Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Eager critics are the boring ones

Kerry and Cork's dominance make the Munster Championship a non-event

Almost like the letters sent into newspapers noting the first sign of the cuckoo, listen carefully enough at this time of the year and you can hear at least one journalist who can't contain himself at the thought of being the first to describe the football Championship as 'boring.'

We heard one earlier this week. It came as a surprise to this corner of the world, knowing that the source was only back from a couple of months in another continent.

Normally, raining on the parade at this stage is self-defeating. On closer inspection, however, we might note that how the competitive nature of the Ulster Championship has shielded us from how lop-sided the rest of the country has become.

The Cavan v Armagh game was all set up for a tense finish when Ethan Rafferty's goal left one point between the sides with 12 minutes of regulation time left.

Donegal and Tyrone were locked at 1-6 to 0-9 for nine minutes at the start of the second half, in one of the most tense encounters we have ever seen, just prior to Paddy McBrearty leading the final push home.

Donal O'Hare's flick to the net levelled the Down v Derry tussle in Celtic Park with 25 minutes left. Mark Poland's Ian Rush-like finish stretched a lead out for Down but with only eight minutes remaining Derry had again closed it to two points. Another grandstand finish.

Fermanagh substitute Daniel Kille levelled matters for the Ernesiders on 57 minutes, meaning they had scored an average of a point every three minutes since taking 24 minutes to register their first one against Cavan.

The game would teeter on the brink at 0-11 each for a full nine minutes. David Givney and Eugene Keating hit wides, Kille rushed a free-kick wide and dropped a shot from play short, before Martin Dunne's awesome point off his left foot. A score worthy of settling any game.

In Breffni Park a week later, Down matched the All-Ireland champions point-for-point in an absolute war. Donegal players were dropping like flies.

In the other semi-final between Cavan and Monaghan, the Oriel men led by a point when goalkeeper Rory Beggan was left in no man's land with two Cavan tacklers converging upon him. He took too many steps and Cavan should have had a free. There was nothing between the teams.

Let's disregard Antrim and Monaghan for the pig of a game that it was, and we have to say that Ulster football has cocooned us from how awful a lot of other action has been.

On the basis of their league form and what must now be considered a ludicrously over-hyped under-21 team, Kildare might have been ranked as one of the top five teams in the country. Yet their 16-point defeat to Dublin was depressing.

That kind of result has been repeated elsewhere across June. Connacht's romance has laid with London's odyssey, but Mayo beat Galway by 17 points, Roscommon by 12.

In Leinster, Westmeath beat Carlow by 11 points before being massacred in Croke Park by the Dubs; 16 in it at the end.

Munster however has teams strewn and littered everywhere. Kerry beat Tipperary by 16, Waterford by 26. Cork accounted for Limerick by 18, Clare by nine.

It says something for the imbalance of the game down there that Mick O'Dwyer is praised for keeping a defeat from entering double figures.

On Monday, the draw for the qualifiers was hardly made before complaints were already flooding in about two fixtures; Derry meeting Down, and Cavan having to lock horns once again with neighbours Fermanagh.

The thinking goes that there should not be repeats, that games of this type should be avoided until a round or two later. Why should that be?

If Derry and Down produced one of the best games of the year, why would anyone be unsatisfied with a second instalment?

And as good as the first edition was, there is also the effect the qualifiers can have on teams. Back in 2009, Derry and Monaghan were involved in a treacherous first round encounter that featured punching off the ball, wind-pipes being squeezed and gouging.

It was dubbed the 'Battle of the Bogside.'

When the two teams met again in the qualifiers, it was as if they threw off their mutual loathing and got down to playing a game a football.

Things are about to get very interesting now. They have already been interesting anyway up north. Enjoy and savour it.

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