Monday, August 29, 2005

TWTWTW: And Then There Was Three

Its funny how fond we are of certainties. Its got something to do with an age old desire to define our shifting world as it stands now as representing the ultimate truth. When stock markets surge as in the 1920s or 1980s, bullish speculators speak of continuous boom. Or the way we look around at our modern fandangles and what-nots, and feel ourselves to be humanity most advanced incarnation. Like we did in 1900.

In 2002 and 2003, those who watched gaelic football spoke of a northern hegemony which would cast its shadow on the carefree south for many years, the seriousness and intensity of Tyrone and Armagh seeming almost unfair to the rest.

Then in 2004, as the beasts were slain by the gallants of Fermanagh and Mayo, lighter in frame and fleeter of foot because, we thought, of precisely the fact that they didn't spend so many hours chained up in wintry gymnasiums.

And now the new orthodoxy. The Big Three. The Elite. The creme de la creme. Three teams so far ahead of the rest of the pack that the three thrashings just handed out by them to erstwhile contenders were so inevitable, just the way of things now, and surely for some time to come.

Certainties, like empires, crumble just after their strongest point, of course, but lets indulge in the sheer brutal truth of the triocracy of Kerry, Tyrone and Armagh.

There was a little spell in the earlier part of this decade when it was felt that Sam Maguire was attainable for, say, eight or so teams. The past four seasons have seen the evolution of this new elite come to the point, now, where the past three champions have never been so far over the horizon from their competitors. The tempatation is to wail, and indeed, to gnash one's teeth for good measure at things like this. But gaelic football has always had elites. This is not the first time preseason punditry could discount ninety percent of the challengers. Was the championship any more open in the seventies, in the era of Dublin and Kerry, or in the sixties in the time of Galway's three-in-a-row, Sean O'Neill's Down, and of course Kerry?

Anyway....what's bothered me about much of the blue sky thinking in recent years about the state of the game is, with particular reference to the northern teams, the belief that they are from a different breed, that they want it more; that there is some deep, and dark, drive that comes from their surroundings and gives them an unfair advantage over more, well, well-adjusted southerners. With their weights and their blanket defences and their dark arts and the sledging and the whole furrowed browedness of it all.

Now of course they've brought much to the table in these areas that can be said to hallmark these teams. But what struck me over the last few weeks while watching Armagh and Tyrone stride stealthily away from their Leinster opponents, and its something that Kerry are always given credit for is (now stick with me on this, its a crazy theory) that, frankly, they've just got some truly fantastic footballers. I know, I know, its too easy isn't?

How many acres of rain forest could be spared if this got out? Tyrone beat the Dubs on Saturday because of Eoin Mulligan's devastating finishing, Stephen O'Neill's flawlessness, Brian Dooher and Brian McGuigan's class, Sean Cavanagh's spearing running, Ryan McMenamin-the angel with a dirty face- and so on. Armagh hammered Laois because Ronan Clarke and Stephen McDonnell were unplayable, McGeeney, McGrane and Bellew unbeatable.

So when we come to write our next great unifying theory of football, maybe the certainty we'll hold, the orthodoxy we'll propose, is that, it seems, the team with the best players usually wins.
And right now the big three have all the best ideas.


Could tales of Alex Ferguson's demise have been greatly exaggerated? The often held view that United is a crumbling edifice, that the cantankerous old Scot could no longer have the drive or energy to create another winning team, may turn out yet to be true, but there was a glint of something familiar about Ferguson after yesterday's win over Newcastle. "It was the kind of performance I've experienced when we've been going for something...there was a solid platform". The challenge is now greater than ever, but the new blue foe does not appear to have revealed a lack of stomach for battle at Old Trafford.

A United supporting friend made the point to me at the end of last season, in a discussion on life after Roy Keane (and the seemingly grim reality of it) that rather than looking to replace like with like, that United's new beating heart already wore a red shirt- he believed Wayne Rooney would provide that unmistakeable edge that made champions. This young season has demonstrated that there might just be something in that. The boy wonder looks more like a man all the time, and there is no doubting that a no bullshit winner resides in that pugnacious frame.

F#cking yes, indeed....


Anonymous bet on football said...

Being a Newcastle fan was never meant to be this hard! just when i thought things were looking up, after the return of legendary Geordie, Kevin Keegan, i go and read this article on some online sports betting company’s website that is already writing off his chances of turning round the clubs fortunes. This got me thinking, after seeing managers sacked after relatively short periods of time and new gaffer’s chances being talked down before even one game in charge, along these lines...

Are the football managers of today given enough time? I personally believe time is the answer - look at fergie at man u and Wenger at arsenal... My beloved Newcastle will never improve unless a manager with reasonable knowledge of the game is given time to put structures in place... I know its a cliché, but these people in the media and at this online football betting site are putting the pressure on Chairmen and club owners to sack managers without thinking about long term managers. It angers me intensely reading the kind of stuff i saw on sporting index this morning! Read it for yourself and let me know what you think...

3:41 p.m.  

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