Monday 26 September 2016

Blues and Rebels coming out from under the duvet

Published 25/04/2015 | 02:30

'Dublin manager Jim Gavin has expressed his annoyance at the term ‘blanket defence’. Would ‘duvet defence’ be okay then, Jim?'
'Dublin manager Jim Gavin has expressed his annoyance at the term ‘blanket defence’. Would ‘duvet defence’ be okay then, Jim?'

The lines from the song The Night the Goat Broke Loose on the Grand Parade come to mind.

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"Now there's a girl called Lily Horner,

And she come from Punches Corner

And he swore that she'd see Dublin 'ere she died

Ah but the goat came up behind her

And he gave here such a winder

That she didn't wait to wish her friends goodbye.

Now it's the Dubs who have Cork top of the list of places to see before you die. Cork have won so many big sporting championships that they no longer complain about not having their own Dail.

Cork's success is not confined to sport. The friendliness of the city is uniquely small-town and organic. The centre is full of hideaways and corners with quaint shops and classy cafes. Cork is on the up.

The Cork-Dublin rivalry has abated. Now the two biggest cities want to subjugate Kerry, a small county clinging on to the rocks like barnacles, but that's a story for the mid and late summer. We must stay mindful.

The big debate in the GAA right now is all about formations, and tomorrow's Allianz Division 1 final should be free-flowing.

But there are those who worry. A man I know said the new formations and alignments would ruin his day out in Croke Park.


He's a traditionalist. Bacon and cabbage is bacon and cabbage. The man in question is the kind of man who would croupier parsley sauce off the main plate and on to the side plate.

There's no changing him. He's no on gay marriage and no on the reduction of the minimum age for our president to 21.

I'm all for gay marriage and I was trying to change his mind. You'd have a better chance of getting the Iona Institute to propose Graham Norton for Pope.

He stated his case: "I'd be up there in Croke Park at the All-Ireland final and the 21-year-old president would be out on the red carpet shaking hands with the Kerry team, with his husband walking along behind him."

I'm not too sure about a 21-year-old president but I cannot fathom how any GAA person could vote against the civil rights of a fellow club man or woman.

In the end we agreed to differ, but we did agree to agree on our distaste of the new defensive alignments in the Gaelic football.

Dublin manager Jim Gavin has expressed his annoyance at the term 'blanket defence'. Would 'duvet defence' be okay then, Jim?

The lighter duck-down duvet can be kicked off and attacks are launched in an instant.

The heavier blanket is smothering if tucked in tight, and if you kick out at bottom end, the top will still stay put. 'Stuck and tuck' is the term of art for blankie hankie pankie.

But then again the duvet is easily shifted, and many is the man or woman who had to fight hard for their half.

Bad players have the comfort of hiding underneath the covers. Safety in numbers and all that. There's no mad hurry either in getting under. "Have we time for a fag?" one lad might say as her trots back in to the system.

Like cows at milking time, each knows his own stall. It's all about conserving energy for the counter-attack.

The day is not far away when the fans will forsake the GAA and the only attacking football will be played on consoles.

We were critical of Mickey Harte a few weeks ago for changing Tyrone's style from open plan to duvet. The piece was a wind-up. Mickey was in hospital at the time. I had no idea he was ill. Had I known, the column would not have been written.

Mickey is a tactical genius and a supreme motivator. Some years back we wrote Mickey would make a great president. And yes Mickey is over 21.

Mickey may have forsaken the duvet. Tyrone played Kerry in their last league match and when they attacked flat-out, Mickey's team looked the part.

The likelihood is tomorrow's league final will be an old-fashioned shoot-out. Dublin are always a bit edgy, though, when the ball is played in fast and so they might put a spare man back on Brian Hurley, who has the beating of most backs.

Cork scored four goals against Donegal, but Dublin seem to be coming in to form. We must not delude ourselves. Close marking is essential for survival and even attacking teams drop a man back as a plug.

Dublin are going for three league titles in a row but somehow you get the impression that they are slightly embarrassed. It's only the league, they say, and you'd wonder if they'd be happier at home watching someone else winning it on TV.

I doubt it. The league is still the second biggest competition in the GAA. It's won over months, in wind and rain. There are long journeys home, with work and study the very next day. Players must suffer to win the league.

The old GAA men get word of the whitewashing of a wall by way of preparation for a station. For the Dubs, a station in this context is not the place the trains pull in, but a rural religious ceremony with scones.

The old boys' club team have taken up the duvet defence. They pass on the local Sunday game. "Come on," says one lad to the other, "we'll go watch the whitewash dry."

I have a feeling they'll be looking at the football tomorrow.

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