BY PADDY WALSH:
NOW THAT’S WHAT YOU CALL A PROVINCIAL FINAL…
Advance notice to the footballers – and probably more significant the management teams – of Donegal and Monaghan. How about an Ulster Final equal to the thrills and skills of the Munster equivalent?
What a match that was – the fierce old rivals of Kerry and Cork going at it from the start and no quarters asked up until that astonishing late point from corner back, Fionn Fitzgerald, that earned the All-Ireland champions a replay.
Physical it may have been at times – isn’t that the very nature of the game? – with a couple of black cards brandished but it made for great viewing on Sunday afternoon. And a bit of controversy to add to the whole mix.
“Paudi wouldn’t know a penalty from his arse,” the man with the sharpened tonque, Joe Brolly, summed up the awarding of the crucial dead baller that brought Kerry level in the 52nd minute.
The Paudi in question was Armagh referee, Hughes, who somehow spotted an infringement when Mark Collins and James O’Donoghue tangled in the square. Penalty to the Kingdom, insisted the man who seemingly failed anatomy science at school and O’Donoghue stepped up to slot the ball home.
A replay beckons on Saturday week at Fitzgerald Stadium – bring it on and let’s have some more of what we had last weekend. And hopefully the two Ulster Finalists who will be facing up to one another on the following day will be taking due note.
MILE CHALLENGE BACK ON TRACK
International athletics makes its return to Donegal this weekend with the hosting of the third Letterkenny A.C. Sub 4- Minute Mile challenge.
History was made at the Danny McDaid track at the Aura Leisure Centre last year when Mexico’s Juan Luis Barrios became the first athlete to break the four minute mile in this county with a time of 3:59.42.
Another class field will attempt the feat on Friday night with athletes from as far away as Canada, New Zealand, Uganda, and South Africa (and that’s only a handful of the countries involved) joining in the star-studded line-up that will put both international and local on the same track.
A whole series of events feature on the programme which gets underway at 7.p.m.
We often complain about having to travel to the bigger centres such as Dublin for our sporting fixes. Complain no more for here we have a quality field of athletes right on our very own doorstep ready to enthral and entertain in equal measure.
I didn’t think the size of the attendance last year matched the occasion. Surely this time out, with the quality of international participants in the line-ups, there’ll be no problem packing out the venue.
ALL-IRELAND FINAL (PART TWO)
To concede two late goals that prevent you from there and then carting home an All-Ireland title is almost as deflating as a flat tyre. Almost, I say, because the members of the under-14 girls Donegal squad don’t appear to do deflation even if the bus that was taking them back home late on Saturday evening did (get a flat tyre that is).
They had watched close neighbours Derry succumb to a late flurry of scores against Limerick in the Under-14 C Final just when the Oak Leafers looked to have the game wrapped up.
And when they took to the field in the sublime (sic!) surroundings of Ballymahon’s G.A.A. grounds – no facilities to talk about and the subject of respective complaints by both the Tipperary and Donegal County Boards – and found themselves 2-2 down to 0-1 in the space of the opening few minutes, it appeared the Donegal girls would also be returning to the North-West with that empty feeling endured by all losing finalists.
Inspired by their captain, Marie Creedon – playing in Neil Gallagher’s position and almost as big as him – Tipperary appeared as if they were coasting to the comfort zone only this Donegal team know how to react to poor starts. And back they came to go in at half-time two points clear and go on and dominate for long spells of the second period thanks to a powerhouse performance, not least from player of the match, Amy Boyle Carr.
Those two late goals – the first a driven effort from a free and the second a scrambled poke home – ultimately denied Greg Harkin’s team of glory last Saturday.
But they get another opportunity in the replay this Saturday at Tuam Stadium (throw-in 2.30.p.m.) to Tipp the title in their favour.
Some players wait a lifetime and never get to play in an All-Ireland Final – many of these girls will now be playing in two. But surely those at the helm at Croke Park could have chosen a much more suitable ground for such an occasion.
