Thursday 22 March 2018

It's a long way from May madness to September

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The month of May is up to its old tricks again. The GAA world falls for it every year, demonstrating that while experience is a gifted teacher, it can't guarantee that the wisdom imparted will be retained.

Instead, the compelling evidence gained over many years is overpowered by the new certainties which sweep the landscape in what is the giddiest month on the GAA calendar. It's all to do with expectations. All around the country, hope peaks in May. It's a lovely period but doesn't last long once reality checks in.

You would think that, after years of watching how May writes cheques that bounce later in the summer, we would be more sceptical about anything that this flighty month tells us. For instance, it claimed last year that Cork hurlers were 10 points a better team than Tipperary.

What's more, it offered us Tipperary in a frozen daze throughout a second half, where they scored a mere five points and went 32 minutes before landing their first -- and only -- score from open play. Even then, it came from sub Timmy Hammersley rather than main snipers Lar Corbett, Noel McGrath or Eoin Kelly, a trio whose combined total from open play was two points.

Fourteen weeks later, Tipperary were gleefully running in goals in the All-Ireland final as they wrecked Kilkenny's five-in-a-row dream while Cork had departed the scene after a heavy semi-final defeat, having earlier lost the Munster final replay.

Seriously folks, May is an unreliable month so just as well that it's one of the quietest in terms of games. It hasn't mended its ways this year either and, neither it seems, have the observing classes.

I was out of the country for 10 days after the Allianz Hurling League final so it was only on my return that I caught up with the broad reflections on Dublin's win over Kilkenny. They rightly acknowledged the splendour of what was a memorable campaign by Dublin but, dear oh dear, how they missed the point about Kilkenny and their future prospects.

The Cats produced a wretched performance, so bad, in fact, as to be absolutely freakish. Westmeath, who were relegated from Division 2, probably would have scored more than Kilkenny did. Truly, one of those eccentric days which sport produces from time to time.

All credit to Dublin for signing off so flamboyantly on what was probably their best ever league campaign but to deduce that Kilkenny, who were way below full strength all spring, are a beaten docket on the basis of a league final defeat is straight out of the May Madness manual.

Besides, if a seriously weakened Kilkenny could reach the final what does it say about Tipperary, Galway, Waterford and Cork, none of whom made it that far? It's back to May Madness again. Don't play well enough to reach the final and it's ignored; lose the final and it takes on a deep significance.

It reminds me of late 1983 and the claims that the great Kerry football team of that era were finished. They had lost the 1982 All-Ireland final (to Offaly) and the 1983 Munster final (to Cork), fuelling predictions that they were on an irreversible tailspin.

Really? They came back to win an All-Ireland three-in-a-row in 1984-85-86. Nobody knows what the future holds for Kilkenny but it's best not to base predictions on the May Day massacre and certainly not with a team which has won 21 of its last 22 championship games.


May Madness manifests itself away from the prediction business too. Because of the crazy fixtures format, which usually throws up a low-key opener to the football championship, the first game is usually over-analysed.

Donegal versus Antrim? Did anybody seriously expect a classic? Yes, it could have been a lot better but it wasn't, so let's move on. By the way, don't write off Donegal on the evidence of one test. One of the worst championship games I ever saw was the 1991 Ulster quarter-final (Down 1-7 Armagh 0-8) on a wet day in Newry. It was so awful that the view afterwards -- even among the Down public -- was that the pick of the two teams wouldn't come close to Derry in the semi-final. A few months later, Down were All-Ireland champions. All of which goes to prove that this is no month for being sure of anything.

Still, I heard that Kildare gave Armagh a trimming in a challenge recently, which is probably good for Wicklow and Armagh, first-round opponents for Kildare and Down.

That's what May Madness does.

'Dermot earley day' to honour a true legend

IT'S difficult to believe that Dermot Earley Snr will be a year dead next month, which makes it an appropriate time to mark his memory. The two clubs, Michael Glaveys (Roscommon) and Sarsfields (Kildare), with whom he was associated all his life, have united to organise a Dermot Earley Day this Saturday.

Hosted by Sarsfields, it will feature a Bord Gais Energy-backed golf classic in Newbridge GC on Saturday morning (tee-off 9.30 to 11.30). It's then onto the football at 4.30 when Sarsfields play Michael Glaveys in Sarsfields in a game where GAA president Christy Cooney will throw in the ball.

Later on (8.0), a social gathering will get under way in the Sarsfields club house, offering patrons the opportunity to reminisce about one of the true legends of Gaelic football. And, no doubt, there will be big interest in the raffle too where, among the prizes, are two All-Ireland SFC final tickets. Proceeds from the event, which is planned to be turned into an annual affair, will go to the local branch of Meals on Wheels. Further details from Brendan Ryan (087-9345109).

Irish Independent

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