Penalties. What a damnable thing. A dreadful way to decide a sporting contest. A shambles. Totally unfair.
Trillick really did deserve to take the Tyrone county final against Dungannon to a replay. We are still banging on about it 10 months later, and rightly so.
Sorry, what was that? Was there something else in the meantime?
As it happens, only 16 miles separates where I park my tush here on this seat and the birthplace of the inventor of the penalty kick, William McCrum.
This may not be news to many, but McCrum was an inheritor of millions from his father’s linen company in Armagh — McCrum, Watson and Mercer.
He togged out for Milford Football Club and in their first season in the Irish League they finished bottom, losing every one of their 14 games and scoring just 10 goals.
As goalkeeper, McCrum picked the ball out of his net 62 times that year. And still he thought it worth his while to dream up another method by which he could be humiliated.
His life story is a colourful adventure, almost a pulp fiction bodice-ripper in parts, involving six-figure gambling debts ran up in Monte Carlo, while his wife eloped with a Major Heard to the French Riviera in another event.
With demons like that, no wonder he suggested the IFA might take up the idea of a ‘penalty kick’, which soon after was described as ‘The Irishman’s Motion’, something that flew in the face of Victorian sporting conduct, but it was adapted all the same.
As it was with Gaelic football and hurling. And ever since that day, the do-nothings and alickadoos haven’t left the damn thing alone. Tweaks here, adjustments there.
Only last week, Tipperary were awarded a penalty in hurling following a foul committed in a different townland.
Of course, some alterations are necessary. Several years ago, the former Cork hurling goalkeeper Anthony Nash developed a means of scooping the sliotar high in the air so he could race in and steal yards before unleashing pile drivers.
Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O’Keefe had other ideas in 2014 and ran off his line the moment Nash touched the ball. By the time he had got his strike off, O’Keefe was only three yards away. The bruise on his leg can be found online, a real hit with those who like to study rotting flesh.
In Ulster, the most famous penalty of recent memory came almost 20 years ago. It helps that it was Armagh’s Oisín McConville who missed it as i) he is capable of talking of it, ii) he scored a goal in the second half to make up for it and beat Kerry in the All-Ireland final, and iii) worse things have happened at sea.
We put a call through to him this week, just to see how he feels about it after all these years.
“It might sound ridiculous, but the first thing I thought of was Bill McCorry,” he said. “Because he missed a penalty in 1953 (another All-Ireland final against Kerry that they lost), and that was all I had heard.
“But that’s what I thought of. My uncle Gene Morgan played in that game in 1953. Bill McCorry, by all accounts, was an unbelievable Gaelic footballer and he is only remembered for that one incident really.
“When people talk about Bill McCorry, they talk about the missed penalty. Paddy Moriarty also missed one in 1977 but nobody really talks about that because they were so well beaten.”
As McConville made his way back into the changing rooms that day in 2002, his 19-year-old forward partner Ronan Clarke gave him a tap on the head but said nothing. Goalkeeper Benny Tierney had a quiet word, hissing at him to: “Sort it out. Do something about it”.
The team sports psychologist Des Jennings had an interesting thought. He told McConville to take a ball as he left the dressing room, go straight down to the Hill 16 goals where he would be shooting into for the second half and put it into the net before the game recommenced.
“I took a ball out with me and booted it into the air because I couldn’t stand the embarrassment of doing what he had asked me to do,” he recalled.
For those who miss in big games, it clings to them. Dublin’s Charlie Redmond missed penalties in the Leinster final of 1988 and All-Ireland finals of 1992 (Donegal) and 1994 (Down). Dublin lost all three.
And yet McConville has no sympathy whatsoever for those who miss.
“I go back to some advice I got when I was 10, 11 or 12. There is a guy in Cross, Tim Gregory, who used to take us the whole way up through underage,” he said.
“I remember missing a free one day and I was raging. He said, ‘Listen, if you are going to take frees, you are going to miss some. If you can’t handle that, then don’t take them’.
“And that was something at a very early age that stuck with me. I missed frees during my career, some important ones. But you realise you are taking them because you are the best person to take them and you have to shrug it off.
“That’s part of what you signed up for.”
Man up, in other words.