they don’t win this game. There are still a number of ‘big’ teams left in this division that Mayo have yet to play and that just might prove difficult to beat. I realise that Mayo have a number of players out with injury. This is unfortunate for the players themselves, but it does however present an opportunity for other players on the panel to get a game. There is little point in carrying players on a panel and not giving them a chance to express themselves. I expect a comfortable enough victory for Mayo against a Westmeath team that is still struggling to find its form of last summer.
‘We just love beating the English’
Six Nations rugby has taken on enormous significance in our sporting lives these last few years. With Eddie O Sullivan being replaced last year by the enormously successful Munster coach Declan Kidney, there is a fantastic sense of optimism about Ireland’s chances of doing something significant in this year’s competition. It was generally felt that a change of management would freshen things up after a fairly dismal World Cup campaign in 2007. We have world class players like Brian O’ Driscoll, Paul O’Connell, and Ronan O’ Gara currently playing in the green. It would be a shame if this side didn’t deliver a grand slam, a competition we haven’t won since 1948. An English team coming to Dublin struggling to find form does wonders for the general feel good factor of a nation crying out for some sort of fun. It is generally accepted that the pre- match atmosphere around the capital is nothing compared to those of the good old rugby days of the eighties. Come to think of it, we didn’t have much money back then either, but people really didn’t care too much. I was travelling to Castlebar from training in Crossmolina shortly before the match started and the excitement coming from Michael Corcoran’s voice (radio rugby commentator ) was tangible. Michael is the Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh of Irish rugby. I get the impression when listening to him that there is no place on earth he would rather be than behind a microphone on match day when his beloved Munster or Ireland are playing. I made it to the comfort of my own house for the start of the match. It was a terrific game. Whatever about grand slams, the reality is we just love beating the English. The cameras focused on Martin Johnson, the English manager, practically every time his side made a mistake. At the best of times he has a look that reminds me of the faces I sometimes witness here at breakfast time when I try to get some of my crew to eat their porridge! Last Saturday I was delighted to see him suffer. I haven’t forgiven him for that infamous incident at Lansdowne Road when as the then England captain he refused to move to the appropriate place to be greeted by President McAleese.
England's World Cup-winning captain reportedly then swore and said his team wouldn’t move and wouldn’t greet the president. England won their last rugby grand slam that day with Johnson later admitting that “it was a psychological ploy not to move”.
Sunday Sport is essential listening
I was listening to RTE radio sport last Sunday as Con Murphy, a competent and articulate broadcaster, keeps a very pacy interesting programme running smoothly throughout the afternoon. RTE radio on any Sunday afternoon provides its listeners with a brilliant snap shot of what is happening in the world of sport. When he is on, Jimmy Magee is particularly enlightening. He has such encyclopaedic knowledge of every sport, but it’s the way he tells it that makes it so easy on the ear. RTE has recognised that it is almost impossible for a single person to keep abreast of what’s happening around the country at all the main sports events of the day. Football and hurling championship and league games, rugby internationals and provincial matches, top racing, including many of the classics here in Ireland and in Britain, soccer from home and abroad, and interviews with all the top sportsmen and women in the news. Not to mention soccer, golf, athletics, and a plethora of other sports happenings from around the world. So RTE has introduced a new concept this year.
In fact since February 1 Jacqui Hurley has co-hosted the Sunday Sport programme. This is the first time in the show's almost 40 years history that it has been co-hosted and the first time ever that it has a female host. She has represented Ireland in basketball and Cork in camogie. She has also taken on the management of the Irish u16 women's basketball team this year. So now you know who this lady is!
Suspensions are always a talking point
I watched the highlights of the Waterford v Kilkenny NHL match played earlier that afternoon later the same evening. There was a real bite to this match. Listening to the match earlier on radio I could imagine it was a fairly tempestuous affair! Waterford, it appeared, were out for revenge after their 23-point humiliation in the All-Ireland final last year. They did get some revenge by beating Kilkenny, but I cannot imagine that Brian Cody would have slept uneasily thinking about the result. Of greater significance to me as a viewer was the cowardly act of the Waterford full back in his attempt to decapitate the Kilkenny forward Eddie Brennan. Philip Prendergast lashed out, striking Brennan on the head with the hurl after receiving an innocuous shoulder. Prendergast would go some way to redeeming himself by deciding to accept whatever punishment comes his way. But history, and more importantly, the GAA’s appeals culture, will inevitably see this drama played out in public before a decision is agreeable to all involved. And that is a problem with the GAA’s disciplinary system that requires attention.
Ryan McMenamin’s eight-week ban for lunging at Paul Galvin’s groin could yet come back to haunt the CCCC. In doling out such a harsh punishment, the pressure is now on them to deal with Prendergast’s misdemeanour just as harshly. Granted, McMenamin’s ban was increased after an appeal, but if he was given eight weeks for dropping the hand, then Prendergast deserves at least 12 weeks for trying to take the head off Brennan.