For the second weekend in-a-row the Ulster championship failed to provide us with much entertainment. Well at least on the pitch anyway.
Damien Barton, the Derry manager, in his post-match interview with Newstalk, didn’t mince his words or give the usual few lines that we have come to expect from intercounty managers. He criticised those from the press who have tried to undermine his tenure as Derry manager; he confirmed that players had left the squad but felt it wasn’t a major issue for him, as the players that had left were the ones who missed out and when he was asked about poor numbers at training he alluded to the fact that Derry were not in the position to carry 35 to 40 players, go on foreign holidays or attend training camps. They just hadn’t got the financial clout of some of the more prosperous counties.
Derry were not good last Sunday. They looked as if they were beaten before it even started. I have no doubt the Derry players and management prepared to their very best and went to the field with the ultimate belief that they could match Tyrone all over the pitch. But while they did give it a go they were miles behind their neighbours.
Tyrone never got out of second gear. When Derry did make a bit of a push at the start of the second half, Tyrone just upped the intensity for ten minutes and that was that. Tyrone, at their ease kicked 22 points and hit double figures in terms of wides and dropping the ball into the goalkeeper’s hands. They have plenty of scope for improvement but one thing that was very noticeable was their inability to create goal chances.
Again like the Donegal, Antrim game the gulf between both sides was discussed at great length whether, like Antrim, they are best served by the current format. Barton also went on to say that the introduction of the ‘Super 8’, as he called it, will create a greater divide. Could it get any worse?
One thing that was mentioned by both television and radio commentators was the lack of excitement and atmosphere within the ground. The game has become so predictable with one team in attack and the other just bringing everyone behind the ball that supporters just seem to switch off. The game is not helped with the continuous frees awarded; even in a bad hurling game the referee allows the players to get on with it, whereas in football the game has become a box ticking exercise.
I don’t blame the referees for that. They are analysed now with the same ferocity as the players, with each decision questioned.
Derry will now head for the Qualifiers and hope with a bit of a run they can ignite the interest of the Derry GAA public once again. One issue they do have to address is why so many of their top players decided not to commit to the county team. If it was one or two players you could understand that but when you’re nearly into double figures there is something not right. In order for Donegal to stay at the top of their game we need the likes of Derry, Down and Armagh to be better so the Ulster championship does not descend into the Leinster or Munster championship, where a couple of teams rule the roost.
Another talking point that raised it head last week was the best young players being picked up by Australian rules sides. Nothing new there, you might say, but when it comes to the best young Kerry players being plucked it seems it is a bit more serious.
Kerry lost Mark O’Connor a few years ago. O’Connor, a two-time All-Ireland minor winner, made his debut recently for Geelong. Kerry legend Tomas O Se criticised Tadhg Kennelly, who acts as a scouting agent for the Australian league, and demanded that the GAA should do more to keep their players in the country.
Here is where the problem gets very complicated. On one side a young lad gets the opportunity to play a professional sport in another country, a huge opportunity that might only happen to one in every 100,000. On the other side an organisation who have continuously said that the game will never turn professional. So making a living out of playing football for your club or county is not going to happen.
O Se went on to say: “When you think of the time and effort put into those young players by club coaches, college coaches, by parents, by the county board, it's just plain wrong that someone can swoop down from outside and take them away”.
O Se’s point is well made. However he is blinded by his love for Kerry. If the young lad was from Carlow, Derry or even Donegal, would his feelings be the same?
It’s understandable that you want to keep the best talent within the county so that the county can be successful, but what about the young lads themselves; who cares about their future?