Eugene McGee: Carlow's 'imitation football' the sincerest form of fallacy
It seems we have a new football game now, masquerading as Gaelic Football and becoming more popular by the day but which should instead be called Imitation Football.
It seems we have a new football game now, masquerading as Gaelic Football and becoming more popular by the day but which should instead be called Imitation Football.
There was so much 'hoopla' about Saturday's Kerry-Dublin game that it was just like being transported back to the seventies and eighties when the...
There were a lot of voices from all corners of Ireland and abroad resonating around Croke Park at the weekend at GAA Congress. But strangely, among all the conversations over the two days,...
We are now at height of the black card season, August to September plus, and just a few weeks to the start of the pheasant-shooting season, a...
There are many black moments for players who have just lost and All-Ireland final but one of the worst is when they wake up the following morning.
It has been amusing to watch the media concentration regarding tomorrow's All-Ireland final replay. Most publicity has focused on the 'battle' between Lee Keegan and Diarmuid Connolly, almost as if the outcome of this eagerly-awaited game depends on which of these gladiators comes out on top.
Going out and about last week in several locations in the midlands, I was struck by two things in particular about the All-Ireland final: the people who watched the Mayo-Dublin encounter on television kept saying the game was a very poor exhibition of football and they were disappointed, but the people who were in Croke Park had a totally different summing up of the game.
A lot of widely-held beliefs were dispelled in this titanic struggle in Croke Park yesterday. Firstly, the notion that this Dublin side - already being mentioned in the same breath as Kevin Heffernan/Tony Hanahoe team of the '70s - was invincible... they didn't lose, but they hardly looked unbeatable.
All-Ireland finals are a lot more significant than typical games of football for the two counties involved. At this time of year the peripheral activities associated with the final spread into every corner of Ireland and numerous places abroad. Usually sane people can behave like either giddy school children or raving lunatics.
The highest number of points ever recorded in league and championship football was 2,236 in 2014, the year after the black card became GAA law.
In football it is not enough to be just the best team in a big game but you must also develop the knack of winning the tight ones when both sides are practically equal.
A game that's been in the planning stage for the longest period in football history will unfold tomorrow when Dublin try to maintain their...
You can't buy cuteness in Gaelic football. Many county teams have tried it by bluffing their way into believing that they have acquired that quality but yesterday showed once again that this does...
One of the ironic moments of recent times came in the closing stages on Saturday as Mayo played ring-a-ring-rosie with the ball in front of 80,00 people as they clung desperately to their one-point lead.
The truest words included in Páraic Duffy's proposals for change in the All-Ireland championship are: "This seeks to present a modest adjustment to the championship format."
It was probably the smallest crowd of team supporters ever to watch an All-Ireland quarter-final bout - at least there was live television and radio to tell GAA followers around the world about this famous victory by Tipperary and what a fantastic occasion we witnessed in Croke Park.
Most GAA people will wonder at the apparent generosity the Association is offering to the GPA. Over €6m straight away per year to start this new three-year deal, and as with all such deals, there will be 'improvements' as we go along.
Ssh . . . whisper this gently but could it be that something called radical thinking is stirring in the previously dormant undergrowth of the GAA?
This weekend's football clashes have proved a point because the last 12 will include Dublin, Kerry, Tyrone, Donegal, Roscommon, Mayo - all of whom will be in Division 1 of the league next year.
Often a dramatic finish can leave the impression in the history books later on that a game was full of excitement and high quality.
Comment - The most amazing thing about the penalty decision awarded in favour of Aidan O'Shea on Saturday was that the three officials in close proximity - the referee Joe McQuillan and his two umpires - must have agreed that thespot-kick was justified.
"I had to leave the kitchen and go upstairs so that I wouldn't hear the radio commentary. The tension was just too much for me in the last 10 minutes of the game and I had to come down after it was over and ask the wife who had won. I haven't had this sort of excitement about a Longford football team for years."
