The 2016 Ulster Senior Football Championship got underway last Sunday with a game that didn’t exactly set the world alight
I do not want to be unkind to either Antrim or Fermanagh but this was an exceptionally poor game. I wondered why BBC television did not show live coverage but when I saw the highlights I understood their reasoning.
It was my birthday last week and I was presented with a brand new wheelbarrow by my family. During the first half of the game I couldn’t resist taking my 2016 wheelbarrow for a run around the garden. I hoped that the game had livened up when I returned but unfortunately even the commentators were unable to make this match interesting.
It was frustrating to watch where both teams found it difficult to string any semblance of cohesive play together. Fermanagh were by far the better team but struggled to convert their possession to scores. Sean Quigley, Fermanagh’s full-forward, is a good player but is still carrying a few pounds too many. Their shining light was Tomas Corrigan who scored nine points, four of which came from play.
I was genuinely expecting much more from both teams since Fermanagh had a good league campaign in Division 2 while Antrim topped the table in Division 4. It is hard to figure out why the game last Sunday was so poor. Perhaps Antrim stifled Fermanagh. At times it looked like a schoolyard game of football. Antrim seemed content just to pack their defence and counter attack. When they did succeed in overturning Fermanagh they didn’t get very far because Fermanagh disposed them again. When they did occasionally manage to breach the Fermanagh defence their decision making was poor as they chose to shot from far out or from near impossible angles.
Whatever structure was in the game, Fermanagh had it. Their two main forwards Corrigan and Quigley will be easily snuffed out by Donegal on the 12th of June. If Fermanagh play as they did last Sunday they will be in for a day to forget when they visit Ballybofey.
As I stated at the outset, I do not want to be uncharitable to either Fermanagh or Antrim but I can only write what I see. Antrim did not lack fight or enthusiasm but seemed to have little structure. Fermanagh had structure but at times lacked enthusiasm. They will need both when they meet Donegal in the first round proper in just over three weeks time. I’m sure that former Fermanagh player and current Donegal manager Rory Gallagher will not spare them.
Fermanagh can only really improve from this outing and I’m sure that they will perceive Donegal as a faltering unit. They will see an opportunity here to cause an upset but that’s not what it would be. It would be a shock. Still Leicester won the English Premier League. That will be their mindset in preparation for this game. I still believe that they will come to Donegal much more in hope than in expectation. Our lads will have far too much experience and talent for Fermanagh but I will deal with this on another day.
TYRONE AND DERRY
Tyrone and Derry clash in Celtic Park this Sunday and supporters on both sides expect a bruising encounter. I hope it is. I don’t want to take out the wheelbarrow on Sunday again. Wheelbarrows should be left in the shed on Sundays. I know that Tyrone are wary of Derry. Both teams met at the beginning of March in Omagh in the league when Tyrone won by nine points. In fact Tyrone has won the last four meetings between these two teams. Derry just about managed to stay in Division 2 but should raise their game for the visit of Tyrone.
On recent form it is difficult to see past Tyrone who easily won the Division 2 league title. I expect the first 20 minutes to be close but after that Tyrone should put daylight between the two teams. For me, Tyrone has too much for their neighbours in respect of talent. They also are very well organised defensively. Mickey Harte and Tyrone are playing down their chances publicly. This is always the way with teams who are favourites and especially now that Tyrone is instilled as favourites to win the Ulster championship. Indeed some have even gone further and said that they are potential All-Ireland winners. I can only see that happening if Dublin pull out of the championship.
I know very little about Derry except what I’ve said above. Their new manager Damien Barton is a former adversary of mine and I had hoped he could lead Derry back to success. Instead the most noteworthy event for him was a sideline scuffle during the McKenna Cup final against Tyrone this year ban. He received an eight-week ban.
A win on Sunday will give him and his team a much needed boost. I’m impartial in respect of the result. I basically would like to witness a good contest and not have to wheel my wheel barrow.
Keep the faith!