Championship sorting process gets under way in summer heat

Fermanagh press on in rare sunshine while Laois earn joust with All-Ireland champions

Fermanagh’s Sean Quigley is tackled by Antrim’s Ricky Johnston in yesterday’s GAA Ulster senior football championship first round clash in Brewster Park, Enniskillen. Photograph: Andrew Paton/Inpho/Presseye

Fermanagh’s Sean Quigley is tackled by Antrim’s Ricky Johnston in yesterday’s GAA Ulster senior football championship first round clash in Brewster Park, Enniskillen. Photograph: Andrew Paton/Inpho/Presseye

 

There is no turning back now. The sprawling summer extravaganza of the GAA All-Ireland football championship began in earnest this weekend and already the sorting process has begun. The bulletins told of revivals and acute disappointments. Offaly enjoyed their first Leinster championship win in nine years on Sunday.

Fermanagh people enjoyed a day of gorgeous sunshine in Enniskillen and an Ulster championship win over Antrim: they’ve had had worse May Sundays.

And Laois earned the dubious honour of playing All-Ireland champions Dublin, their reward for overcoming Wicklow on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Portlaoise.

The GAA has remained regally indifferent to the view that they should open their big summer tournament by staging a spectacular. There was something odd about the fact that the first big day of the season featured no live television broadcast. It was a shame.

Essence of championship

“It is hard to maintain intensity like that,” said Quigley, easily one of the most laconic figures in Gaelic games.

Second Captains

“It is probably the first time we have seen sunshine in Brewster Park since this time last year, like.”

Fair point. There is something appealing about this Fermanagh team: young, newly confident and led by one of the enduring GAA figures in Pete McGrath. Their visit to Donegal next month should be tasty. “You need to step up for every game in Ulster,” said Quigley.

“I’m sure you guys will be writing that we have no hope going into Ballybofey. And totally within your right. But I can guarantee you that this group of players have full confidence that we will go down and turn Donegal over.”

Crack at champions

“ I genuinely think it was a shocking bad decision and one that the people who voted for it will have to live with. But it’s all down to money and it is a terrible indictment of the GAA that it is down to money. It is not down to bums on seats, which was the reason, that there are more seats in Nowlan Park. Sure the Dubs don’t sit down in Croke Park: why would they want to sit down in Nowlan Park?”

Elsewhere, Louth recorded a 2-24 to 3-11 win over Carlow, with Ryan Burns shooting 1-7. In Brewster Park, Tomás Corrigan finished with a tidy 0-9, including two from play. Corrigan has thrived under McGrath’s regime and the two first-half points he delivered from sideline balls, from acute angles, delighted the crowd. Up 0-9 to 0-2 at the break, Fermanagh looked to be coasting, but couldn’t replicate their form in a listless second half.

“It was just one of those games,” sighed Quigley. “We tried to kill the game off. If we had got the first score or two we would have kicked on. But Antrim are a good team and when they got going, no doubt about it, we were worried for the last 10 minutes. We couldn’t get a ball in the middle of the field. They were knocking points over. But c’mere, we are in the next round.”

That sentiment echoes through all winning counties. Getting through: that is the chief purpose of May Sundays. Standing or sitting, bigger days loom.

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