By PJ Cunningham
Last Saturday the cull started and by the end of another two weeks, the weaklings will be repressed and discarded to the sidelines to allow the strong to get stronger.
It could be an Orwellian plot in another setting but it’s known as the annual slaughter of the innocent within the GAA.
Let’s put this in context – last Saturday, nine days into June, the championship season was over for London, Wicklow, Wexford and Louth. The following day, they were joined by Carlow, Tipperary, Fermanagh and Waterford.
After this week’s second round draw pitting the provincial semi-final losers with the first round qualifier survivors, eight more will depart the championship – and we will still be in the month of June.
Not the cleverest way to run a big tournament so the sooner we get a meaningful two-tier system, the better.
“Meaningful’ necessitates that these games will be played in conjunction with the current championship and televised so that fans, but more importantly in this case, players, see the benefit of busting their tail-ends for eight months without any tangible benefits.
I also think ‘meaningful’ should include the semi-finals of both competitions being played on the same day in Croke Park. That may elongate the season back into September, which I would welcome with open arms.
The #GAA has announced the membership and also the terms of reference for the new Fixtures Calendar Review Task Force
— The GAA (@officialgaa) June 9, 2019
Even the thought that the football season will be over on September 1 this year, barring replays, is risible.
What are the GAA trying to do – give other sports a clear run for months that will make it harder to keep youngsters interested at local level?
I went to Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday to watch Leitrim play Wicklow in front of a big crowd – much bigger than the 2,077 reported as ‘official’ across the tannoy by the way.
It was a game of great intensity and commitment from two sides who gave the crowd great entertainment as they tried to keep their county colours flying.
Leitrim had a little more nous and deserved to go on – but Wicklow, having begun training last October, won’t now have a real competitive clash until late January or early February when next year’s league begins.
The pity is that the only way the counties who lose like this every year can get stronger is to stay as a unit during the summer where coaching is easier and grounds are available because of the better weather.
Talk about things the wrong way around.
Surely we should be playing our games from February to October when the weather is better for training and playing.
I have looked at players at this level, Tommy Prendergast in Waterford, Darren Hayden in Wicklow and Mark Gottsche in London to name but three and consider them the real heroes of our time.
They are players who have given their teams great service over years without ever getting a day in the spotlight.
This is my main point. These lads could play on any team and just because they are with a weaker county, it shouldn’t mean they are the roses that bloom unseen.
Pretenders falling by the wayside
First, all the talk was that Mayo could be the ones to stop Dublin in their gallop, then when they fell to Roscommon in the Connacht semi-final, the spotlight turned on Tyrone.
Mickey Harte’s team got to last year’s All Ireland final and caused Jim Gavin’s side some problems, and showed in their league encounter that they had a new system which could cause the Dubs serious problems.
Talk as they say is cheap and it certainly looked that way on Saturday when Donegal tore the form book in two in Kingspan Breffni Park, by bringing the fight to Tyrone from the first bell.
And once they got the only goal of the game, it served like a knockdown that the favorites never recovered from.
Harte’s stock suffered in the cauldron that was Breffni Park as he looked like a boxer who was unable to unscramble his thoughts after taking a knock-down blow.
‘Ordinary Joes’ produce their own show
The word was that Galway was a ‘Joe Show’. Full stop. And with Joe Canning missing for another while, going into the lions, or in this case, the Cats Den in Nowlan Park would see them fall by the wayside this championship season.
However, the other ‘ordinary Joes’ on the Connacht side stood up and showed their true worth against a Brian Cody-charged Kilkenny team, who are seldom less than formidable when playing at home.
While the outcome means both teams can still make the Leinster final, this was a declaration of intent by Galway, who know if they can stay alive in the All Ireland series until Canning gets back – and he is ahead of schedule in rehab from his injury – then they could have a right crack at winning back Liam McCarthy, which they won in 2017 and lost by the puck of a ball to Limerick last year.
Cold Wrap Of The Week
In Leinster, Dublin and Meath had 27 points to spare between them in facile semi-final victories over Kildare and Laois respectively. Good job Dublin weren’t trying or it could have been worse.
Passion Play Of Week
The passion Cavan fans have for Gaelic football is unique and on Sunday the true blues in the 21,000 at Clones showed their enthusiasm for Mickey Graham’s team by heralding their victory over Armagh as if it was an All Ireland homecoming.
It’s the first time the Breffni boys have made a final in 18 years and Sunday’s victory will go well on Mickey Graham’s CV, considering he was at the helm when Longford champions Mullinalachta won the Leinster SF club title in December.
Goal Of The Week
Take a bow, Patrick Fox. It’s not too often that corner backs get this accolade but he crowned a comprehensive 10-point win for Longford (2-11 to 0-7) when moving forward to score a goal in the last minute against Carlow, who let’s not forget, were the surprise packet of the 2018 championship.