Down to the wire in championships
There will be just two left standing by 7.30 p.m. on Sunday evening as the Michael Murphy Sports & Leisure Donegal Senior Championship draws to a climax. It is likely that the aforementioned Michael Murphy (and Glenswilly) will be still standing, but who will they meet in the final?
There was a rumour that Glenswilly wanted their semi-final in MacCumhaill Park, no doubt wanting to get acclimatised to the ground in case they get through.
The focus, however, will be more on the other clash - Kilcar and Naomh Conaill - and it will answer many questions. Have Kilcar made enough progress to reach a first final in 23 years? Or do Naomh Conaill still have their number? Based on what we saw in the quarter-finals, it is just too difficult to call, but it is a mouth-watering prospect. There should be a bumper crowd in MacCumhaill Park on Sunday evening.
The great referee debate
The debate around referees was given plenty of fuel on Saturday last - and that was only at the two games which I attended.
Firstly, I was in Fintra for the Intermediate clash between Aodh Ruadh and Naomh Ultan where Andrew Mullin officiated to the letter of the law and ended up handing out three red, two black and, I think, nine yellow cards in a game that was just well contested. Looking at it coldly, apart from the opening yellow (to Niall Harley for what looked a perfectly executed shoulder) you could make a strong case that every other decision was by the book. But at the same time, some discretion and common sense could have been used and the game would have been the better for it.
On to MacCumhaill Park for the senseless time of an 8.30 p.m. throw-in and it was an entirely different story. Kilcar against Termon had a nasty undertone from the throw-in, but the officials (and I include referee Sean Paul Doherty and linesmen Seamus McGonagle and Aidan McAleer in this) just didn’t get a grip, which meant that there was very little football played.
From a neutral stance, Termon were the team trying to stop Kilcar, and there could (and should) have been two or three black cards in the opening ten minutes. After that, players from both sides could have got a card of any colour. In the end, the first serious intervention came on 51 minutes when Eoin McHugh was taken out on a forward run and a black card was issued.
I have no doubt that if Andrew Mullin had been in Ballybofey, he would have run out of cards, but at least he would have provided protection for the players, and a game of football might (and I stress might) have broken out!
There are lessons to be learned all round.
Lessons also for CCC
After the weekend, there are lessons also for those responsible for fixtures as the draw in the Intermediate quarter-final between Naomh Columba and St. Naul’s proved. Having to replay midweek and then contest a semi-final next Saturday makes it almost impossible for one of these teams to reach the final.
And yet 2016 was a good year for fixtures, handled well by the present CCC. In some ways they were too efficient, offering different scenarios to Co. Committee, and as a result the week prior to the All-Ireland final was not availed of to play the quarter-finals. The result of not using that week means that Naomh Columba and St. Naul’s (and it could have been any of the other six clubs) are severely inconvenienced.
Is it time that fixtures are taken out of the hands of committees altogether? Is the GAA too democratic for their own good at times?
It’s not as if this hasn’t happened before. And it is hard to see the lesson being learned this time either.
Thank goodness for Katie-George
There wasn’t a huge crowd in Mountcharles on Sunday evening for the homecoming of Katie-George Dunlevy with her gold and silver paralympic medals. But what was there was a warm reception and it was richly deserved.
On Monday morning I was present at St. Peter’s National School when Katie-George and her family were present to show off the medals to the schoolchildren and it was refreshing to see how she was received. She was so down-to-earth and ready to talk to every one of the children and explain every detail of how she won the medals; the length of each race; the speed she was travelling at (averaging well over 30km an hour, sometimes over twice that downhill).
But what was amazing was how humble she was and so glad to be back where she spent many summers and really looking forward to visits in the future.
Surely this is what Olympic sport is all about. Wanting to be among your own to savour the success!
Katie-George will be back training in a couple of weeks with the first target a rainbow jersey, the reward for winning the World Championships. They take place in South Africa at the end of August 2017.
After that . . . she will probably be looking forward to the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020 and defending her title.
We will be watching with even greater interest.