An All-Ireland final at any age or gender level deserves a decent venue and hopefully Tuam will provide it in the way Ballymahon didn’t. And hopefully Donegal will be leaving it with the trophy denied them at the very finish last weekend.
THE BONAGEE BLASTER
So does Mickey Funston ever do tap-ins? No, would appear to be the answer. Three goals to his name this season to date and not a turkey among them.
Each of them instead sharing the terms brilliant and spectacular.
His latest against Cabinteely on Friday. A Finn Park attendance lulled out of any apathy they might have been feeling at the comparatively poor fare in front of them by the sight of the Letterkenny man taking aim from close to 40 yards out and sending a swerving shot beyond the despairing grasp of Evan Whelan in the visiting goals. Grasp? He hardly moved except to turn his head and watch in grudging admiration as the ball flew into the net.
What do they be feeding them out there in Bonagee?
Keep ‘em coming, Mickey, but as for the Harps performance in general, it was, ironically, the lamest out of their past five matches, four of which ended in defeats.
A nervy display overall so much so that we could almost see another Cabinteely leveller deep into stoppage time as was the case when the sides met in Dublin in early May.
But Funston’s flyer proved enough to stop that recent rot of results and Harps will travel to bottom side, Waterford United, this Friday night in a bid to start another unbeaten run.
They’ll do so with new signings, Nathan Boyle and Kieran McDaid in the ranks – both of whom made lively second half appearances against Cabinteely from the bench.
Goals from Damian McNulty and Gareth Harkin helped Ollie Horgan’s men to a 2-0 win in Waterford four games into the season. A repeat will do just nicely as Harps look to catch Wexford Youths again and retain that four point gap on U.C.D.
The students were the only League of Ireland outfit to record a victory in European football last week showing that the First Division isn’t quite the bogland some pundits claim it to be.
And, of course, the L.O.I. Premier League doesn’t have anyone who can strike a ball like Mickey Funston…
BONES AND BREAKFAST
In a trailer for last week’s R.T.E. special on Italia 90, the camera zoomed in on a sea of suits in the stand watching one of the Ireland games. And somehow this pair of eyes caught sight of him immediately. A man who truly belonged in such company. A man who might have taken over Sepp Blatter’s role – the latter sitting nearby in another suit – had he got the chance. A man who revelled in his presence at such high profile sports events. A man who, if you’ll remember, shared the platform in Paris on that famous day back in 1987 when our own Stephen Roche was accepting the laurels as winner of the Tour de France.
A man who, in short, was never far away from the truly big occasions.
Ah yes, you’ll know him by now. One Charles J. Haughey. The one and only Charles J. Haughey.
He featured again on a T.V. programme last week detailing the life and sporting times of the great Kerry footballer, Paidi O Se, and one particular story stands out as recalled by the former Kerry chairman, Sean Walsh.
O’Se and he were in Haughey’s home in Kinsealy having breakfast. The then Taoiseach was on crutches having broken his ankle after a horse riding accident. “Paidi, did you break any bones in your playing career?,” Haughey asked.
“Oh no, Taoiseach, none of my own!,” the then King of Kerry snapped back.
I’d say that was some breakfast.
TEE AND STRAWBERRIES FOR PAUL
A little piece of Donegal at Wimbledon this week. And while it irks the hell out of me when the B.B.C. cameras every so often pick out the rich and famous in the crowd – Stephen Fry and Richard Branson spotted yesterday – (the very same rich and famous who are invited along for free while they can well afford the entrance admission), I never mind so much when it’s actually sportspeople watching on.
And during the meeting of the Williams sisters on Monday afternoon, there was our very own – or close to our very own – Paul McGinley, complete with shades, taking in the action, and no doubt wondering what sort of power Serena or Venus could manage with a tee shot off the fifth at Dunfanaghy.
Highlight of the week so far at the world’s premier lawn tennis tournament? Some great matches but for me it was the one involving Australian Nick Kyrgios.
