Our perceptions of teams can cause a peculiar blindness.
Take Kildare for example. Before Sunday’s Leinster semi-final, we were bludgeoned into believing that they were a fraction behind Dublin, Cork and Kerry as realistic All-Ireland contenders. While this message was continually being driven home by their spectacular training budgets, their earnestness in preparing the right way, the truth was harsh.
The truth is that they lost to Wicklow in the first year of the McGeeney reign. They also lost to Louth in 2010. Their only notable victories in Championship football have come against Meath.
A mythology around being on the wrong side of referee decisions also coloured perception.
They will point to Benny Coulter’s illegal goal in 2010, without citing Graham Geraghty’s disallowed goal last year. A sheen of victimhood has been added.
They are also flat-track bullies. Because they couldn’t last the pace in Leinster, they were freakishly drawn against the losing county from the Ulster final for three years; Fermanagh, Monaghan and Derry.
Each time, the Ulster side had only six days to get over the pain of defeat. while the Lillywhites perfected their plan by coming through the qualifiers.
Last year, a story appeared, traced to the county, about Donegal’s tendancy to foul in the opponents’ half of the field.
Donegal, who had come from nowhere to win a provincial title, used it as all the motivation they needed to beat Kildare.
Now, Kildare play Cavan in Breffni Park. Although Cavan boss Terry Hyland has appealed to fans not to turn it into a cauldron of hate, it’s a fact that Seanie Johnston is going to get a very hot reception from fans who only wanted to see him playing for Cavan, and playing well. They will come through that test, but they have brought on so much negative attention that a Cavan win would be cheered by the vast majority of GAA fans.
And that’s what happens when you disrespect the game, the association and other counties.