Belfast Telegraph

You'll always need a Brolly at start of the Championship

By Billy Weir

Lashing rain, howling gales and fans huddled together for warmth can mean only one thing – the Championship is back.

"We're with you for the first kick of the summer and we'll be with you for the last kick of the summer," promised commentator Mark Sidebottom, unlike last year when the All-Ireland Championship ended when Tyrone fell at the semi-final hurdle, well, on BBCNI it did.

We could just about see the first kicks of the summer, the rain and a camera that appeared to be perched just left of Neptune, making it a tad tricky to get a good view.

This could explain a few utterances from Mark starting off with 'great keeping by Niall McGinn.' The only problem being that Niall McGinn plays football, never to be known as soccer, for Northern Ireland, and is about the same height as Ronnie Corbett, but at least he is from Tyrone and played for Dungannon Swifts in the past, like goalie Niall Morgan.

But to distract us he had the presence of mind to scream and shout to such an extent that his trusty sidekick, Martin McHugh, had to squawk like a parrot to make himself heard.

This had an unusual effect as Mark bellowed 'Tiernan McCann, blue-booted and black-bearded and raiding like a pirate', and leaving Down's Aidan Carrrrrrrrr trailing in his wake.

There was an 'aaaaarrrgghhhh' moments later when our rampaging pirate went down like a holed galleon and had to limp off with a leg injury – he'll probably come back for the replay with a wooden one.

As for the two Nialls, the game was also up just after the break when he wasn't black-bearded but black-carded allowing Carrrrrrrrr, who, we were reliably informed, was a left-footed kicker, to step up and hammer the penalty into the net with his right foot past new keeper, Michael O'Neill. I think that was his name but it may have been the Northern Ireland manager.

McHugh tried to rescue his chum, saying it was 'always good to see a player with two feet' but not good when you keep putting one of them in your mouth.

"Game over, it would be nigh on impossible for Down to come back from this," announced mystic Mark as Tyrone scored a goal and nine seconds later Down replied and within five minutes repeated the act leading to a retraction of 'it's not over.'

In fairness, he wasn't the only one to greatly exaggerate the demise of Down, Colm O'Rourke doing likewise on RTE at the interval as, distracted too much by Owen Mulligan's hair, I had to switch over.

In fairness I had started off with RTE as on such a wet day you need a brolly, and they duly obliged with Michael Lyster doing the introductions.

"With us is our senior analyst Colm O'Rourke, Tyrone's favourite analyst Joe Brolly and the new kid on the block, Tomas O Se," he said, the Kerry legend getting to say a few words at the start and then hardly getting a look in again as the old guard showed who were the bosses.

And talking of men in charge, Brolly didn't take long to move up the gears, referring to Dubloon, sorry, the Dublin manager, as 'the only people as calm as Jim Gavin are people in a coma or Zen masters.'

By the interval there was nothing to awaken either of them from their slumbers with O'Rourke taking a leaf out of Sidebottom's Big Boy's Book of Soothsaying.

"I would consider at this stage this game is over because Down are even worse than I thought they were going to be," he said. Fabulous analysis there from the senior analyst.

"The football has been woeful, sometimes you think there are a lot better things you could be doing on a Sunday than watching that stuff," added Tyrone's favourite analyst gradually becoming as popular in Down as Nigel Farage in Bucharest.

"I think anyone who tuned in today expecting a good open game and a score of 1-20 to 1-15 were living in cloud cuckoo land," added O'Rourke, whose prediction almost came true by the end as removal men starting the move from Meath to cloud cuckoo land.

"As soon as Down scored they stripped away Tyrone's facade and exposed them for what they really are – a mediocre team," added Brolly, winning more friends and influencing people in Tyrone. And just when you thought he couldn't antagonise anymore, he did, breaking the cardinal sin of attacking match-saver Sean Cavanagh.

"If there is one man you don't put a hand on in Gaelic football it's Sean Cavanagh as he'll sail through the air with the greatest of ease," or like a limping pirate falling off a plank.

And so we all go again on Saturday night. Will the two Nialls be available, will only one blue boot be required and will Michael O'Neill be in Newry or on his way to Uruguay? I don't know the answer to any of these questions but I know a few men who might. Or not.

Belfast Telegraph


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