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Football eclipsed by God's game ...

Hurling heroics casts dark shadow over neighbour

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ELATION: Limerick’s Pat Ryan celebrates after scoring his side’s third goal in their All-Ireland SHC semi-final extra-time victory over Cork last Sunday   Pic: Sportsfile

ELATION: Limerick’s Pat Ryan celebrates after scoring his side’s third goal in their All-Ireland SHC semi-final extra-time victory over Cork last Sunday Pic: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

ELATION: Limerick’s Pat Ryan celebrates after scoring his side’s third goal in their All-Ireland SHC semi-final extra-time victory over Cork last Sunday Pic: Sportsfile

We'll hazard a guess that Tomás Ó Sé wasn't overly enthused by the euphoric reaction to our latest weekend of championship action. And not because he's a Kerryman fearing the worst. Or because he now resides in the People's Republic of Cork.

Let's take you back to a line from his Irish Independent column on the first Saturday in July. The theme was obviously football-related and specifically about Kildare. But in the midst of speculating on whether Kildare or Armagh could be a summer bolter, he added: "It'd maybe be no harm for the championship if they did because all I seem to be hearing is hurling snobs rabbiting on about God's game."

What has happened since in the celestial world of small ball?

  • Galway and Kilkenny have slugged it out in a roller coaster replay that took the breath away.
  • Limerick have stared adversity in the face and, after a titanic struggle, secured their first SHC victory over Kilkenny in 45 years.
  • A double-whammy of semi-final classics, containing seven goals, 123 points, two bouts of extra-time, and more plot twists than you'd read in the life's work of Agatha Christie.
  • And we're not finished yet: there's a Galway/Clare replay to come in Thurles this Sunday.

The 'hurling snobs' have never had it so good. Question is, do we overdo the eulogies? Perhaps ... but then along comes another instant classic (or two) to leave you in a state of giddy-eyed, gormless ecstasy.

"Wow! Holy feck! Did that just happen?" you start babbling to no one in particular. "I need to sit down and take a chill pill ... or maybe a provincial football final."

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'We couldn't help but notice a couple of tweets penned on Sunday by former Mayo goalkeeper John Madden.'   Photo: Sportsfile

'We couldn't help but notice a couple of tweets penned on Sunday by former Mayo goalkeeper John Madden.' Photo: Sportsfile

'We couldn't help but notice a couple of tweets penned on Sunday by former Mayo goalkeeper John Madden.' Photo: Sportsfile

Curse

The great curse of modern-day football is that it finds itself constantly compared - in a negative light - with what's happening in the neighbouring hurling parish.

We couldn't help but notice a couple of tweets penned on Sunday by former Mayo goalkeeper John Madden.

"Mayo v Dubs many times, Mayo v Cork '17, Mayo v Kildare '18. All great games in sport I love like no other. But never once I felt the need to roar: 'Gaelic Football, Greatesht Shport ever.' Hurling a great game & I love watching it but FFS lose the insecurity hurling folk."

Then, in the wake of Limerick's Lazarus routine, Madden followed up: "If Cork footballers collapsed like that, they'd get endless abuse at home. Will be interesting to see if the same for hurlers."

As it happens, Diarmuid O'Sullivan alluded to this very topic yesterday when the ex-Cork defender and now Paddy Power News columnist fired a broadside against those "fickle" fans who have excoriated the team on social media.

"This 'bottler' thing disgusts me," O'Sullivan said.

"I was walking out of the stadium after, there was two Cork lads there and they were having a right go. I actually had murder with them and I looked the two of them in the eye and told them they were an absolute disgrace."

Suffice to say, even after a 'perfect weekend' for the ancient game, Cork will not be immune to some vicious criticism from their own.

But back to the bigger picture of football's total eclipse this summer.

There is no disguising the truth: is has been a distant second best.

True, Kildare/Mayo was an absolute belter with an epic story line, on and off the pitch. Week two of the 'Super 8s' was infinitely better that week one: Tyrone/Dublin was a proper championship slugfest while much of Kildare/Galway and all of Monaghan/Kerry were captivating.

Sagas

But apart from the early-summer sagas of Carlow and Fermanagh, that's about it so far.

Recent football championships have been rescued by a series of semi-final and final epics primarily involving Dublin, Mayo and Kerry ... but overall standards, the lack of competitive depth beyond the usual suspects, allied to the tactical sterility and safety-first approach now so prevalent, have conspired to make football so much less of a spectacle.

Maybe the next few weeks will redress the imbalance again.

But no matter what happens from here until the first Sunday in September, there can be only one winner in this annual battle of GAA bragging rights. God's game ...