A week into the New Year and Paddy Walsh is gazing into his crystal ball. He sees big things for Stephanie Roche but not so big things just yet for new Donegal boss Rory Gallagher. As for Finn Harps midfielder Pat McCann, well he can’t actually see him anymore.
WAKE ME UP WHEN THE REAL ACTION STARTS
Much too early to get the other Rory Gallagher to start penning ‘Rory’s Losing Matches’. Particularly as it’s the Dr. McKenna Cup which, in Gaelic football terms, is the rank equivalent of a handful of pre-season friendlies.
Sunday’s loss at Owenbeg –even at the stingy end of an eleven point deficit – will hardly have sent shock waves through this or any other county as an experimental Donegal debuted in 2015 “competitive” action.
Derry started at close to full strength and that experience was always going to tell against their mainly fresh-faced opponents. All too soon to be running judgements on the new manager or the players he introduced into the senior squad. And all the better not to show so much as a finger, let alone his hand, in advance of that National League opener against the Oak Leafers come the end of the month.
It will be this follow-up game and the subsequent fixture against Dublin at Croke Park which will provide a better insight into what can be expected under the Gallagher regime. And while enthusiastic youth is always a welcome addition to any team, Gallagher, and all Donegal fans, must surely be hoping that St. Eunan’s ace Rory Kavanagh, and Naomh Conaill duo, Anthony Thompson and Leo McLoone, opt to remain with the squad for at least another year.
Incidentally, the green and gold will face a Dublin team who are ranked second behind All-Ireland champions, Kerry, in a specially produced ratings table on an R.T.E. website I was browsing through this week.
Yes, despite their outstanding performance against the Dubs in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, Donegal must contend themselves with third spot in the ranking compiled by one Jim McMahon.
It even drew some criticism from Dublin supporters in the comment lines that followed. One self-confessed die-hard blue proclaimed: “I may say I am very surprised to see us ranked above Donegal. “ A team, he insisted, that had put his beloved Dublin “to the sword” in that never-to-be-forgotten (except obviously by Mr. McMahon) semi-final.
Similar comments echoed this viewpoint and you would indeed have to place a large blue question mark against the impartiality of the compiler.
In the same ranking grade, Donegal’s Ulster Championship opponents, Tyrone, were placed 11th while Armagh were marked four positions higher.
Still, there’s always a silver lining for some. One Offaly supporter commented on his team’s placing in the table at just under thirty: “This does not look good – but only if you are focusing on Ireland. It must be remembered that Offaly are also the 29th best Gaelic football team in the entire Universe.”
So the midfield maestro is heading off. Bound for foreign fields and a new start. His loss will be keenly felt in an area of the pitch that isn’t exactly over-laden with penetrative midfielders.
But Pat McCann wants to go and more’s the pity as far as Finn Harps are concerned. Ollie Horgan reckons the club is fortunate to have adequate resources in this department to fill the departing American’s boots but I’m not sharing his optimism on that score. Another quality midfielder – preferably one who can find the net with the regularity of Mickey Funston –is urgently needed allied with a striker or two to help share Kevin McHugh’s front line duties.
The Harps boss is hopeful that McCann will return in July following his stint in Spain with Brenes Balompie but in the meantime he has a void to fill.
As for the other midfielder who announced at the weekend that he is America bound, Steven Gerrard, there’ll be some hole to plug at Anfield when he vacates that slot at the end of the current season.
But will he? Yes, talk is persisting of a fall-out with Brendan Rodgers and an inevitable parting of the ways as a result with the England international – now THERE’S a midfield he didn’t exactly grace over his career – reportedly unhappy to hear that he won’t feature as an automatic starting choice.
Remember Paul Scholes? Some years back he announced his departure from Manchester United – indeed from the game – but was persuaded to, and agreed to, return to Alex Ferguson’s squad.
It could be that Gerrard may yet postpone his Major League Soccer – Mayor League? They’re having a laugh – experience in favour of remaining on at Anfield for another campaign even if it means coming off the bench more than not to be involved at his beloved Liverpool.
Though there is, of course, a midfield vacancy at Finn Park.
Arsene Wenger looked a frustrated man at the Emirates during the first half of Sunday’s F.A. Cup clash with Hull City. And, let me tell you, I’ve shared that frustration many’s a time.
He’d just emerged into the technical area and was obviously feeling the pinch when he decided he could take no more. Time to zip up that coat we have all become familiar with and keep that North London nip out. Only problem was he couldn’t manage it and after a couple of attempts shrugged his shoulders and got on with delivering that familiar shady look to events on the pitch.
Zips, huh? Can’t live without them, can’t connect up those interlocking teeth when you desperately want to. Been there, worn the tee-shirt – or at any rate, the coat.
And the chillier it is, the less likely you’ll get the zipper to operate in the manner its inventor, Whitcomb L. Judson – don’t believe for one minute this column is simply here for decoration – intended.
To be fair, the Arsenal boss was later seen with his coat fully fastened which didn’t allow any of us to mouth “zip it” at him when he was having a go at the referee.
VOTE FOR STEPHANIE
Just in case you’ve forgotten, Stephanie Roche is still looking for your votes to help her claim the FIFA Goal of the Year award. And that applies to those of you who have already voted.
I spent ten minutes yesterday looking at the brief clip of her stunning strike – three touches and wallop – for Peamount United against Wexford Youths and, honestly, it gets better with each showing if that’s possible. Even Van Persie’s voting for it, I hear.
They had more cards at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday than I’ve had through the letter-box over the past three Christmas seasons.
Nineteen in total brandished by referee Noel Mooney including four reds. And a real kick in the backside for those keen to promote a more positive image for the G.A.A.
In other words, just another day at the orifice for Armagh and Tyrone.
Alex Ferguson arrived for Manchester United’s Cup game with Yeovil Town in a helicopter.
Don’t know what his mode of transport was for those games when David Moyes was in charge at Old Trafford but his presence obviously didn’t help the former Everton manager avoid the chopper.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: You’re fired.]
FABULOUS BAKER BOYS?
Must have taken some dough to get the ‘Baker’ to agree to take over the reigns as Malin’s senior manager.
And if I had some, I’d put it on said Liam Bradley to lead the Inishowen side to Donegal Championship glory this year and, quite conceivably, further.