Monday, June 20, 2005

That Was the Weekend That Was- Farce, Fascination and Foreboding

Every weekend at this time of the year bubbles over with top-class sport, and there is sense that this weekend was the overture to a symphonious couple of months ahead. GAA championship matches, Lions tests, Wimbledon, British Open Golf, the Ashes and more await, and last weekend whet the appetite sufficiently, if at times, bizarrely.

The disciplinary statistics for the weekend's Championship matches are compelling. Seventeen red cards and eighty-four yellow were distributed around Ireland's county fields over two days of Championship and qualifier matches. Of course Ulster was responsible for the majority, but the red scare was to be found nationwide.

Armagh carried the day as expected in their replay against Donegal in the Ulster quarter final. It was however Ulster football in excelsis, and the farcical final quarter of the match in which Donegal were reduced to 12 men spoiled what had been a competitive contest, albeit Armagh always looked capable of stepping up a few gears.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the fact that Maurice Deegan, a Laois man, was given the onerous task of whistling while Clones burned. The thinking being that "one of our own" should be employed, and would be more familiar (acceptant?) of Ulster football's "ways".

There is, however, undoubtedly a movement abroad in the corridors of GAA power to clean football up, one which will not be dissuaded by the rejection of the League's sin-bin project. We could soon see a fundamental change in the way football is played, for if the authorities do not back down from the current pogrom on violence, teams will, happily for spectators, be forced to play a little bit of football from time to time. Observe the sons of Ulster matching to that particular tune....

The GAA weekend as a whole demonstrated the unavoidable primacy of quality. Donegal have no-one in the same league as Stephen McDonnell, and were doomed when he decided to make yesterday his proper entry into the Championship maelstrom. The class with which McDonnell took Armagh's second, and critical, goal was only matched yesterday by the Gooch and his standard virtuoso performance in Limerick.

It is strange to say about a team of Kerry's strength in depth, but yesterday he carried them. Of course they had the options to ultimately over-power Limerick, but Cooper's display will leave many managers thinking: "stop Gooch, stop Kerry". Of course that theory is based on glaring folly: you can't stop the Gooch.

Dublin's own stripling hero, Jason Sherlock, proved an impact sub in the true sense of the word as his side pulled away from a feisty Wexford in Croker yesterday. There's nothing like a goal in the Hill 16 end to light the touchpaper on a Dublin summer, whether the flames will be enough to engulf Mick O'Dwyer's total football Laois will be one of the many intriguing questions in the weeks ahead.

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The weekend's grandest farce occurred many miles from Clones, in Indianapolis to be precise, as six cars lined up for yesterday's F1 Grand Prix, and 200,000 American petrolheads bayed their dismay.

Just as the sport had become interesting again, it disappears back up its own exhaust pipe in a fug of technicalities, and it seems, with all the maturity of a playground scuffle. David Coulthard put it best: "I have never experienced anything like this in my career before. It is remarkable we could not find a solution to go racing, we have the crowd here and to come here and not race this is going to leave a long-lasting bitter taste in people's mouths. As a driver I am embarrassed by this situation."

FIA were forced to adhere to their procedures in not allowing a chicane be put in place, opposed by Bridgestone-using Ferrari, or allowing new tyres be used for the Michelin cars affected by the problem with their tyres durability. Any other outcome yesterday would surely have resulted in legal action being taken by a wronged party, but the fact that so many people were subjected to such a sham will be grossly damaging to the sport's image, probably terminally in the US.

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The Lions "Wednesday" team polished of Otago on Saturday much as they have in their other provincial victories- with no great ease, and by squeezing the set-pieces.

The Lions have shown little to suggest a Test win is possible. It would seem clear (and the likely selection of Stephen Jones and Jonny Wilkinson seems to reinforce this) that Clive Woodward intends to triumph in an attritional battle, kicking for the corners and pressurising the All Black scrum.

One can't help but feel that there hasn't been enough shown from the Lions backs to win the series, and while they have been defensively very sound, the All Blacks should have enough possession, and have more than enough talent, to make this lack of firepower count.

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Could be a great week for Kiwi types after Michael Campbell's nerve held over the closing holes to win the US Open yesterday. Its his first major, but is yet another success for Jos Vanstiphout, the Belgian "mind guru" who 'encouraged' Retief Goosen to victory in the same tournament in 2001.

Vanstiphout will have enjoyed Campbell's victory all the more in light of Goosen's 11-over par collapse yesterday, Goosen having dispensed of his services after that victory in 2001.

Funny how these things come back to haunt you in sport...

1 Comments:

Blogger Tom the Tim said...

What an embarassment the meeting of the Orange and Green in Clones turned out to be.Not the result,because if Donegal had thirty men on the field, they still would have got nowhere near Armagh, but the loutish behaviour of the Yellow and green neds.In scenes replicated outside night clubs the length and breadth of the country we witnessed where the scourge of thuggery emanates from. It is not access to drink that causes mayhem in our towns and cities, it is exposure to the ethos of the GAA that encourages such behavior. It is time Michael Mc. Dowell addressed the real cause of violence and closed down the GAA and turned Croke Park over to more dignified and graceful sports , like REAL football. Something must be done,and soon.
Disgusted Citizen

7:03 p.m.  

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