Thursday 17 October 2019

Colm O'Rourke

Brian Fenton scores Dublin’s third goal in yesterday’s All-Ireland semi-final win over Mayo at Croke Park. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

The most exceptional group of players to ever grace the game 

Just as well Dublin only played for the second half or this would have been a right massacre. In the first half they were tied up by Mayo and were a bit fortunate to get to the break only two down. They were outfought by Mayo, who engaged with unrelenting ferocity. They stripped the ball from Dublin frequently in the tackle and were calm and measured in their approach. This despite Robbie Hennelly giving the Mayo supporters the shivers on kick-outs and anytime he had the ball in his hands. The main Dublin players were being limited to bit parts. Paddy Durcan was magnificent...

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Mayo’s Donal Vaughan celebrates a late point against Galway. Photo: Sportsfile

Colm O'Rourke: 'Kerry primed to strike with Mayo running on empty' 

The games go on. From a kind of league format in the provincial championship where there was always the second chance saloon, to a knockout system in the qualifiers, and now back to a league in the Super 8 and then back again to knockout in the semi final and final. It's all very confusing. Tyrone set a record last year in that they lost three championship matches. Anyway, it is all academic as Sherlock Holmes might say, because whoever wins won't worry about the hoops they have had to jump through.

‘They are hungry players and there is a real possibility that they will be even more motivated than ever and could play better. I don’t believe for a second that the pressure will get to them’

Colm O'Rourke: 'Dublin leave little room for optimism among the rest' 

The tightening of the championship schedule means a famine in April and a glut of fixtures this weekend, with seven football championship matches taking place. Leaving April free has made no major difference as county boards could have used this month for clubs anyway. The GAA disappeared in terms of profile and a lot of games will go ahead without much publicity as there is only so much space in print, while other counties will get about three minutes on TV tonight. It is hardly the best way to promote the game.

Mick Fitzsimons and Paul Geaney battle for the ball last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

Colm O'Rourke: 'Don't get too carried away by February's phoney wars' 

The depths to which football has plunged was summed up by the reaction to the Kerry-Dublin game last weekend. Yes, it was good, and both sides went at it hard, but it was talked up into something more than it was. Epic battles only happen when there is a bit more at stake. Maybe it is a natural reaction when there are so few good games. The weekend was balanced by all the other Division 1 matches ranging from poor to rotten (in the case of Galway v Monaghan). So thank God for small mercies.

Conor McManus of Monaghan. Photo: Sportsfile

Colm O'Rourke: Joyful Monaghan have something special about them 

You didn't have to be Einstein to figure out that Monaghan and Tyrone were going to be involved at the business end of the championship. The backdoor system suits the strong and has been reinforced by the new format this summer. As a result, Tyrone become the first team in history to reach an All-Ireland semi-final after losing two championship matches. Monaghan have lost one - that last-gasp defeat to Fermanagh in the Ulster semi-final.

David Clifford of Kerry leaves the field after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final Group 1 Phase 1 match between Kerry and Galway at Croke Park, Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Colm O'Rourke: Dead rubbers loom and serial losers may progress, nonsensical nature of Super 8 is rearing its head 

The gloss on the Super 8 washed off a bit in the gloom and rain of Croke Park last Sunday and if Kerry and Kildare don’t win today there will be little enthusiasm for their dead rubber meeting in Killarney in a fortnight. Anyway, when it gets to this stage of the championship a defeat should mean the end of the season and if you beat Kerry once in Croke Park you should not have to live...

‘I thought the days of eight-goal games were only going to be seen in old news reels when players wore caps and nailed the cogs into their boots’. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Colm O'Rourke: Club players need a civil rights march to Croker 

It is gloomy mid-April and the sky is further darkened by the thousands of chickens coming home to roost. The great Ó Fearghaíl/Duffy initiative of giving April to the clubs is being shown up for what it always was - bluster. This, alongside the Sky deal, the Super 8s and the payout to the GPA is some legacy to leave the ordinary man. Of course, all the other major decision-making bodies of the GAA were complicit in these decisions - the blind leading the blind.

John Horan, who yesterday became the 39th GAA president at the Association’s Annual Congress, pictured outside Croke Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Colm O'Rourke: Five issues John Horan needs to tackle head on 

Hail the president. John Horan takes office to loud applause but the music has a habit of stopping quickly for those who attain high office. The problem is that no mortal can satisfy the competing forces that always exist within the GAA so a president has to make his mind up very quickly. Does he want to be a reformer who makes a lasting impression or king of the rubber chicken circuit where he gives the same bland speeches and is satisfied with being president as distinct from doing something as president?

Paraic Duffy in Croke Park

Colm O'Rourke: New GAA chief must row back on ALL changes 

Who gets more criticism every year, the Minister for Health or the GAA's Ard Stiúrthóir? It's a close call but the man at the top in Croke Park probably has to dodge more bullets than those being sent to Angola. For many supporters around the country, the 'top brass' in Dublin can be blamed for almost everything, even if it is not part of their brief. Few will defend the paid officials; it can therefore be a lonely and rather thankless job.

'Lee Keegan does not get any sportsmanship award after throwing his GPS at Dean Rock but I could think of plenty of players who would throw a cement block at Rock if it meant putting him off in the same circumstances.' Photo: Sportsfile

Colm O'Rourke: Exceptional bunch of players doing exceptional things 

There were so many talking points last Sunday, yet after the last whistle it was all chaff in the wind. Within minutes, as always, it was a bit like the Eric Cantona ad, "losers go home". And the trudge home for Mayo supporters was more painful than ever. They resembled the French army in Napoleon's retreat from Russia. A long, slow, silent retreat. Every train, plane, bus and car bore testimony to the vast emptiness of defeat.