Paudie Palmer: Dubs dominate but GAA was the real winner in 2020

Credit to all the associations for getting the championships played
Paudie Palmer: Dubs dominate but GAA was the real winner in 2020

Dublin’s Con O’Callaghan with Oisín Mullin of Mayo in last weekend's All-Ireland football final at Croke Park. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

WE SHOULD begin with the platitudes to all those who enabled the main GAA, ladies football and camogie inter-county championships to be brought to a successful completion in the year that is waving goodbye.

Cast your mind back to mid-summer when the GAA, LGFA and the Camogie Association announced that their inter-county championships would begin in mid-October and would be completed as the turkey population were being administered with the last rites.

There were many who felt that if Covid didn’t erect barriers, the weather Lord wouldn’t be as accommodating.

Bar one or two minor hiccups, Sligo footballers and the Cork-Galway ladies football game come to mind, it would appear that the operation proceeded in a seamless fashion.

It is possible that the mental health card may have been overplayed somewhat but none the less, very many of us had those games regardless of code or gender as a central part of our weekend existence agenda.

The past one was no exception. The opening act Dublin and Galway in the U20 football final had a seriously entertaining conclusion before the Galway corner-back and captain Jack Glynn had to do a bit of double jobbing.

Firstly, he made his leader’s acceptance speech, then he collected MOM canister, and in doing both we would like to think that he struck a blow for the corner back’s union.

In hindsight, the Galway victory had the effect of raising us above the reality spectrum and maybe the trade name 'Mayo For Sam' could lose its patent.

13 seconds after thrown in, well, one of the hallmarks of Mayo in an All-Ireland is the concession of goals, so maybe it’s just as well to get them out of the way early. It’s now on record as the fastest goal ever scored on All-Ireland football day.

In the six All-Irelands including replays, that Mayo have appeared in, since 2012, the first score that they have conceded in four of them was a goal.

Nothing like a bit of consistency! Hold on, in minutes Mayo fired over three and the sides were level.

Prior to the game, in a number of previews, an effort was made to narrow it down to a contest of the two goalies.

Stephen Cluxton the ever-reliable and the man who patented the modern-day restarts versus David Clarke who had it, within his capabilities to test the cardiac welfare of his people.

The pity for Mayo is that this line of thinking was well wide of the mark. Stephen Cluxton probably never put in such a wayward performance with five of his kick-outs being gathered by members of the western middle third.

For his part, David Clarke was coolness personified between the posts and his efforts off the tee yielded positive dividends.

When Con O’Callaghan fisted the ball to the net for the next obligatory concession, Mayo again responded and brought us to half time without switching channels.

Back to Con’s goal it had to be testament to some serious input from a very professional S&C programme such was the explosive nature of the striking action.

Honestly if an immortal being hit it with such power, he would spend a few hours in A&E before being fitted with a cast.

The second water break and the possibility of the greatest upset in 2020 was still breathing.

Time to introduce a few All-Stars from the viewing gallery. The produced and James Horan’s latest incarnation were calling for the oxygen masks. Mayo For Sam lives on.

Mayo's Aidan O'Shea after losing to Dublin. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Mayo's Aidan O'Shea after losing to Dublin. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Before the final whistle, a few new slogans were appearing on the radar.

With the Drive For Five and In The Mix For Six on their way to the blue Jackies, Heavenly Seven or if you are on a Gaeltacht scholarship Tá Seacht Ag Teacht were being brought to the market for attachment to the most injectable 2021 capture.

When it was all over, there were quite a few social media contributors who weren’t in any mood for acknowledging the historic achievement.

Financial doping was a common thread with many able to draw on a reservoir of data to support their claims that the money available from the state, from the GAA vault and from a multitude of high-value sponsorship deals has created a scenario where the other counties cannot compete.

That’s without mentioning the advantage that presents as they play all their major championship matches in their own patch.

Over the past while, Boris and Ursula Von Der Leyen have argued about a level playing field, when they have that sorted out they might wish to take on the levelling operation required to give at least a few counties a chance of preventing 'Time For 10'.

If many were only concerned about the runaway train that is Dublin, Joe Brolly and former Dublin player David Hickey and possibly a few more were only too delighted to lay into Mayo. They pointed to the fact that when it come to the big ones, they haven't got what it takes.

Aidan O’Shea is singled out for special treatment, the fact that he hasn’t scored in any of the six finals is a handy tip for their venomous arrow.

They also imply that he wasn’t far removed from the coup to remove Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly from their management roles a few years ago.

Anyway, regardless of what side of the argument you are on, it’s all over for 2020 but as a consequence of the GAA adopting the split season for 2021 and with the inter-county first up it won’t be long before we can experience it all again.

On how many occasions, did observers mention that all those secondary competitions should be discarded?

Now and make no mistake, credit must accrue to the infamous virus, the McGrath, McKenna, O'Byrne and Walsh Cups together the FBD League and possibly one or two other were decommissioned and not a tear in sight.

When word filtered through that the split season had made it into the statute books, I thought of that reflective former Cork and Nemo footballer Derek Kavanagh who back in 2012, convinced the Cork County Board to forward a motion to congress to move the All-Ireland finals forward by one week in an effort to improve the lot of the club player.

At the congress, it was defeated with a number if not all the Cork delegates voting against it. The September dates were sacrosanct and could be interfered with.

My God, let us be grateful for the silver lining.

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