In an era of the sport when it is lacking the likes of your McEnroes and Connors and the passion they brought to every game, it was almost enhancing to see Kyrgios throw some rattles out of the pram.
In his clash with Richard Gasquet, he was given a formal warning by the British umpire, James Keothavong, after using a swear word or two. Immediate code violation for what was called audible obscenity.
Then he opted to huff his way through the third game of the second set, allowing two serves from his opponent pass him by without so much as moving his feet.
And after that he attempted to change his footwear as the umpire persuaded him to get back on court again. “Richard, I’m just changing my socks,” Kyrgios loudly declared to his rival. Sock it to him, Nicky boy.
Ah, they don’t make them like him anymore. Or, they do, but not enough of them.
Later on the B.B.C. highlights programme, John McEnroe – a man who knew how to throw a tantrum or ten – reacted to his fellow pundit, Tracy Austin, who was lauding the awarding of a code violation to the Aussie for swearing. “There are kids out there – you can’t have that….”, she insisted.
“You wouldn’t have any sports if you banned swearing,” McEnroe maintained.
Too **/**^!+*** true.
COLD COMFORT – NOT!
Any out and out feminists out there, please look away now. Actually, no, keep on reading, for the truth must be confronted no matter how uncomfortable.
On the subject of uncomfortable, the opening week of Wimbledon saw temperatures soar to 41 degrees at one stage. Cue, the decision of the organisers to allow players a ten-minute break out of the searing sun during matches. Not all players, it should be stressed. Just the female variety.
As for the men? They were obliged to carry on regardless as the sweat seeped into and out of their shirts and shorts. No breaks for them apart from the brief traditional interlude after every two games.
The supreme irony of it all is that the male players can often find themselves going through a full five sets while the women are restricted to, at the very most, three.
For which they are paid equal amounts of prizemoney, it should be added.
Two bones of contention there for the price of one.
Time to kick up an almighty racket about it and turn the heat on those who make these crazy decisions.
The only thing missing from the Womens’ World Cup, which ended in the late hours of last Monday morning, was a Republic of Ireland team.
Apart from that it was an outstanding tournament and featured some – though not all – outstanding matches, the pick of which, to my mind, was the quarter-final meeting of France and Germany. The French played the best football of the tournament but ultimately went out on a penalty shoot-out against the past masters of the spot-kick showdown.
Striker of the tournament had to be Carli Lloyd who netted a quick-fire hat-trick in the U.S.A.’s 5-2 defeat of Japan in the Final.
England’s Karen Bardsley (the B.B.C. commentators kept reminding us of the English born managers of other teams in the competition but neglected to tell us that Bardsley was native of California) was one of the best goalkeepers at the tournament but was shaded by America’s netminder, Hope Solo, who – and her personal life would also merit it – with a name like that could be the subject of a Hollywood film.
I believe her grandfather, Napoleon, used to be in ‘The Man From Uncle’.
TITLE DEFENCE ON THE BACK FOOT
As a young fellow – certainly a lot younger than I am now – I engaged in a lot of kickabouts with friends.
None of them, it has to be said, ever kept me out of the British Open though that may have had to do with (a) the failure to rupture my ankle ligaments and (b) the fact that I didn’t play golf. Oh, and (c), the even more pertinent fact that I couldn’t have sunk a four inch putt for love or money (and those pro golfers apparently get a lot of both).
Anyway, the boy Rory looks like he’s going to be, at best, hobbling around on crutches – two irons – at St. Andrew’s next week but not participating in the event itself.
Unless…..unless the Belfast Telegraph newspaper and the healing power of mentalist, David Meade, can repair the injury in double quick time.
Tuesday’s edition of the paper featured a photo image of McIlroy’s ankle and advised readers to collectively place their hands on a specially drawn out sketch at noon yesterday to help send positive vibes to the stricken golfer. Telegraphing them in other words.
Will it work? It will my foot. Or even his foot.