Donegal's Dr. McKenna Cup fiasco

THE SPORTING DIARY with Sports Editor Peter Campbell

Donegal's Dr. McKenna Cup fiasco

Dr. McKenna fiasco

The Dr. McKenna Cup gets underway on Sunday and Donegal supporters are holding their breath in expectation of annihilation at the hands of University of Ulster, Cavan and Tyrone.

Donegal are to be represented by the U-21 squad and judging by the panel released this week, it is a weakened U-21 squad. For some it will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to pull on a county jersey, but one feels they are on a hiding to nothing. UUJ are the equivalent of a full county team (and better than most) while Cavan and Tyrone will hardly take into account that Donegal are fielding a weakened side.

The Donegal seniors travelled to Armagh on Friday last for a challenge game and yet the U-21s are representing the county in the Dr. McKenna Cup! As the Americans would say, go figure?

Judging by the comments of U-21 manager, Declan Bonner, at the end of an interview given after Tuesday’s North West U-21 Cup game against Sligo in Letterkenny, the relationship between the managements of the senior and U-21s is not what it should be. That is a pity because it puts the large bunch of players who are part of both panels in a very difficult position. There is an onus on all concerned to work with one focus: that is the good of Donegal football.

What is happening as regards the Dr. McKenna Cup doesn’t feel as if Donegal football is being best served. An opportunity to blood young players alongside more experienced players, who could show them the ropes, is being missed.

Hopefully, it will not all end in tears.

Rugby discipline

One of the last bastions of sportsmanship and discipline could be in decline given an experience I was part of at the weekend.

One of my Christmas presents was a ticket to the Pro12 game between Connacht and Munster at the Sportsground in Galway on New Year’s Eve. It was an enjoyable evening with complimentary drink and food in the marquee prior to the game. Unfortunately, the rain, which had threatened all afternoon, arrived at the same time as the kick-off, which ruined the game as a spectacle and more or less decided the outcome in favour of Munster. Connacht’s running was not suited to the conditions.

Being packed into the ‘Clan’ stand, the home of the Connacht Supporters’ Club, was an experience. It was not dissimilar to any GAA match with some well-meaning supporters willing to shout abuse at opposing players and referee, while others were much more knowledgeable.

However, at the end the poor referee was booed off the pitch. I have to admit I would not be great at judging how he did, but I felt he wasn’t the reason Connacht lost.

But it now seems in all sports (rugby included) the poor referee is to blame for everything!

Overall, though, rugby discipline, in the main, on the field remains at a very high standard but you can see that referees are being questioned from time to time. (Apart from Nigel Owens, who is their equivalent of our Jimmy White. Nigel has a way of dealing with players who want to have a conversation with him).

No doubt, with time, discipline, on and off the field, will be an issue for rugby also.