Monday 24 October 2016

Roche's Point

WITH apologies to New York and the Leinster SHC round robin combatants, we are just emerging from the first 'real' weekend of Championship 2015.

Maybe that explains why this column was fired with enthusiasm (no double entendre intended, boss!) and duly embarked on a whistle-stop tour to mark the occasion. One that incorporated Tullamore on Saturday, Drogheda on Sunday and the Sky Plus box yesterday morning for Donegal/Tyrone.

So, what earth-shattering revelations have announced themselves?

Well, none that will necessarily dictate the final destination of Sam Maguire; but there were still lots of informative snapshots. Such as ...

1. Donegal, those tight corner specialists, haven't gone away.

2. Tyrone still can't figure out how to beat them even as the McGuinness era morphs into the Gallagher one - but the losers still appear in better health that some of those doomsday pre-match prophecies. Maybe they haven't gone away either?


3. As spectacles go, Donegal/Tyrone also belied lowly expectations (doomsday prophecies, part two) ... that doesn't mean we should gloss over the pervasive niggle and apparent sledging that blighted the contest.

Most times the armchair viewer - and, more importantly, the referee - can only speculate on what is being said beyond earshot; Seán Cavanagh came out publicly yesterday to explain just how bad it was in Ballybofey.

And before you start brandishing the 'sore loser' label, you could see that both Cavanagh and Donegal's Michael Murphy (pictured below) were being targeted for the type of extra-close attention designed to frustrate, inflame and negate your most dangerous opponent.


Sledging is a black card offence; referees are empowered to tackle a problem that already inflicts serious damage on the image of Gaelic football. Unfortunately, one referee can't hear everything on a 140m field and, even if he did, would he be inclined to impose a zero tolerance crackdown on the born-lippy brigade?

4. Leinster football has the capacity to throw up eventful matches between teams that are relatively evenly matched. The problem is that none of these matches are likely to involve Dublin.

5. Not every county team has embraced the blanket defence ethos that has consumed virtually all of Ulster and several other pockets. There was no duvet in sight for that oscillating contest between Longford and Offaly; it was even more obviously man-for-man (or sometimes no man at all) as the Louth defence parted for Westmeath's three goals.

"For me, it's not about parking 13 guys behind the ball, it's about winning ... we could have dropped everyone behind the ball and been beaten 12-13 in a war of attrition," noted Louth boss Colm Kelly, while his Westmeath counterpart Tom Cribbin echoed: "We wanted to go and try and win a game rather than be afraid to lose it."

Has the trend shifted again? Steady on! This was only weekend one ...

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