There is a lot of talk about physicality nowadays in Gaelic football, or, more often, the absence of it.
For the first half in yesterday's Leinster semi-final there must have been hope around the football world that maybe, just maybe, the word invincible could no longer be attached to the Dublin football team.
Maybe it is a bit too soon to confirm the demise of the present football championship after all. In Clones yesterday, the scene of so much drama, intrigue and 'divilment' in former times, we got a good old-fashioned game of Ulster football with absolutely none of the unsavoury stuff that had become a sort of badge for the game in that province.
The last time Tipperary footballers beat Cork the former Taoiseach Jack Lynch was in his prime as a member of the Cork football team. And Cork were a handy enough side too because the very next year they went on to win the county's third All Ireland football title.
There has been an air of unreality about the Leinster Championship game between Dublin and Laois from the day it was announced last autumn. It started with the fixing of the game in Nowlan Park, a ground where football is rarely seen nowadays. If reality had been applied, the game would have been fixed for Portlaoise in a normal home-and-away contest since Dublin have been at home to...
Cavan football fans, of which there is a multitude, are a bit edgy these days because they are not sure whether they have a really good football team after several years of mediocrity or whether they are just learning their trade after several years of success at U-21 level.
It is very seldom when a home team is leading by eight points with a few minutes to play that their fans are in a state of nervous anxiety, but that is the way things were in Tullamore yesterday.
The pride of Kerry, one of the constant components of Gaelic football for over a century, will be put to the ultimate test next August when - unless Cork upset the odds in Munster - they will face Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Mayo's late, late victory over Dublin in Saturday's All-Ireland U-21 semi-final in O'Connor Park was far more significant than merely reaching an All-Ireland final.
There were very contrasting messages from Dublin and Donegal in the League semi-final at Croke Park yesterday. Donegal showed many of the signs of a great team in serious decline; Dublin looked like a side who are capable not only of preserving their status as the best team in the land, but actually adding to their stature in the coming season.
It's a long time since we've seen a standing ovation for Cavan senior footballers as they troop off the pitch at Breffni Park - and the accolade was well deserved after their victory over Galway in an epic encounter earned them a place in Division 1 for the first time in a decade and a half.
It might be stretching things a bit to say that it was a case of 'never send a child on a man's errand' as regard Roscommon's assignment in Hyde Park yesterday but that is the impression the shocked Roscommon fans must have gathered as this encounter with Mayo unfolded.
This has been one of the most interesting National Football League series that I have seen for many years with some wonderful exciting games, unexpected results, the usual unsporting melees, and many exciting new players at this level.
They are getting excited about their football in Cavan right now and it is a long time since I heard that.
How have Roscommon come from Division 3 two seasons ago to storm through the ranks of Division 1 to beat Kerry, Cork and Donegal away from home and become serious contenders for National League honours?
Watching the Tyrone-Derry game on Saturday night was very interesting because it showed what it could be like between these two counties if they concentrated more on playing football than settling old scores or dominating that horrible euphemism, 'the physical stakes'.
Lots of people from the other provinces complain about the quality of football that is played in Ulster. They say it is too rough, often unsporting, negative and the like.
If anybody has any doubts about the power and influence of money in Irish sport right now they should study the events at the GAA Congress over the weekend.
Just as it is important for the GAA that Dublin, as the capital of Ireland, should be in a strong position as regards GAA activity, the same can be said about the largest third-level institution in the land, UCD.
To the vast majority of the GAA - players, team mentors, elected officers at all levels and the largest section of all, the followers who pay their money week after week to watch games - the annual GAA Congress is a mystery.
For as long as I can remember one of the biggest sticks to beat the GAA with has been money. For decades, the 'Grab All Association' jibe was common currency among those inside and outside the Association who insisted they did not know how the GAA spent its money.
