The Sporting Diary

with Sports Editor Peter Campbell

The Sporting Diary

Nobody beats Ireland 29 times in-a-row. Nobody!

That was one of the great stats on show after Ireland overcame the All Blacks at the 29th attempt in Soldier Field, Chicago, on Saturday evening. In one of the most perfect team performances ever, Ireland were worthy winners. And while the team performance was perfect, there were a number of individual performances that shone head and shoulders above everything.

The young props McGrath and Furlong were outstanding; a couple of years ago we were struggling in those positions; now we have an abundance of talent. The leadership of scrum half Conor Murray was special; the return to form of Rob Kearney at full-back and the pure genius of Robbie Henshaw was central to the win. But it was the combined efforts which made the difference in the end and that inner belief to not let the lead go this time around.

What a match we can look forward to in the replay at the Aviva on Saturday week.

One down side to the great win was that the game was not available on terrestrial TV. I watched the game on my ‘phone, and I have watched it again since on YouTube. It is a game that will probably be available on dvd for Christmas and would be a good Christmas stocking filler.

Democrat Cup back in Kilcar

You have to be careful in phrasing headings these days so as not to offend anyone. I got a text on Monday morning from a Kilcar friend saying ‘the Democrat Cup is not a consolation prize’.

The sub-heading in our Monday edition was not meant as a put-down, just reflecting that Kilcar had been rewarded for their efforts with the second best prize in the GAA in Donegal, the Democrat Cup for winning the league. It had to be some consolation for a team that went so close to lifting the big prize. Indeed, if all games are taken into account, Kilcar were the most consistent team in the county in 2016. But they were beaten for the big prize on the day. That just happens.

They are entitled to some reward, especially for the way they tried to play their football during the year.

It looks as if they will have Michael Hegarty for another year and if they can keep everybody else healthy, they will be there or thereabouts again next year.

There was some individual reward also with Ryan McHugh picking up an All-Star on Friday night at the All-Star Banquet.

I had a call from a good friend about the way the All-Stars are presented on TV, with the football awards taking up just eight or nine minutes of the show. He feels that both teams should be revealed on the night and the show extended to an hour and a half if needs be. “It doesn’t do the awards justice to be marching players onto the stage with what looks like a toy in their hands. The awards’ night should be given a much bigger profile.”

And so say all of us.

Dangerous precedents

Sunday’s final league game - (a league final by any other name) - in Davy Brennan Park, Glenties, had a nasty ending with scuffles all over the field. This is becoming all too common in GAA games, especially those that are of critical importance. We have seen it at a number of venues in recent weeks in Donegal and elsewhere. It is certainly not just a Donegal problem, but a national one.

Are GAA teams just bad losers, or are we also breeding teams that are not winning with dignity also?

I wasn’t in Glenties so I cannot comment on that game. I have heard that Stephen Shovlin was shown a red card at or after the final whistle. Was he the only player to commit a red card offence? Even though I was far away, I doubt it.

It was always going to be a fiery affair, especially after the margin of victory for Kilcar in the championship semi-final. Should official linesmen not have been appointed for a game that was, in essence, a league play-off?

What will happen now? There were plenty of Donegal GAA Executive members present who could provide evidence. There may also be video evidence. But will anything be done?

I’m not holding my breath.

But there is a collective responsibility. Discipline (or lack of it) should be on the agenda for the next Co. Committee meeting and all clubs should take part in the discussion. There are no press present any more so there is no need to hold back. Clubs also must take responsibility for the actions of their players and mentors. It is not good enough to push the blame on the other side. Winning and losing are part of the game. Dignity should be an even bigger part.

FOOTNOTE:

One very serious issue which is raising its head (pardon the pun), is that these bust-ups could result in a very serious injury very soon. I read in Cathal McCarron’s book about the use of this choke tackle where a player gets another player in a headlock, like in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). How many times have we seen players tangling with one another in this way. If we get someone with intent to do damage and there is a big difference in the size of the combatants, then very serious damage could occur.

It is just one other issue that the GAA must tackle!