Name of the game
It has been a mixed eight days for hurling’s Cunningham clan. At the weekend the Dublin and Galway managers, Ger and Anthony, expressed the minimalist view that a replay in their Leinster quarter-final at least meant they were still standing - although their teams had appeared reluctant to seize the day when they had the chances.
A week previously Aaron Cunningham came into the Munster quarter-final against Limerick in Thurles and scored 2-1 in half an hour off the bench but despite this, Clare ended up losing by a point.
A couple of days later Laois coach, the other Ger Cunningham (of Limerick and Newtownshandrum renown,) found himself promoted to manager but only after the incumbent Cheddar Plunkett had walked away in despair at players taking part in a club challenge match less than a fortnight before the imminent Leinster quarter-final against Offaly.
The immediate future holds the prospect of the Cunningham tracks crossing again. Aside from next Saturday's Dublin-Galway replay in Tullamore, the winners will face the winners of Laois-Offaly whereas the losers will be in qualifiers along with Clare. SM
Amidst all the neutral and, presumably, Longford dismay provoked by Dublin’s record demolition of the county at the weekend there is even a hint of a warning for perennial Leinster champions. Strangely, given the lop-sided nature of many provincial championship matches, scoring four goals in an opening match mightn’t be the emphatic statement of intent you’d imagine.
Should Dublin go on to reclaim the All-Ireland it will be the first time in quarter of a century that the eventual champions will have scored four goals in their first championship outing. Cork in 1990 beat Limerick 4-15 to 1-3. Successful Sam Maguire campaigns in the intervening 25 years have begun on more modest notes.
The most common goal tally for All-Ireland winners in their first fixture is for the record, one - scored in 10 championships including the most recent four. SM
Fermanagh unlikely to trouble Monaghan
The morning after the nothingness of the afternoon before.
Championship is a slow burn we hear time and again. Pete McGrath put this dirge down to Fermanagh's apprehension, their way of coping with the need to pocket a first summer victory since 2010. Antrim manager Frank Fitzsimmons interviewed the reporters about Sean McVeigh's sending off for belting into Ciaran Flaherty. "What do you think?"
That red card by Maurice Deegan, after consulting with Down linesman Brendan Rice, pretty much soaked the life out of this northern gathering. James McMahon became the free man, Antrim retreated into themselves as six neatly struck CJ McGourty left footed frees was never going to be the enough to halt Fermanagh's hesitant march into the semi-final. It was a terrible game of football. Devoid of the incendiary behaviour associated with such a provincial meeting.
Monaghan, on this evidence, should stroll to another Ulster final in three weeks time even if Eoin Donnelly returns to captain Fermanagh (Ryan McCluskey and Ruairí Corrigan are injury fresh injury concerns).
Maybe they can argue that fixture away from Clones and into the neutral venue of Breffni Park. “They talk about spreading the matches around these massive stadiums, and here is an opportunity,” was McGrath’s subtle hint at levelling the playing field. Monaghan won’t be bothered where they beat them.
Afterwards BBC were clearly doing a pitch side Promo for their next GAA broadcast when making Marty Clarke, Oisin McConville and others pass a Gaelic football across the line like rugby players as they ran away from the camera. "Is this really happening?" said one of the cringing witnesses. "Why aren't we videoing it?" went another. "So, did McVeigh raise the arm intentionally or to protect himself?" One talking point. The lack of direction or enthusiasm of our debate reflected the energy of what we had just witnessed.
Move on. Fermanagh do - McGrath’s stated intention of winning the Ulster championship is two games away now. They won’t. Antrim, well, fellow qualifier fodder like Longford will hardly frighten them. Nor they them.
Ending on a positive, the volunteers in and around Brewster Park couldn't have been more accommodating. That still matters. GC
Sheedy on the offensive
Jack Sheedy would make a good politician in a time of scandal. Not alone did he manage to walk out of Croke Park on Sunday the subject of sympathy from all around at having had to present his Longford side for their 27-point disembowelling, he somehow landed a few swinging digs at other, more successful counties in the process. Not often you see a manager who’s just presided over a record defeat go on the offensive and make good their escape from overly taxing scrutiny. Malcolm Tucker would be proud.
Sheedy turned his nose up at the idea of packing his defence yesterday to attempt to combat the Dubs. “No,” he said. “Don’t believe in it. Don’t like it. I think it’s horrible to watch. As a spectator sport, it’s called football so let’s go play football to the best of our ability and if we had done that with our lads what would they have gained out of it? Very little. Putting 15 guys behind the ball was not going to improve how they play football so no, I wouldn’t have wanted to do it. And they wouldn’t have wanted it either.”
Very clever, Jack. It wasn’t that Longford prepared badly, it’s just they’re too beautiful for this world. Truly, hell will have frozen over before Sheedy sullies the good name and traditions of Longford football by placing a sweeper back to patrol the front of the D.
The size of the defeat instantly turned the conversation into a wider one about competition structures and two-tiered championships and on and on and so interminably on. Relevant and all as that argument is, it absolved Sheedy far too readily. Longford were never going to beat Dublin but by setting up 15-on-15, he threw his young side to the wolves.
Sheedy can sneer all he likes at Ulster football but there isn't a single manager in the north who would have submitted so willingly to defeat. MC