| 13.5°C Belfast

Comment: GAA county finals are unique sporting phenomenons and here's why


Emotional scenes: Omagh celebrate their win against Errigal Ciaran at Healy Park

Emotional scenes: Omagh celebrate their win against Errigal Ciaran at Healy Park

Emotional scenes: Omagh celebrate their win against Errigal Ciaran at Healy Park

I'd imagine that most tech-savvy people who go about their day-to-day business have an ability to just set down their phone and do things.

Y'know, everyday things like get to work, light the fire, hang out the washing and converse with friends, relations and neighbours.

But since the great bloodless smartphone revolution of January 2017, when I traded in my beloved Nokia mobile (battery time = about the same as your average package holiday) I have become enslaved to technology.

Science isn't really one of my things, but I would confidently predict that in 20 years human evolution will have a number of bolt-ons from the present edition including double-jointed thumbs and a small plinth grown from your palm to allow more comfortable smartphone use as you scroll down Twitter, because it's so important to know the latest thought popping into Gary Lineker's head.

Last Sunday will go down as 'The day we had to catch a grip'. With roughly 475 county finals going on at the same time, the phone never cooled all day trying to find the best score by score updates, with numerous club accounts followed and multiple disappointments at the lack of output. Where's a Philly Mac when you need one?

What emerged from those county finals are the reason we are all involved in sport. Consider, for example, the deep sense of relief and satisfaction that a man like Lamh Dhearg's Paddy Cunningham must feel now, knowing that he has won an Antrim county football Championship at the sixth time of asking, with his club going 25 years without one.

And the same for Armagh veteran Charlie Vernon. Even his sunny radiance has to have been tried by their rotten record on the showpiece day of two defeats in the last three finals prior to their win over champions Maghery. It had been 24 years since their last title.

In Tyrone, an old workmate, Connor O'Donnell, dragged his club Omagh St Enda's to the O'Neill Cup.

He buried his father and general club legend Charlie after a sudden death last month and then went out days later to shoot eight points against Ardboe in the first round. His form continued right to the final where he landed two gorgeous points in a fraught second half.

Not to forget Kilcar who delivered their first Donegal crown in 24 years. Michael Hegarty has always been one of the most lovely footballers to play the game but his longevity has been so impressive that it almost comes as a surprise that he wasn't on the last successful team.

On an unseasonably fine day, all those pitches were flooded with fans celebrating with the team.

Entire communities all come together. People fly home from all around the world just to watch their friends and neighbours play in an amateur match. It must be a unique phenomenon anywhere in the world.

After that, it's a spin back to the village or town or hamlet for the homecoming, followed by a party that reminds us that the fortunate among us truly live in one another's shelter.

It's a world removed from the corporate floss of All-Ireland final day, where spontaneity has to be cracked down among the patrons.

What does jar, however, is the glorious images and emotions of those successful teams, and the means in which it is achieved. Modern-day football being what it has become, we can only venture the theory that to break a long spell without success, it requires cautious, risk-free football.

Hence, the Donegal final was a total pig. How, you might ask yourself, can a team including the three McHughs: Mark, Ryan and Eoin, along with Hegarty and the McBrearty brothers Paddy and Stephen, score a total of five points from play across 65 minutes?

Naturally, the winners will care little for semantics, and it is true also that a decade ago, two decades ago, people were very quick to label as 'the worst ever.'

Either way, we go from here to the Ulster club, where the participants of the senior competition can roughly be split into four categories.


Into this sub-heading go the lads who are probably only gathering themselves up now and realising they have been in the same underpants since Sunday lunchtime. Nothing really can be expected from Lamh Dhearg, Kilcar and Armagh Harps, though they will be all up for the cliche of 'giving it a lash.'


Derrygonnelly Harps have won the last three Fermanagh titles but have yet to win an Ulster club game, although they happened to be drawn against Slaughtneil on the two previous occasions. They have a chance of breaking that duck against Armagh Harps in Brewster Park.

Cavan Gaels are back on top, but their record in Ulster is appalling despite their own domestic domination. They have Lamh Dhearg at home.


In 2014, Omagh came within seconds of an Ulster club title in their final against Slaughtneil. They get a repeat of that pairing now.

Scotstown brought Crossmaglen to extra-time of an epic 2015 final and have Kilcar at home.


Slaughtneil. Up there to be got at and two times winners in the last three years. The team that beats them will be the team that wins Ulster this year.

Belfast Telegraph