I headed for Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday afternoon fearing the worst. The elements were in ferocious mood, with howling gales and lashing rain, and when I added in the fact that I was going to see one of these notorious All-Ulster clashes, I expected it would be hard slogging.
As far as the 2016 All-Ireland championship is concerned, the most important item arising from the Dublin-Kerry game in Croke Park on Saturday night was the clock at the end of the game which showed that the game ended in the 75th minute.
The Whinge Factor that is ever present in all aspects of GAA activity has been ramped up dramatically in the past week since Central Council discussed proposals that the GAA might make major changes in how senior football competitions are organised.
The problem about all these pre-season football games is that it is easy not to pay much attention to the results - if it suits your cause to do so. Understrength teams, students playing for the colleges, cute older players still 'taking a rest', 'we are only starting to train' etc etc - any or all of these can be used to gloss over bad results.
A casual remark by Dublin manager Jim Gavin in relation to the upcoming 'leave of absence' of first-choice full-back Rory O'Carroll reminded me about the changing nature of even the most traditional roles in football teams.
These are changed times when it comes to assembling county team panels.
The sheer abuse of U-21 footballers must be the greatest disgrace in GAA fixture-making.
The New Year sees many people, including senior inter-county footballers and hurlers, make resolutions.
Making predictions about what will happen next year is all the rage in media circles, which offers a glorious chance for otherwise normal people to make fools of themselves. Having learned from experience to avoid this trap, I will instead predict some things that will NOT happen in the GAA during 2016.
In the Concise Oxford Dictionary, an amateur is defined as "A person who engages in a pursuit, especially in a sport, on an unpaid basis".
Croke Park, as we all know, is a world-class stadium and has provided the GAA with the greatest boost the organisation has ever received since its foundation in 1884.
There's life in the auld game yet. Yesterday in O'Connor Park in Tullamore, the best small stadium in the country, I was privileged to watch the best game of Gaelic football I saw all year.
The GAA President Aogan O Fearghail from Cavan has been keeping a low profile since his three-year term started last March but Martin Breheny did get a long interview with him for Saturday's Irish Independent and his words were very significant.
It's been quite an interesting week on the GAA speech-making circuit, which is surprising at a time when many people were more closely focused on Christmas or the IFA.
Slow, lingering deaths have been a feature of GAA competitions in the past, the most notable being the Railway Cup as it used to be called in the halcyon days. This year's competition is fixed for the unlikely date of December 5-6 where Santa Claus will probably be refereeing the final in Armagh.
There is above-average interest in the Ireland-Australia game this year because of the fact that both countries are putting out respectable teams, at least in terms of the merit of the players on show next Saturday night in Croke Park.
Not surprisingly there was no white smoke emanating from Croke Park after the long Central Council meeting which was discussing the 18-plus proposals that have come from counties and individuals and the GPA about possible football championship restructuring.
In large organisations there are always conflicting attitudes as to how they conduct their affairs and usually there is a section that wants to preserve the status quo and oppose change while the other section demands that things be done differently. The GAA is a classic example of this genre.
I would not be in favour of bringing forward the two All-Ireland final dates as proposed by Páraic Duffy last week so that the football final would be on the first week in September and the hurling a week earlier.
We have a chequered history when it comes to major GAA ground developments. The present-day Croke Park is the shining example of how to do things right, from the financing of the massive operation to the design of the complex.
Regardless of what discussion may take place about changes in Gaelic football structures in the near future, there is little doubt that as regards winning the Sam Maguire Cup, very little will change in the short term.
The middle of Ireland is flat - therefore it gets more rain than the rest of the place.
Funny, farcical and futile is about the best description for some of the wonderful and weird appointments being made or proposed as members of the various inter-county backroom teams of late.
The GAA has always prided itself on its democracy, often too much, maybe. But on Friday night GAA democracy was set aside when the decision of the Mayo footballers midweek ended with the inevitable departure of the county's joint-managers, Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly.
