WELL, three weeks in, how do you think one of the planks of the nation’s well-being programme is going?
You do remember that, when the Government, regardless of whether it was Leo or Micheál who was calling the shots, announced its support for the GAA inter-county championships, it did so in the belief that it would add enormously to the positive mental health of the citizens.
Let us begin by acknowledging the role of the much-maligned Ulster football championship in this project.
On Saturday’s Sky GAA menu, the first game up was the meeting of Cavan (relegated a week earlier to Division 3, which will mean that if they don’t reach the Ulster final in 2021, they will play in the Tailteann Cup) and Monaghan (who survived relegation from Division 1).
The betting brothers, particularly those whose pot of gold is based on the accumulator system, had Monaghan as a banker. Coming down the home straight, Banty’s Brigade were six in front and it appeared that Mickey Graham wouldn’t need his winter managerial garb until after Christmas, at the earliest, and that was assuming that he wouldn’t receive a call from the county chairman in the meantime.
It was some comeback and it went to extra time. Rory Beggan, one of these goalkeepers who doubles up as a free-taker, landed an equaliser with the clock showing red and the strategists scribbling the names of the five penalty-takers on the prescribed sheet.
Hold on. Cavan earn a free 55m out and Raymond Galligan is called from his goalkeeper hut for his first outfield kick. What an effort: It sailed over. Micky could hold on to the managerial bib, the betting brothers’ journey to riches had received another set-back, and Monaghan were out of championship 2020.
Twenty four hours later, Donegal and Tyrone served up another thriller, with the North Westerners winning by two and not a single flag from Paddy McBrearty, out injured, or Michael Murphy, who played the role of getting and giving.
Away from the big ball for a moment and a few words on the happenings in latest episode of the Rebel-Déise encounters.
True, I did think that Cork would win, principally because of Waterford’s championship form over the past number of years, which was pretty dismal, to say the least.
On the day, Liam Cahill’s team were deserving winners, but there were a number of mitigating factors. The loss of four or five team regulars, chief among them the very talented Darragh Fitzgibbon, denied Cork some options.
This column is rather slow to shower criticism on any réiteoir, but I think that when Sean Stack and his officials do their reflection, they will see that the Waterford goal should have been disallowed and, make no mistake, this was a pivotal flag.
In the aftermath, and not being at the game or being able to participate in high-stool discussion groups, many Red fans availed of social media to voice their annoyance, with a number going down the well-worn route of calling for change.
I think it may be no harm to remind ourselves, once again, of the uniqueness of this championship.
It is not that long ago that many observers were thrilled that the club championship was given priority and with the dual nature of this county, it was heartening, to say the least, that both inter-county management teams bought into this scenario.
I am not trying to exonerate the sideline generals of all blame, but to my mind, at least, I don’t think we should be too critical of any county team management for this year.
Some of the criticism directed toward the three in charge centred around the lack of Blackrock players on the panel.
For a start, there wasn’t a huge amount of time to introduce the players from this club side and it would also appear that a few from the Rockies camp were carrying injuries.
Indeed, a few individuals who operate in the rumour twilight informed us, a while back, of a player from this talented team who wasn’t in a position to take up the offer to join the county set-up.
Anyway, to borrow from the cliche department, Cork are where they are and Saturday in Thurles, they can get back on the horse by defeating Dublin.
I know that shrewd observers of previous clashes between the counties will point to the fact that Cork’s victories were somewhat against the head, helped in no small way by red-card incidents.
Honestly, I am not at all sure that the team from the capital are serious contenders for the Liam McCarthy Cup and I think that we will be tuned to the national broadcaster on Monday morning to establish who will provide the opposition in Round 2.
Following on from last week, as predicted, I received some correspondence re the observations about hurling, informing me that I should stick to the bog ball. I suppose, if you give it, you must be prepared to take it.
Brian Gavin, a former referee writing in the Irish Examiner on Monday, stated that as a hurling diehard, the amount of cynicism in the game had reached worrying levels.
Whatever about the county hurlers, I would think that all the pundits are in agreement that the Green-and-Gold ones will represent the province in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Have Cork any chance? Bar arranging a massive traffic jam in Macroom and on a few surrounding roads on Sunday, I wouldn’t think so.
What about recalibrating the thermometers in the Kerry pre-match preparatory area? OK, you want more on-field tactics. Some would think that Shane Ryan, the Kerry custodian, might not be fully equipped in pinpointing long restarts, so it may be an idea to force him to go long.
Ian Maguire, Paul Walsh, and Killian O’Hanlon are capable of competing with the Kingdom in the air.
Kerry now appear to operate with three scoring forwards in David Clifford, Sean O'Shea, and Tony Brosnan.
The other three will have a major role in their defensive formation.
Then, can Cork supply three man-marking defenders?
At the risk of sounding like the rugby pundits, who had us convinced that Ireland could get a bonus-point win in Paris last weekend, I better stop and face reality.
Kerry folk, like all others, have had their lives altered by the virus, but surely a Cork football team can’t add to their woes?
Or can it?