Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

List of potential All-Ireland winners is almost endless... at least according to pundits

One of the greatest pleasures of this time of year for the Gaelic football follower, as April turns into May and the sun gives us the merest glimpse of what it must be like to live in a balmy climate, is the innocence of early summer.

We also forget the minor irritations of the previous year.

Before you know it, you are in the middle of August asking yourself if we ever got a day of sunshine as the evenings close in and we get tetchy at the mere mention of the word 'pundit'.

Right now, especially this week, we can't get enough of discussions as the Donegal v Tyrone game at the end of the month looms like Kilimanjaro over the Ulster Championship.

No doubt, opinions will vary from week to week.

We even got a glimpse of it a fortnight back when Martin McHugh warned us that we should 'watch out for Kildare' when they had qualified for the league semi-finals and their under-21 team had impressively captured the Leinster title.

Having been taught a lesson by Tyrone and the under-21s reaching the hideous figure of 19 wides in losing to Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final, we wonder will he maintain his stance? Probably not.

On RTÉ's 'League Sunday' programme, attention turned from the league to the championship.

The main point of punditry, which an awful lot of people forget, is that it is merely punditry.

You look at the available evidence in front of you, back it up with an anecdote or two to strengthen your case, and you make your call.

That's all there is to it. It's just soundbites and entertainment.

There are some who get mortally offended when their own county are not name-checked as serious contenders from their province or for the All-Ireland, but we used to be good at ignoring people like that in this country.

Then, they went and got the internet and all that changed.

Anyway, back to Sunday and Marty Morrissey chaired a round-table discussion with Ciarán Whelan, Jarlath Burns and the soon-to-become housewives' favourite, Eamonn O'Hara.

When pushed for their choice on who would win the All-Ireland, unsurprisingly Whelan said Dublin, before name-checking Tyrone, Mayo and Kerry.

Surprisingly, he never mentioned Donegal.

Burns and O'Hara both agreed with Dublin, and indeed Burns mentioned Derry as dark horses before tagging on Donegal and Tyrone, while O'Hara was more blatant, stating that Donegal will not have the hunger.

Back in the studio, the Pat Spillane and Joe Brolly double-act were just warming up for the season ahead with a few half-hearted snide remarks batted back and forth.

Spillane was bold, stating that when Donegal do not raise their intensity dial to 11, they are very ordinary and will not pip Dublin to the Sam Maguire come September.

Meanwhile, Brolly proclaimed Donegal as the logical choice to win it all, adding the caveat that they need to avoid injury.

I think we will come back to this debate though. Be foolish not to.

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