Longford would be regarded as a typically rural county with no major town or city bigger than a population of 10,000. In times long past, therefore, it would have been seen as an idyllic place to live from the point of view of personal security, safety in one's home and a general lack of serious crime. But no longer.
Mayo footballers can expect very little sympathy because of the crude manner in which they set about getting rid of their joint managers Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly.
Nowhere on the GAA calendar do we get so much hyperbole, exaggeration and absence of common sense than in the week after the All-Ireland football final. Especially as happened last week when one team wins that final decisively against the holders of the Sam Maguire cup.
Many untypical things took place in the Kerry sideline and dugout in last week's final, including the substitutions which amazed so many and not just Kerry supporters.
The modern tactic of using an orgy of hand-passing to move the football from one end of the field to the other always includes a strong element of risk as opposed to making greater use of foot-passing.
In the past I have often used an expression that states: 'A willing expression of disbelief' is a state of mind that is required to get over a particular problem and get on with life in the normal way. It can apply to sorts of activity, including GAA affairs.
Anyone who really cares about Gaelic football should give thanks to Dublin and Mayo for the marvellous display of real, honest-to-goodness football they gave the Irish sporting public over the past two weekends.
Okay, all you neutrals in Croke Park, on television or on radio all over the world, admit it! You had made your decision about the Mayo-Dublin result with 10 minutes to go.
It is not often I have accused Kerry footballers of being slow learners on the football field but at half-time in yesterday's All-Ireland semi-final, when they were fortunate to be ahead of Tyrone by one point, I thought the description was very apt.
There was a time when recently retired county footballers went away from that scene and played out the rest of their careers with their clubs, maybe acting as county selectors later on. That has changed in recent times.
There is an element of responsibility on Tyrone, Kerry, Dublin and Mayo to rescue the Gaelic football season by providing us with three high-quality, sporting and exciting games over the next five weeks as the concluding stages of the All-Ireland championship are played out.
Having watched Gaelic football for over 40 years, I have having encountered many dirty games varying from naked savagery to the modern version of unsporting behaviour nowadays dressed up as tactics. If we are honest, most football games around the world have an element of physical violence without which they would not be as attractive to spectators who, while they clearly...
How many more exhibition games can football supporters take this year? We have had a surfeit of games when the result was over before half-time and the winning teams were as bored as the losers as we all went through the motions of finishing off a championship fixture.
The tirade of derision against the people who run the GAA in Cork from former hurling goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack may or may not represent the views of ordinary Cork GAA followers - and of course the test of those views can be established if and when the Cloyne man becomes a member of that board through his own club, where he could address members face to face.
Kildare football followers usually wrap themselves in euphoria at the drop of a hat and often with no great reason but sure what's wrong with that.
Fermanagh have been a team on the way up for the past two seasons with promotion from Division 4 to Division 2 next season while Westmeath are on the way down as they head back into Division 3.
It looks as if the Mayo selectors, Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly, are going to take one huge gamble in the hope of at last winning Sam Maguire for the first time since 1951.
There is an excuse for the dire football we had to endure in Killarney on Saturday night and it never fails: the weather was the cause of all the messy football and poor ball-handling.
Nobody outside Westmeath people expected their county to win the Leinster title so there cannot be too much disappointment at the final result in Croke Park yesterday.
Despite what many people say to the contrary, the GAA is not inhabited by people of a devious nature but the events that took place last Thursday week at a challenge game in DCU between two of the highest profile teams in the country - Dublin and Armagh - could aptly be described in that manner.
Roscommon and Cavan supporters are hoping that underage successes will lead to a breakthrough at senior level but after Saturday's qualifier clash, it would appear that only the Rossies have any hope of achieving that.
The great Kerryman Con Houlihan often used a phrase in his columns something like "Don't laugh at the crocodile until you have reached the other side of the river".
We have to hand it to the GAA. Despite all the laments about a one-sided championship and domination by large counties, what we witnessed in Croke Park yesterday during the Meath versus Westmeath Leinster semi-final could only come from an organisation like the GAA.
