Friday, June 15, 2007

Definitely Not 'Grand Slam Weekend' Ok?

One of the most familiar complaints of we compliant, huddled masses as we are force-fed our Premiership staple is not so much the content, but rather the packaging. Does the world's most exciting league need to be wrapped in so many sparkly labels telling us so? This weekend's instalment of the GAA Championships provides an interesting case study in the value of the organic, wholefood approach to sports marketing.

Essentially, had the sharp-suited gents in the Sky Sports marketing department got hold of the Championship weekend ahead, there would not be an event short of the Second Coming itself (no, not Price Naseem's return to the ring, the actual one) subject to so much drooling anticipation.

As it is, the mouthwatering program on Saturday and Sunday stands by itself and, soberly noted in the GAA fixture list and the RTE television schedules, looks none the less exciting for not being called 'Weekend of the Titans' or somesuch.

Hell, the GAA even languidly muttered "bovvered?" at the prospect of the Dublin v Meath replay not being on the telly, until the unsatisfactory fudge was reached of having it run against the just as eagerly anticipated Cork v Waterford battle on either side of RTE's channel portfolio. It's an unfortunate circumstance, as one imagines the neutral public will veer towards the low-brow entertainment at Croke Park rather than the high art on display in Thurles (and with my purist kudos now secured, I will secretly don my Beer Helmet and join them).

The weekend's main features divide into two distinct categories: on one hand, both codes see proven recent champions (Cork, Tyrone) take on hungry and in-form contenders (Waterford, Donegal); on the other, two stonking drawn games throw up replays between teams whose bitter local rivalries guarantees zest, but whose ultimate All-Ireland credentials are questionable at best (Limerick v Tipperary, Dublin v Meath).

There's no harm in expending a little hot air at this time of the year on the timeless battle of Leinster's big two, there being space in the early Championship rounds for a bit of hype. The press have passed the time between the drawn game and the announcement of the teams with the traditional tireless deployment of the word "bonanza" in relation to the ringing of the GAA's tills ahead of Sunday's replay. I saw the word so many times I thought Lorne Greene and Michael Landon had been called in to shore up Dublin's troublesome full-back line.

Meath won a lot of friends in that first game, which is an unusual thing to say about teams from that county. Their brand of old-fashioned, give-it-long football was so refreshingly retro that I half expected The Sunday Game to be followed by an episode of Murphy's Micro Quizm. They have firepower as well, which will be augmented by the return of their NFL top scorer Brian Farrell. If they eliminate their poor starts to each half they could spell the demise of another sad, sullen Dublin team.

Cork and Waterford's duels in recent years have been some of the most transfixing in GAA, from the 2003 Munster final, through the classic 2004 version to the damp but thrilling denouement to last year's All-Ireland semi. There has been little between them in that time, and as much epic heroism as any Norse saga. The momentum is with Waterford and a look of steel that won them the league final tips the edge in their direction.

Conversely with Limerick and Tipperary, although the Shannonsiders finished in bravura fashion last weekend, Tipp retain a smidgeon of extra class, evident in the fact that their scores seemed easier crafted than Limerick's, whose effort expended in getting the draw could leave them flat tomorrow evening.

Finally (apologies to Sligo, Roscommon, Louth and Wexford, but you know how it is, pressures of space etc.) to the second test of Donegal's credentials, Tyrone. Armagh were negotiated in a manner about as unconvincing as a performance could be and still be a victory.

Which, for Donegal, could turn out to be a very good thing. Had they breezed past the Orchard county in rip-roaring style, they would have already been subconsciously booking Dublin hotel rooms for September. Now, with a very grave reminder of their own fallibility fresh in their minds, they can apply themselves studiously to a weary-looking Tyrone, a team that, for all their greater achievements, do not petrify Donegal like Armagh do.

And there you have it: a weekend heaving with the promise of pulsating drama, and not a hairy-handed host nor a gravelly-voiced Scotsman in sight.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a hairy handed gravelled voiced scotsman

4:09 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yet again, Donegal's performance a total embarrassment to all of society let alone the team.

On the other hand, following the Zidane headbutt incident, the media attention was focussed on what kind of provocation came from Materazzi for ZZ to do such a thing. I'd safely say that noone (else) will speculate how Dooher provoked Colm McFadden.

9:01 a.m.  

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