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Casement slips into top gear for double bonus

By John Campbell

The Croke Park playing surface has been described over the course of this year in terms ranging from "uncertain" to "treacherous."

Certainly, it was not unusual to see players slithering awkwardly when attempting to gain or retain possession in both football and hurling games - and this, too, when the sward was perfectly dry.

Contrast this to the situation that pertained at Casement Park, Belfast on Sunday last. On a day when the elements conpsired to do their very worst, not one but two games were staged.

And in neither the Ulster Club Junior final nor in the AIB Ulster Club senior final was there anything like the slipping and sliding that has besmirched major Croke Park contests this year.

It is doubtful, indeed, if any other playing surface in the country would have hosted two games with so little ill-effects on Sunday.

Greencastle and Naomh Brid served up a tasty aperitif before Crossmaglen Rangers and Ballinderry Shamrocks provided us with the main dish and such was the effort, skill and endeavour on offer that one would have thought the players were oblivious to the harsh elements.

This was not the case, of course, and it was Rangers manager Donal Murtagh who perhaps best summed up the overall approach when he declared: " We're used to battling in the muck and gutters - we just get out and get on with it."

The underfoot conditions were tolerable despite the weather, the gale-force wind howling throughout and the rain sheeting down for the greater part of the senior contest.

Even before the Junior final got under way the grandstand was full. And this only goes to prove the level of loyalty and enthusiasm which fans display when their teams have the scent of glory in their nostrils.

Keeping your feet on the Croke Park surafce may have proved difficult this year - but it was not a major problem in the most horrendous climatic conditions at Casement Park. There's a message there somewhere.

Belfast Telegraph


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