Club season under way

Sports news overshadowed by tragedy in Buncrana

Club season under way

The GAA season got underway last weekend for Donegal clubs after the winter break. It signals spring, summer, autumn and unfortunately winter because the season drags on so long.

At this time of year there is a great buzz amongst club players and within the clubs at the prospect of the season ahead. After a dormant winter, players and officials alike are keen and enthusiastic. This energy wanes however in autumn and almost always slips in winter. When Donegal goes into championship mode, the club season becomes ‘stop-start’.

It is very frustrating for club players and management alike. The very grassroots of our association is affected. All clubs could certainly do with fewer games. The home and away system could be dropped to just one game. There is fixture congestion in every county nowadays and there’s no easy solution. It’s grand and fine at this time of year but come October/November, who really wants to be still playing league games. Players and clubs need to be kept interested all season.

There is no easy remedy but concessions have to be made on all sides to reach a solution. Our clubs and our club players form the backbone of the GAA and I believe it is time that they are given due respect.

Our Donegal U-21 team reached the Ulster semi-final by the skin of their teeth in MacCumhaill Park last Wednesday evening. Overall though, I thought that we were the best team. Tyrone are our opponents in the next game which should be a feisty affair. It’s such a pity that the GAA has decided to drop the U-21 championship in preference for an U-20 championship. They argue that it is impacting on player burnout. Are we taking these decisions on impulse or on hard facts and evidence?

Rugby has an under-20 grade. Is it from this discipline that the GAA is taking its lead? A bit of history is simply being dumped by the GAA as is the minor grade being reduced to u-17.

The ‘mark’ gets the go ahead for New Year’s Day 2017. “Forgive them because they do not know what they are doing”. What’s this all about? High fielding? Managers are evolving the game while there is a body in place to hinder the game. The art of kicking the ball from the ground was dropped in preference for kicking from the hand. There goes your high fielding. They wanted to speed the game up. I thought that it was fast enough. I always believe that this body within the GAA needs to make changes now and again to justify their existence.

I watched the All-Ireland club finals on TG4 on St.Patricks Day. Both were disappointing games but it was a great day for Donegal’s Paul Durcan who was on the victorious Ballyboden St.Enda’s team. The Dublin outfit was far superior to Castlebar who played just like their own county team. They looked unfit and made poor decisions in front of the posts. The early goals for St.Enda’s killed this game as a contest. I felt sorry for Castlebar who never really performed on the day. It was a terrific day for Paul Durcan and he deserves our congratulations. Well done Paul.

It’s great to see Finn Harps back in senior top grade football. People are again talking about the Harps and showing a great interest. I’m sure their focus is to maintain premier status this season and build from there. There’s great excitement around the Twin Towns amongst the sporting fraternity. Finn Harps has been an institution in Ballybofey and Stranorlar for many years. Whether it is a passing or active interest we all wish Harps well for the year ahead.

Our Donegal senior footballers will be hoping to get back to winning ways this weekend when they play Dublin in Croke Park. There is a huge crowd travelling to the capital for this game. After defeats to Kerry and particularly Roscommon, Donegal’s fortunes have taking a nose dive but I believe that we will give Dublin a shock on Saturday evening. If we are to challenge for honours when it matters, Croke Park will be the venue and Dublin could well be our opponents. There’s no better time to beat Dublin who have maximum points from their league outings to date. Donegal is well capable of beating Dublin. Rory Gallagher will have learned much from our recent defeats. The players, too, will be eager to make amends. A victory against Dublin will be a great morale booster for the lads and put their season back on track.

There’s only one story this week and it is unfortunately not related to sport. The tragic deaths of five people in Buncrana have devastated the whole northwest and particularly Inishowen. The area has had its share of tragedies in recent years. Words escape people when such a numbing event happens. Football and sport fade into insignificance. What can people do but pray for the victims and their families. May they rest in peace.