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A prayer (of sorts) for the Championship...

By Declan Bogue

As we make the first Championship pilgrimage this weekend, Oh Lord, may we be blessed with a dry pitch and a dry ball on Sunday, instead of the hail that lashed down earlier this week;

Maintain our composure as we sit through the early rounds, hanging on with a grim determination that we might get something out of it;

Come to appreciate the beauty of Ulster hurling, ignoring those that decry the standards despite their non-attendance;

Be blessed with a field free of manure as we park up the Astra in an agricultural field in Clones;

Remember to put the rest of the sandwiches back into the deep-freeze if the game is heading for a replay;

Not roll our eyes when an inter-county manager refers to his county’s representative team as ‘his players’, as if he was sent out by Sheikh Mansour with a chequebook to buy them;

Keep the head if a hired heavy keeps you off the pitch at Croke Park;

Take ten deep breaths when it is eventually suggested that Armagh v Tyrone should have been the opening game of the Championship;

Bear in mind that we are not GAA fans, supporters, or anything other than ‘patrons’ when we are in Croke Park;

Please have one breakthrough act, such as Limerick coming through Munster in either code;

Appreciate what we have before us, and bear in mind Christy Ring’s gracious assessment, when he said, ‘Let no one say the best hurlers belong to the past, they’re with us now and better yet to come’;

On that note, we wish Eugene McGee and his football development committee the very best with their endeavours, but if we even hear word of ‘the mark’, we are writing them off completely;

AndNot write off Meath, even in a bad year.

Oh Lord, save us from the following plagues;

Cheating, diving, conning players who let down the jersey, their team and ultimately the game;

The inevitable over-reaction from fans of a county when a commentator or pundit calls them out on the above;

A minor player collapsing in racking sobs at the final whistle of a match that his team was taking a pasting;

Managers ‘expressing concern’ at other sides’ cynical play, so that their own devilish intentions can be indulged;

The nonsense pageantry at the All-Ireland final when a squad of kids take a flag of each county onto the pitch and then shake it as if trying to rid a tablecloth of crumbs;

The rash of inevitable stories comparing Championship viewing figures to that of the Olympics, the Heineken Cup final, and the Euros – we have nothing to fear, but fear itself;

The possibility of either The Rubber Bandits or, gulp, Jedward providing anything in the way of half-time ‘entertainment’;

Another interminable summer of watching the Sunday Game panel lapse into clichéd, horribly negative ‘analysis’;

The curse of Yerrah;

Davy Fitzgerald indulging in chest-thumping antics, and wanting to have ‘a word’ with a referee;

Too much Colm Parkinson;

‘They love their football in Fermanagh/Louth/Wicklow/Leitrim’-style commentary when a footballing minnow builds up a head of steam. AndIs it too much to ask that Marty Morrissey might be kept to a minimum?

Remember in your thoughts;

The poor goalkeeper, soon to be subject of Nat Lofthouse shoulder-charges. ‘Man, ball and all’ soon to re-enter the GAA lexicon;

Kevin Cassidy’s ‘phantom’ left boot; John Meyler and John Evans; John Galvin;

Brian Dooher, Enda McGinley, Kevin Hughes, Brian McGuigan and Philip Jordan with their fourteen Celtic Crosses;

AndLadies’ football and camogie, our sistas from a different mista.

Oh Lord, we are thankful for;

Michael Murphy and his Jonah Lomu-ness;

The possibility of a Derry attack featuring Paddy and Eoin Bradley, facing the Donegal defence;

The fact that the GAA don’t ‘need Dublin to win an All-Ireland’ after we all went to Coppers;

Defensive systems, yes, that’s right, defensive systems that add layers of intrigue to the game rather than a straight-forward tussle between two teams lumping it into the full-forward; Cork footballers keeping a traditional formation and showing that not everyone has to follow suit; Colm Cooper, who now enters his 11th season believe it or not;

Lar Corbett’s belated comeback, meaning the All-Ireland hurling Championship has real context again this year;

The first sight of your county bursting out onto the field, full of purpose and pride;

Sky Plus;

The sizzle of onions on a hot plate as it stops you dead in your tracks climbing Clones hill;

The Artane Boys Band – do they ever send in a bill, as a matter of interest?;

Joe Canning and his Jackie Chan swiftness;

The way that places such as Clones, Thurles and Carrick-on-Shannon become laden-down with visitors and momentarily shake off their ghost-town status;

AndThose beautiful slow-motion action sequences that close the occasional match-day programme, perfectly showcasing the artistry of hurling in particular, set to some suitably uplifting Scandinavian house beats.

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