Football race set for many twists
JUST WHEN we thought the SFC would develop into a two-horse race, a number of clubs have jumped out of the starting stalls as serious title contenders.
Last week saw the clubs gather for what was a series of game that would define the season for many. It was so different to other years, as the relatively new championship format captured the imagination of the public, with the majority of clubs striving for places in the quarter-finals.
There was a real balance to the groups following four rounds of games. This culminated in many tight games but more importantly it demonstrated that there are a number of clubs still progressing and fancying their chances of taking the title away from reigning champions, St. Anne's.
The challenge is becoming intense as sides like Kilanerin, Castletown and Fethard, have marked themselves out as serious title contenders, while Sarsfields and St. Martin's are two sides capable of causing a lot of upset along the way as they continue to build their title challenges.
All sides were committed in their games as they fought for crucial points, either to enhance their quarter-final prospects or pull themselves away from the dreaded relegation zone. This in turn led to some intense football as the players committed themselves, but in the majority of the games it was superior class that eventually won out.
Reigning champions St. Anne's are not playing with the same flow as last season, clearing missing some of their key personnel, particularly Cian McGovern and Liam Og McGovern, but they still have showed enough to suggest they are the side to beat.
I thought Kilanerin have emerged from the pack as the side with the most serious threat. Under former Wicklow All Star, Kevin O'Brien, they play a tactical game, but their physique coupled with their footballing ability marks them out as serious contenders. Then any side with the class of former Wexford star and our lone All Star, Matty Forde, still in such devastating form, deserve respect.
Castletown will still have an influence on the eventual destination of the title, while a young Fethard side are still capable of advancing through the rounds. Of the remainder, Sarsfields, despite being ravaged with injuries, are still making an impact, while St. Martin's, should they get more of their injured players back in the frame, will have a real say. Meanwhile, Shelmaliers and Adamstown will be considered outsiders in the title race.
And you know what, I think there is even more in these sides, which should make for some enthralling quarter-final clashes.
It's a difficult time for referees, particularly as the championship hots up, but there's little if any excuse for what man in black, Jack Stafford, had to endure during a county Intermediate 'A' football championship game in Bree.
Short of match officials, when the two appointed linesmen failed to appear - what's new in this - the referee not alone had to look after what was happening on the pitch, but had to try to decide line ball decisions too, having to play the game without an official on either line.
Credit to him for taking on this extra responsibility and also ensuring the game took place.
But there was little credit to those responsobile for the verbal abuse dished out during the game both on and off the pitch.
The abuse became so vicious that some seven minutes from the end the Clongeen clubman decided to call a halt - as he feared for his safety.
Had the players abided by the rules, and mentors and supporters urged on their sides, it would have painted a much more positive picture for the clubs and the participants.
But instead the man in black decided he had endured enough, picked up the match ball, and called it a day.
This was a sad day for the G.A.A. Let's hope the referee now receives the support of the investigating committee and the requisite punishment is meted out to those responsible for such unsavoury behaviour.