Saturday 25 November 2017

Let's hope last week's sinners can redeem themselves by showing penance and love

What is it with Dublin? We try so hard to love her team and they helped us all season with classy, open football. Dublin were the guardians of the game as it should be played, and then what do they do?
What is it with Dublin? We try so hard to love her team and they helped us all season with classy, open football. Dublin were the guardians of the game as it should be played, and then what do they do?
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

What is it with Dublin? We try so hard to love her team and they helped us all season with classy, open football. Dublin were the guardians of the game as it should be played, and then what do they do?

They go demented on us. What's nearly worse is Dublin put most of the team behind the ball when Mayo attacked. Dublin almost opened the gates of The Hill to bring in reinforcements. And now Dublin feel badly wronged. Ah stop.

No-one loves us only ourselves, they say. Well that's not too bad is it? If a million love you, well then that's a whole lot of love. And it's a million and one. I still love the Dubs but they are doing their best to break it off.

The Dublin manager says that referee Joe McQuillan's decisions would have to be examined. That's GAA code for 'the ref wasn't good'.


The ref wronged Mayo in the first half. The Dublin penalty was outside the line and Mayo should have been awarded a penalty of their own. That's six points of free scores for Dublin.

Johnny Cooper could have landed himself in hot water. He was awarded a yellow card. For kicking.

Philly McMahon's close encounter with Aidan O'Shea wasn't of any consequence in that he was more of a nodding acquaintance than a coconut falling off a tree.

But Philly was in trouble throughout, and if he was going back to school on Monday, he would be writing out lines until his fingers ached like the cashiers in the Dublin hotels where prices are racked high this weekend.

In fact both wings of the Dublin full-back line could have been sent to bold corners. O'Shea was wrapped up in barbed wire in the first half. Is it any wonder our full-forwards suffer from big man syndrome?

My guess is because of the leniency shown by McQuillan to a Dublin back who went in on Declan O'Sullivan in the 2011 All-Ireland final, some of the Dublin players subconsciously felt that they could stretch the laws of the game beyond the legal limits.

The whole concept of any disciplinary code owes as much to the imposition of sanctions to warn future offenders as to the imposition of penalties. Now with GAA disciplinary system loop holed below the water-line, players feel they can escape punishment.

Something happened, though, at half-time. Maybe McQuillan had time to reflect. It was a game of two refs.

A man who deemed one minute was enough extra-time in All-Ireland final gave Mayo five to force a draw. The Mayo peno was fifty-fifty and three Dubs were sent off. The sendings off were courageous and deserved and the ref went some way towards redeeming himself.

Diarmuid Connolly was very lucky to get just a one-game ban. It would have been three in any other sport.

It seems to me, it's not the team with the best players that will win the All-Ireland but the team with the best lawyers.

Whatever happened to obeying the spirit of the game? Is there any system of values other than to win at all costs? The GAA is badly wounded now by the enemy from within.

So what do the managers say to their players? Love one another? Will the sponsors' logos be replaced by love hearts?

Will Philly say to Aidan: "I love you man." "I love you too, dude."

They both burst in to tears and agree to name their unborn kids Philomena O'Shea and Aidan McMahon?

Do the players meet up for a ceasefire breakfast tomorrow morning on the lines of the Christmas soccer game played between the trenches in 1916 on no-man's land?

Johnny Cooper mashes up an egg in a cup for Diarmuid O'Connor. Will Diarmuid butter the soldiers, and where's General John de Chastelain when you need him?

That's the thing about Gaelic football isn't it? We don't want it too soft either. There has to be a bit of bite, but I'm fairly sure that if Dublin just go out and play attacking football, they are nearly invincible.

Mayo live off reserves of courage that are the child of longing and suffering. They are not a dirty team but Mayo are not afraid either. The team that refuses to die will take heart from their come back.

But will Dublin learn that all that aggravation upsets the concentration and wears out the body? Games are won by the brave, and sometimes bravery means having the courage to subvert the urge to show 'I'm a hard man'.

But as the game drives on, the player 'carries the reminder of every blow that struck him'.

The interest on hits is compound. Nervous tension and anger lead to power outages. The game isn't won by shoulders alone but the victors are carried shoulder high.

The rival managers have to get the balance right between responsibility and that underground Celtic do-or-die that drives us to leave every drop of blood and sweat on the old meadowland of Jones' Road.

This the perfect weekend for us GAA fans. There is no better way to spend a few days. Hurling and football big games back to back.

Dublin lives and thrives off days like these. The city is made up for sport and we the Irish people are so lucky to have inherited riches of the finest and most precious kind.

Mag Kennelly knew the meaning of our games. Her son Tim and her grandsons Tadhg and Noel won All-Irelands. Her husband Mikey and her son of the same name chaired our club. Mag was always kind and had a lovely smile.


It was my custom to stop off at Tim and Nuala Kennelly's pub on my way home from work. There was a late-night card game and I was asked to join in by Mag, who was in her eighties.

The clock in Kennelly's graduated an hour to a minute. By four, I knew it was time to go home. We had a new dog and I hadn't yet taught her to not to bark when I came back late.

"Where are you going?" asked Mag. "Home," I said, and I halfway out the door.

"Ah hold on a while Billy," says Mag, "and don't be a spoilsport." There was no end to her, and there never will be.

The playing of our games helps us to live through the sad days. No other country owns our ancient games. No other country.

But like any great treasure our sporting inheritance, must be guarded and minded.

To Dublin and Mayo I would say, you have a second chance. Penance is good for the soul and good for the game.

And there is an absolution of sorts to be found for those who were lost but now are found on the blessed green grasses of The Holy Ground.

Irish Independent

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