Paddy Walsh is back with his sports column which is winning more new friends than the PR man in Croke Park the week before the All-Ireland Final. This week the terrace talk is about The Bhoys, McGuinness’ legacy and ….err ….swimming the Atlantic as told in only Walshy’s inimitable style.
THE McGUINNESS LEGACY
Former Laois player, Colm Parkinson, writing in the ‘Irish Independent’s ‘Off the Ball’ column last week, was reviewing the action in the Donegal Senior Football Championship and referred to the tie between Glenswilly and St. Michael’s which ended in a 1-4 to 1-2 win for the former.
“A shocking statistic is that neither team scored a point from play in the game,” said Parkinson. “This must be some kind of record in senior championship football.
“This is the legacy Jim McGuinness has left behind in Donegal. Copycat club managers trying to emulate what Jim did with the Donegal inter-county team, with much less coaching ability and less talented players, is resulting in dour games like this.
“’I’ve defended Donegal’s tactics many times in the past but it’s difficult to have anything positive to say about a scoreline like that in club football, especially given the quality of players that both fielded last weekend,” the former Laois star maintained.
Joe Brolly was another pundit to take a well-aimed swipe at the McGuinness system and how it had affected championship football in the county. And unlike Parkinson, the R.T.E. analyst was actually at that game and witnessed for himself the dour offering of a football match,
By all accounts that match in Glenswilly was as dire as you can get and it WAS difficult to find anything positive to say about it. But by the same token, if you focus on one particular match to make your point about the legacy of Jim McGuinness’s tactical system, then you can always win the argument. And long before the McGuinness era, we had domestic championships games that fell well short of entertainment standard.
But that same weekend of Donegal Championship football did produce some inspiring performances, not least Kilcar’s blitzing of Bundoran on a scoreline of 5-15 to 0-3 with inter-county hero, Ryan McHugh, scoring four of those goals.
And last weekend, we again had some invigorating ties – Ardara and Naomh Conaill finishing level after a cracking contest to head into tonight’s replay and St Eunan’s powering their way to an impressive 2-10 to 0-7 success over Four Masters.
This weekend’s semi-finals, with Eunan’s coming up against St. Michael’s and Glenswilly facing the winners of the replay, might also help to disprove the Parkinson/Brolly theory.
As Donegal’s display against the Dubs in the All-Ireland semi-finals demonstrated, McGuinness didn’t just put his teams on the pitch to contain – though it always helped – but also to hit the opposition with attacking forays and well taken scores and not all of them from frees. And that particular match, coupled with the two Kerry/Mayo encounters, was undoubtedly a highlight on the G.A.A. entertainment calendar this year.
Ask any Donegal supporter about the legacy of Jim McGuinness and the word ‘dour’ won’t enter into the answer.
And ask any young Gaelic footballer in the county about that legacy and they’ll open up on dreams of future Croke Park appearances and All-Ireland honours.
And, finally, ask any player, coach or supporter in Sligo, Leitrim or Fermanagh and a few more besides, and they’ll tell you they’d love to have a legacy like the one Jim McGuinness left in Donegal.
JOBS FOR THE BHOYS
The briefest of a wry smile – if you could even call it that – from the same waistcoated Jim McGuinness when Brendan O’Connor suggested at the end of his interview with the former Donegal manager on ‘The Saturday Night Show’ that he’d talk to him again when he was appointed manager of Celtic (that’s McGuinness, not O’Connor – the latter’s finding it hard enough to manage ‘The Saturday Night Show’).
It certainly didn’t appear the reaction of a man hell bent on ultimately taking the job at Parkhead but then again, perhaps he knows more than he was telling or willing to share with the nation on a Saturday night.
As for his reluctance this week to discuss his potential successor in the Donegal job, well you’d have to say understandable particularly when the question focused specifically on Rory Gallagher who quit/was forced out of the county camp at the end of last year.
But in any case, allow this column to divulge that Rory will probably secure the post but I don’t think it will be long before Jim is back in again. Yes, I know he didn’t rule out a return at some stage in the future in an interview this week but I believe that it will be a lot closer than even he might be suggesting.
Even if you’re not a League of Ireland fan, you should, if you call yourself a sports lover, tune into R.T.E.’s ‘live’ coverage’ this weekend of the title decider between Dundalk and Cork City.
There could not have been a more fitting or climatic ending to a season than the pairing of the only two teams in a position to claim the Airtricity Premier League and that alone should, apart from filling out Oriel Park, add considerably to the television viewing figures.
Some six weeks ago, it looked a close certainty that Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk would be lifting the title with something to spare but City have closed the gap and now, as a result of last weekend’s results, opened up a one point lead on the Louth side. John Caulfield’s side need just a draw to bring the Trophy Leeside but that can be a dangerous caught between two stools scenario when Dundalk’s sole focus can only be to win. But how about Ballybofey’s own Johnny Dunleavy – the current captain of the Turner’s Cross side – claiming a first LOI title and a big step into European football next campaign?
If there’s one thing, apart from nerves, that can mitigate against a thrilling night’s football, it must surely be that synthetic surface at Oriel Park. Not even sure if the home side have got used to it yet but if you’re playing on it every other week, it must represent some kind of advantage. It might be time for the League authorities to grass over the issue come the close season.
Saw this one somewhere recently. It concerns a report in the Guardian – you know the one that’s as left wing as Ryan Giggs – from 2003 when the paper carried this quote from Sir Jack Hayward, chairman of Wolverhampton Wanderers: “Our team was the worst in the First Division and I’m sure it’ll be the worst in the Premier League.”
Hardly what the players or indeed their manager of the time wanted to hear but, as it turned out, a correction in a subsequent edition clarified the comment and what the chairman actually said was: “Our tea was the worst in the First Division and….”.
Mind you, the tea ladies at Molineux – or gentlemen, let’s not get sexist here – might not have been sweetened too much by the revised quote.
It was once the preserve of Ronan O’Gara – last second drop goals to win crucial matches for Munster. But now the red tops have another ace in the fly-half pack, in the form of Ian Keatley, who dramatically let one sail between the posts from some distance to gave the Irish Province a winning start in their European Cup clash with Sale with, not virtually but actually, the last kick of the game.
Watch them practicing it at Dave Gallaher Park in Letterkenny and other local rugby venues in the days ahead.
IF TOMORROW NEVER COMES
And finally, swimming. The Oklahoma man who is attempting to become the first to swim the Atlantic to play in Croke Park has reached the coastline.
“I’m still in America but once I hit the water, it’ll be plain sailing. This is a promise I made last June to my Irish fans and it’s one I intend to keep,” said Mr Brooks.