Friday 23 February 2018

Game for the purist

ANYONE going to Croke Park today should get there early to see the All-Ireland Colleges SFC final between Omagh and Tralee.

A supporter fed a diet of county football where there is an orgy of hand-passing, cynical fouling and generally poor standard, might be amazed to see a level of football where this does not apply. Instead the usual fare is good, manly combat with hard knocks given and taken in the right spirit and where the emphasis is on playing rather than stopping the opposition.

It is only fitting that this match is in Croke Park. Every young man would like to perform on at least one big day in their lives in this special arena and no matter how high the standard of play today, the reality is that only a small number will ever play in heaven again. An All-Ireland won there is particularly special.

Credit for this must go to president Nicky Brennan. Last year's final was not in Croke Park and I mentioned to him that there is only one place a young man wants to play in a final. He undertook to ensure that this and hopefully future finals would be in the main arena.

There is disappointment in St Pat's Navan that our players are not part of this very special occasion, having lost to a very good, fit and skilful Tralee CBS in the semi-final. It is their first final, as it is for Omagh, who have been close to this day for quite a while but have suffered many setbacks near to the final fence.

The Tralee camp have John O'Keeffe in charge, captain of the St Brendan's Killarney team who won the Hogan Cup in the late sixties and went on then to win about a hundred All-Irelands with Kerry.

Omagh have Ciarán McBride involved, another who has given loyal service to Tyrone, so the tradition of former players giving something back is alive and very well in both schools.

I hope it is a great game and that some of the stars of the future can look back on this day with great fondness no matter what the result. Most get only one shot at this title but in time they will realise that winning and losing are part of the struggle of life and not nearly the most important one.


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