Some random thoughts on the All-Ireland final …
A triumph of leadership
To come from being humiliated by Armagh in 2010 to winning the All-Ireland in 2012 – and beating Cork, Kerry and Tyrone en route – is sensational.
Somebody said to me that Donegal are frightening proof of what Irish people are capable of when they get off the beer. There’s truth in that quip. The stereotype of gifted Tir Chonaill footballers drinking away their talent is over-egged, but like all stereotypes it bears a kernel of truth.
More than a surplus of booze though, Donegal suffered from a surfeit of organisation, leadership and confidence. Three years ago they were bankrupt of ideas and purpose. Now they are kings. Jim McGuinness deserves all the credit going for this. His energy and intellect have made champions of a group in which few even saw potential.
You’d be tempted to say Ireland would be as well off throwing Jimmy into the Taoiseach’s office and letting him perform a similar miracle. The country would be a more prosperous land in record time – but the danger is people would soon be living under a dictator and not a democrat. More of which anon …
Did Mayo miss their corner boy?
Okay, he wasn’t pushed, he jumped. And the statement Mayo’s record scorer released following his departure last July indicated that he is, to put it generously, difficult to manage. But isn’t managing difficult people one of the key tasks of a top manager? If everybody did what they were told all the time then pretty much anybody could be in charge.
Mayo had not missed Mortimer – they averaged a 23 points (including goals) in their quarter-final and semi-final wins. A consensus has grown that the Green and Red were better off without him.
Well, it didn’t look like it yesterday. As chance after chance went begging against the meanest defence in the land, you asked yourself, would Mortimer have done better? You’d have to imagine that he would have done.
Not saying Mayo would have won with Mortimer on the field. They’d have had a greater chance though.
Net loss for Green and Red
Donegal’s early brace killed a lot of the day’s suspense. Mayo fought gamely to avoid a repeat of the humiliations suffered in 2004 and 2006 but they never looked like getting the goal which would have been crucial to a successful comeback.
For a finish James Horan, a smart young manager who plans meticulously, was reduced to launching his midfield totem, Aidan O’Shea, into the square in the hope that they could cause enough mayhem to create a chance. It didn’t work. Neil McGee was never going to yield.
Mayo put three goals in Down’s net in the quarter-final and four past Leitrim in the Connacht semi-final. In their tougher tests this championship season, however, against Sligo, Dublin and Donegal, they failed to raise a green flag. If they are to build on a fine year, this is an area that must be addressed.
From fever pitch to bland parade
The climax to the season was – until 2009 – a mass outpouring of emotion with everybody on the pitch. Now – just like early in the century when the suits had their way until Armagh stormed the cordon – it is an antiseptic array of shiny streamers and piped music; the same as any corporate sporting final the world over.
It diminishes the occasion; drains it of fervour and uniqueness. Bring back Plan B.
And can RTE commentators please stop saying how much better everything is now that the fans are corralled in the stands? With broadcast rights does not come a duty to be the GAA’s PR department. Their duty is the opposite of that.
Jimmy’s banning hacks
Jim McGuinness’ refusal to conduct his press conference until journalist Declan Bogue left the room seems, at best, petty and, at worst, vindictive and sinister.
Bogue is the author of the book – This Is Our Year – which resulted in Kevin Cassidy being removed from Donegal’s panel.
McGuinness claimed there were untruths in the book and that his character had been blackened. If you are going to make those statements then you must explain them. What was untrue? How had his character been blackened?
McGuinness simply told the remaining journalists that if he received any more questions on the matter he was leaving.
In truth, the press should not have even been there to listen to this demand. As soon as he said one journalist must get out the rest should have been out too – as a single, unified group of professionals.
A lot of hacks present seem to have been bemused at the turn of events and were caught up in the pressurised process of harvesting quotes to meet looming deadlines. I dare say that in the cold light of the following morning many of them regretted not walking out.
Since the dawn of newspapers there has been a debate over the merit of sports sections. They are either the place where you find the best writers and reporters in the house or they are the Toy Department, full of overgrown children who can’t cut it at the serious end of the business.
This affair, unfortunately, gives credence to the latter view. If Ireland’s GAA journalists want to be taken seriously by managers, players and, most importantly, their readers, they certainly can’t let something like this happen again.