Regardless of what happens from here on, Sligo's result in decisively beating Roscommon on Saturday evening will go down as one of the best football achievements of the year.
The trend of footballers 'walking out' on their county panels seems to be increasing all the time, and we can only assume that the often draconian measures being applied by some managers have a part to play in this.
Sending a boy on a man's errand has never worked out very well in big Gaelic football games and Armagh found this out the hard way when fresh from Division 3 football they were humiliated by Division 1 side Donegal yesterday.
Sport lends itself to over-reaction and exaggeration mainly because it allows us to do so without any serious consequences.
There was no Senior Football Championship game played in Croke Park yesterday.
I felt I was dreaming in Breffni Park when the Monaghan-Cavan game commenced yesterday. In the dream I was not watching an Ulster Championship game.
Despite the low-key nature of some games in the early stages of the GAA championship, we often get little nuggets to light up the scene and Saturday's performance by Longford in Tullamore was certainly one of those.
We watched two versions of Gaelic football in Ballybofey yesterday in a match of a type we have come to expect throughout the country, but especially in the Ulster Championship.
Winter Talk - the staple diet of GAA people from October until May - is finally over and we can all start speaking about the actual games of football and hurling.
The start of the new All-Ireland championship next Saturday evening when Offaly play Longford in Tullamore, hardly the most auspicious occasion to kick off the biggest competition in Irish sport, will undoubtedly highlight once again the negative aspects of football that have become so prevalent in the past decade or so.
Most football people would have loved to see Tipperary win the U-21 All-Ireland on Saturday, simply because they have been doing wonderful things for the sport in their county against the hurling odds.
I got a lot of reaction to the recent piece I wrote about doing away with the U-21 competition and instead having an U-19 competition which would replace both U-21 and minor grades.
The only consoling thing about watching the first half of a diabolical game of football is that sometimes the game is transformed in the second half.
We have heard a great deal about packed defences in Gaelic football since Donegal invented that particular style of football, but yesterday in Croke Park we saw the first example of the packed attack. It came not surprisingly from Dublin and epitomised the long held Gaelic football motto that 'defence is the best form of attack'.
This is the in-between season in Gaelic football where teams are criss-crossing the country as managers set up a series of challenges games designed to prepare them for the championship.
The All-Ireland U-21 football championship is reaching the closing stages with the two semi-finals listed for Saturday next. In fact, the competition celebrated its 50 anniversary last year but nobody in the GAA seems to have noticed. The competition was set up following a motion from Kerry and for good measure Kerry became the first winners of the competition by beating Laois in the final.
Looking at the Kerry and Tyrone game yesterday one has to wonder why there was so much aggro between these two counties when they were competing for All-Irelands over the past decade.
As I wrote before the start of the National Football League, I intended taking a special interest in Division 2 of the competition this year because there were a lot of local derbies included in this group of eight teams. As I predicted, there will be no clear-cut winner of the two promotion spots for admission to Division 1 until the last rounds of the competition.
As the National Football League has proceeded I have been surprised at the number of people who mentioned to me that they would rather not see their county get promotion to Division 1.
Mayo suffered one of the worst defeats in their history in Castlebar against Dublin on Saturday. The 14-point margin in itself was bad enough but even more depressing for the huge home crowd was the manner of this debacle.
Die-hard Dublin football followers have lots of things to worry about as they look to regain the all-Ireland title, given the uncertainty surrounding the team that has failed to win three high-profile games this year.
There is a strange myth about the relationship between Kerry and Dublin footballers which decrees they are constantly in the top three or four teams in Ireland.
Do you know who the president of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) is? Thought not. Try the president of the FAI - no joy there. Okay, what about the president of the Golfing Union of Ireland? Another blank stare. And the Chairman of Horse Racing Ireland ? Haven't a clue.