Monday 19 February 2018

Sinead Kissane: It felt like I was doing the dirt when I flicked from the Munster hurling final at half-time to Wimbledon

Wexford hurling manager Liam Dunne Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Sinead Kissane

Sinead Kissane

Bless me father, for I have sinned. I have committed adultery of the serious kind: I didn't watch all of the second half of the Munster hurling final and instead switched over to see Andy Murray swear at his coaches and cry private tears in public after winning the Wimbledon final.

God, it was good. But I agree. There's something odd about turning to the middle-class, stiff upper-lip enclosure of Wimbledon to get your kicks on Munster hurling final day.

For my sins, I shall say 10 Hail Marys, watch the Munster hurling final again, watch the first hour of the Ulster football final, the drawn Connacht football final, the Munster football final…

Andy Murray celebrates with the Men's Singles trophy Photo: Steve Paston/PA Wire

When Wexford hurling manager Liam Dunne told me in an interview this week that he didn't watch the end of the Munster hurling final and instead switched over to see Murray win at Wimbledon, I realised I wasn't the only one whose head had been turned.

At least Dunne had an alibi; the weather was so bad and Tipperary were so far in front that he said he wasn't going to learn anything new about Waterford.

I didn't have an alibi. I was just bored, but it still felt like I was doing the dirt when I flicked from the hurling at half-time to Wimbledon.

In the past you would be afraid to blink such was the fear of what you could miss in a Munster final when the default position was sitting on the edge of your seat and when Ger Loughnane's passion stoked up even more the breathlessness of the whole experience. Not this summer.

The Munster football final was worse. One of the reasons we watch sport is because of suspense. But the atmosphere in Killarney between Kerry and Tipperary had as much anticipation and excitement as a stale ham and tomato roll.

Tipperary's win over Cork was one of the upsets of the summer, but once Kerry recovered from Tipp's fine start the Munster final descended into a yawning dullness with some leaving even before the hour mark.

As reported in the Irish Independent earlier this month, the Munster GAA suffered financially with attendances for the Munster football and hurling finals down by nearly 40 per cent on last year.

A general view of the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Tipperary and Waterford

The total turnout for the two finals was just over 48,020 which was down from the 78,747 at last year's deciders (excluding the football replay between Kerry and Cork).

Any sense of entitlement that our national game will always be popular with all of us is an obvious delusion.

The bitching and moaning about the state of Gaelic football and hurling is almost a part of the GAA as much as the games itself, but what exactly do we want?

Because the arguments are constantly holed with contradictions (and I'm not just talking about Jim McGuinness giving out about counties riding on the coat-tails of his blueprint for defensive football).

We want to see our own county win at all costs yet deride this approach when other counties use it. We want to see our team play exciting football, but if they lose we hammer them for not playing smarter.

We admire players who dedicate their 20s and 30s to playing for their county yet assume we have the right to ridicule them if they make a mistake. Hero to zero. Diving to doing what you need to do for your county.

Do we want entertainment or do we just want to see our counties win? Because right now, if you aren't Dublin or Kilkenny, those two are mutually exclusive. It's a little more clear-cut for players.

Rory Gallagher (right), taking on Peter Crowley in 2014, is hoping his inter-county return can end in glory for Donegal (SPORTSFILE)

Peter Crowley in action against Rory Gallagher of Donegal

"It seems to have become the in vogue thing to say every game is boring," Kerry defender Peter Crowley said this week.

"Teams want to win. You're going to do whatever you can to win. Sometimes maybe it doesn't always give the most attractive product but sport is about winning and some days there's beauty in those kind of struggles and then other days, like 2013 when we played Dublin, it's just a shoot-out.

"I always think you can't expect to have every game as a massive shoot-out because then you don't appreciate the games that are truly different and truly attacking."

"Not every game is going to be a spectacle," Crowley added. "We're not here for entertainment. We're here to win".

Well said, Peter. But the game is losing in the race to win. If only Gaelic games was a bit more rock'n'roll then it would be offensive to be boring but that's not the players' fault.

Maybe we're all a bit responsible for creating this monster of negative Gaelic football because of the natural and understandable demand and emphasis on winning.

When Kerry beat Donegal at their own game in the All-Ireland final two years ago in a game widely sneered as the pukiest of puke football, I couldn't have cared less how Kerry did it as long as they got the job done.

53 SPORT MCCANN 1187915.jpg
Tiernan McCann celebrates following Tyrone's victory in the Ulster SFC Final last Sunday. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Tiernan McCann celebrates Tyrone's Ulster final win

Tyrone fans in Clones last weekend, undoubtedly, didn't care either.

But winning at all costs is coming at a price.

"Long tracts of the game (Tyrone v Donegal) on Sunday were boring and tedious to look at. Not a great deal of skill, ok you had discipline and people getting back and keeping their shape," Pete McGrath said on Off The Ball this week.

"But to me that's not what Gaelic football should be about. It should be about the skills and excitement and pace and adventure.

"Up until the last 10 minutes of the game that was missing. And when the two teams decided to actually play a bit of Gaelic football in the last ten minutes they showed what they could do - great long distance shooting and some great fielding especially by Tyrone".

The state of Gaelic football isn't going to alter too much this summer. Which is why I'm holding out for a hero in this game of contradictions.

If a team has to stick to a system, then please, give us an individual to whom we can hook our hopes.

Like most other people, I want to see players 'express' themselves.

My reading of this most-beloved of GAA phrases is players playing like they aren't straight-jacketed by fear and tactics and who use their intelligence and instinct to decipher what's best in any situation to put their team in a winning position without resorting to cynicism or cheating.

I want to see players come out and play a game that keeps the rest of us watching.

I want a game Diarmuid Connolly plays in to be remembered for something like his one-handed catch during the Leinster final against Westmeath rather than pulling an opponent to the ground.

I hope to see those classy forwards Galway have to revel in playing at Croke Park rather than be restricted by any fear because of their recent record there.

I want to see more of Diarmuid O'Connor's version of drive-by sass as he jinks his way through defences. I want to see James O'Donoghue back and Colm Cooper fit. And Sean Cavanagh shoot and Peter Harte score.

I don't want to see players boxed-in and belittled by tactics which don't get the best out of them. And I certainly don't want to be bored by our national game.

Irish Independent

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