Monday, June 18, 2007

They're Back!

Quite clearly, they haven't gone away, you know.

The biennial spectacle of Tyrone's footballers in full, voracious flow continues. Whatever it is that they do during those even years when they virtually disappear, they should market it to burned-out executives as the perfect rejuvenation therapy. Maybe they signed some sort of pact with the devil, which, along with having to give the Dark Lord's son a regular game at right corner-back, means their particular brand of footballing devastation can only be deployed every second year.

Whatever, they're back now and that's that. Deal with it.
Mickey Harte's responses to post-match questions used that formula that the Tyrone manager swears by: for howsoever fantastic my team are, I will be proportionally humble. "We have to be very careful here, because we weren't a great team coming into this game so we're no world beaters now," Harte protested, codding no-one.

Now, in the all-time list of abject Donegal performances in the Ulster Championship, yesterday's effort will jostle its way among the many other contenders near the top. All the same, this particular Clones cyclone blew Tír Conaill away to such an extent that the county's supporters' scornful words should have stopped in their throats, to be replaced with acknowledgements of the their opponents' incontestable class.

That Donegal are a team who are operating to some arcane alternative calendar which fooled them into thinking that you must play your best football in February is only a side-issue.
Tyrone's relentless support running, intelligent movement and fierce competition for possession were the matters that should have engaged football's chattering classes in the aftermath of yesterday's game. The performance of Brian Dooher alone will send shudders around the nation.
That they threw in a scatter of horrendous wides is of little consolation to prospective victims, given that one Stephen O'Neill joined in for the final twenty-odd minutes, blowing off the cobwebs with two points.


Events in Clones and the return of the Red Hand will engage the GAA's great minds and strategists, but Thurles was the place to be for less sober-minded pursuits. The residents of the Tipperary town can't have seen a weekend like it since the days of Féile. Even the Stunning and the Saw Doctors put together couldn't have generated the decibel levels and general high-octane excitement of two games that provided yet another reminder of the unique magic of Munster Championship hurling.

Quite what to expect when Limerick and Tipperary do it all over again on Saturday is impossible to know. On the face of it Limerick have simply trailed Tipp like a particularly enthusiastic puppy: every time Tipp have tried to shoo them away, Limerick have scampered happily back to their heel. Will Tipp finally rid themselves of the troublesome mutt, or will Limerick eventually bite them on the bum?

If that metaphor is too fluffy to fit the slash and gurn of Munster hurling, then happily Cork and Waterford's canine likenesses tend more towards brawling pit-bulls. Waterford got their third win over Cork this year, and will be hoping that the habit remains unbreakable.

But the loss of the suspended Cusack, ó hAilpín and O'Sullivan for such a game would have felt for Cork like one of those anxiety dreams where you go into a job interview with no trousers on. Add in a sense of grievance over the suspensions that the Rebels can place neatly on their shoulders alongside the chips that reside there already, and Waterford's mood this morning will be a cautious sort of elation.


Cautious elation is rarely the prevailing mood of Dublin supporters when they are cheering their team home to victory against Meath. But most will be aware that pulling away from a doughty Meath side late on is not quite the push-start for the Dubs summer juggernaut. However, the amount of criticism that Dublin get when things go poorly dictates that, in the interests of fairness, if not human decency, they should get some credit for the win.

They did manage - just about - to avert another backslide from a winning position, which they'll hope represents the end of that particular pesky foible.

And there were a few more of those long-sought answers to longer-extant questions. Ross McConnell has improved exponentially in the full-back role for one thing. Mark Vaughan is a very Dublin type of darling, but he kicked frees satisfactorily, and, more importantly, showed a lot of character in that period where Dublin's familiar fade began to reappear. Importantly, he never provided any other message to his team-mates than "give me the ball", an enthusiasm which eventually lit the touchpaper for the Dubs win.

An Offaly team at leisure while Dublin have been at war await on Sunday, so caution is justified - not that it will last that long, mind you.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tommy 77 you are extraordinarily right in that the whole country will now label Tyrone favourites for september sun. What concerns me is the number and quality of missed opportunities, the woeful opposition, the comparisons with september 05 and our Mickey smiling and hugging the marathon man as he came off. Hopefully, and I mean this, the saying about chickens, eggs and hatching will not be used before the summer is out. PJ

9:20 p.m.  

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