TV View: Galway and Armagh deliver nail-biting finish to Croke Park heroics

Mary Hannigan: What’s all this about Gaelic football and rumours of its demise? Still alive and kicking!

Pat Spillane reckoned that those who attended Saturday’s quarter-finals at Croke Park were entitled to their money back after witnessing, as he described them, “two turkey shoots”, Clare and Cork “lambs to the slaughter”, reduced to the status of dead ducks by Derry and Dublin.

It’s fair to say, then, that those non-contests got on Pat’s goat, and there were some who were even administering the last rites to Gaelic football after the two somewhat non-competitive spectacles.

But then along came the resurrection, in the form of Galway v Armagh.

Ah lads. Sublime.

So sublime, the Saudis might now be mulling over setting up a LIV-like All Ireland tour.

And if the game didn’t already have a bit of everything, it threw in a shemozzle too, one that was so absorbing RTÉ even delayed its commercial break to bring us live coverage of it.

Óisín McConville described it as “disgusting”, Pat said it was “disgraceful” and “scandalous”, but apart from the eye-gouging gouger, who will, we trust, never be allowed set foot on a field of play again, him being a turd of the lowest order, much of it amounted to no more than two epically emotional sets of lads engaging in some “one-in-all-in” shoving and pushing after an epically emotional conclusion to an epically emotional 70 minutes.

“Jesus, holy God,” as Pat put it when addressing the issue of two teams in such circumstances being required to use the same tunnel to get to their dressing rooms when it would be best to have a country mile, at the very least, separating them.

“We should be talking about a great game of football, and then they went and destroyed it,” said Pat.

The game wasn’t, of course, destroyed, it was a masterpiece, one of its finer brush strokes that Rian O’Neill equalising free at the death in normal time, one that left you asking yet again how it’s humanly possible for a person made of the same sinews, organs and such like as ourselves to do a thing like that under pressure so immense that it would reduce bog-standard mortals to jelly.

Before then, Armagh’s two late, late goals had left their supporters who had already departed the ground feeling … eejity? “If you were looking for chaos, you’ve got it now,” Eamon Fitzmaurice noted in the commentary box, and thereafter it got even more chaotic.

A five-aside tussle?

Extra-time, but before then referee David Coldrick had to decide how many players to send off after the shemozzle, the fear being that if he went by the book, extra-time would be a five-aside tussle.

In the end, he sent off just two, but both sides started extra-time with 15 men because it was a whole new game, so if you had a cousin from, say, Minnesota with you in Croke Park and you were trying to explain this situation to them, all we can do is send belated thoughts and prayers.

Joanne Cantwell told us that the Kerry v Mayo game had been delayed, Pat, with a heavy sigh, declared that “we won’t be home ‘til Monday night”.

Off we went. Were penalties inevitable? Yes, they were.

Pat recalled the first time he ever saw them being used to settle a game. “I went out to the garden and started praying.”

The Gods were on Galway’s side this time, their lads slotting their kicks into either bottom corner with a breezy coolness. Armagh hearts in smithereens.

Kerry v Mayo was supposed to be the day’s biggie, but, as it proved, it would have been a bit like the Backstreet Boys following Paul McCartney at Glastonbury.

“It’s all gone a little bit flat,” said Joanne, but Kerry prevailed, thanks in part to the efforts of a one-legged David Clifford. If he has the use of two on July 10th, be afraid Dublin.

Gaelic football?

Rumours of its demise … alive and kicking.