Carnival underway as football championship roars into life

Pádraic Joyce dedicates Galway’s victory to Kate Moran as Armagh are out-foxed

The All-Ireland football championship roared into life on a Sunday filled with old scores in need of settling. Sundown came with several talking points and shifting priorities.

Galway managed to storm the citadel for the first time in the James Horan era, leaving MacHale Park ecstatic after a hard-earned and fully deserved one point win. Further north, Donegal settled the fractious build-up to their Ulster championship game with Armagh by presenting their best performance in two years and leaving the Orchard County in a precarious position.

In a way, the day confirmed old certainties rather than revealing new facts. Mayo will never do things the easy way. Michael Murphy is unique. Armagh are a mystery - and not, right now, a happy one. Shane Walsh is the purist's purist.

As Joyce pointed out, there is always more than a game at stake

All of this was known. But the day confirmed that the appeal of the championship has always resided in the transference of the intensely local emotions and friendships onto the national stage. That much flowed from Pádraic Joyce as he reflected on the 1-14 to 0-16 win his side achieved. It should have been more comfortable: all of Galway held its breath as Aiden Orme’s late, searching equaliser whistled just the wrong side of Conor Gleeson’s posts. But as Joyce pointed out, there is always more than a game at stake.


“We are very, very happy as a group to win that match. Obviously, it was a brilliant match and you can look at it a lot of ways whether we did up-and-down things in it. But the whole thing about coming down today was to get a result. It makes me very proud of the lads for that. Because it was a difficult week in Galway.

"A very emotional week, with the loss of Kate Moran who went out playing a camogie game and didn't come home. And our thoughts are foremost with her father Cathal and mother Mary and TJ, her boyfriend. It is just harrowing and puts life in perspective. The two Kelly's (Sean and Paul) lost their grandmother as well last night so, look, we had a lot of emotion coming into the game and had to compose ourselves.

“At least that victory might give them an hour or two of solace. But we dedicate our victory to that wee girl.”

That said it all. Galway advance while the Mayo masses will take solace in the fact that their team might have squeezed another miracle during a period when so many players are either hobbled with injury or recovering from it. Oisin Mullin was added to the list here. A few weeks of respite will do them no harm.

“We went five points down very early and we looked to be off it,” noted James Horan. “But we grinded it back by half time. Then for 15 minutes of the second half we went flat again. So you can’t do that against a good team like Galway and hope to win it. Having said that, we had 17 chances in the second half and we kicked seven, you’re not going to win anything with that either. So we got what we deserved.”


Leaving Ballybofey, Armagh fans might have concluded the same. Kieran McGeeney's team played some gorgeous football in the early part of the league but were out-fought and out-foxed by their old rivals here.

An edgy undercurrent of bad feeling over the way both counties were dealt with in the suspensions and appeals following the ugly scenes after their recent league meeting defined the day. There was nothing karmic about the outcome: Donegal were simply superior over the afternoon as they coasted to a 1-16 to 0-12 win. But the affair still dominated the conversations afterwards.

"I'm not going to get involved, I know you're looking for a bit of controversy, you're not going to get that," vowed Donegal manager Declan Bonner when asked about it by the assembled controveralists. "But you see it yourself, players getting off, you have to look at it, that's for sure. But to me, in terms of the CAC, or the CCC, whatever it is, a lot of questions there to be answered, because that whole appeals committee is a farce, to be quite honest.

“Not that we dwelled too much on it, we went and did the job we had to do.”

The carnival is up and running.

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan is a features writer with The Irish Times