Big weekend of sport in Capital City
There was a time when we didn’t get many chances to travel to Dublin for big sporting occasions. In recent times, however, Donegal have given us numerous opportunities.
Last weekend was one of them and there was more going on than just the big game in Croke Park on Saturday night.
With a ready made B&B available nowadays, I took full advantage last weekend, taking in three big games in 24 hours at three different venues.
On Saturday evening I attended the Six Nations U-20 game between Ireland and Italy at Donnybrook and was treated to a feast of rugby with 11 tries, six to Ireland and five to Italy, who might have well have won but for being reduced to 14 after just nine minutes. In the end Ireland held on for a 38-34 win. When planning this game earlier in the year, I was hoping that Joseph Dunleavy from Letterkenny would be involved but injury has seen the Malone player miss out so far.
On Saturday, thanks to the good offices of a friend, I was able to take in the Six Nations clash of Ireland and Italy at the Aviva and although it turned out to be a one-sided affair, there was a great atmosphere created almost entirely by the visiting Italian supporters, most of who were dressed for the occasion. Their rendering of the Italian National Anthem was an example to all. They came to enjoy the occasion and in doing so, added much more. Indeed, the Irish supporters could learn from them, especially in the area of staying in their seats until half-time and full-time and not heading for the bar with 10 or 15 minutes left!
Afterwards, it was on to the Dart and a tight squeeze, but everybody seemed to get accommodated free of charge for the short trip back to Connolly Station. From there it was just a short walk back to Clonliffe Road for some sustenance and from there to Croke Park for the main event.
After 70+ minutes it was time for head scratching once more. Did Donegal deserve something from the game? I have some doubts. They played second fiddle for much of the first half and I felt were fortunate to be within six points. But then they looked a different team in the second half and their front-foot football gave the Donegal contingent in the crowd something to really shout about.
The point taking of the McBreartys was impressive in that half with Stephen really stepping up to the mark being set by big brother, Patrick, who looked like he couldn’t miss.
However, at the end of the game Donegal remain pointless in the league and facing an uphill struggle if they are to survive in the top flight. Gallant losses are one thing, but a win will be needed in the next game to give us any chance of top flight survival.
As pointed out elsewhere, the lack of scoring in the final 10-15 minutes of games is the big worry. Just two scores (a Darach O’Connor goal in Kerry and a fisted Ciaran McGinley point in Letterkenny) from the three games in the final 15 minutes of the games so far. If we can get improvement in that department, then we can turn things around.
We meet Tyrone in the Dr. McKenna Cup final on Saturday evening in Armagh and there will probably be a bit of Cat and Mouse between Mickey Harte and Declan Bonner as the sides also meet in Omagh in the league in early March.
FOOTNOTE: I have to harp back once again to how the GAA supporter is treated as regards team line-outs. Surely the paying customer is entitled to be made aware of the line-outs and of any changes prior to games. On Saturday evening, there were four changes to the Donegal team which was printed in the programme, while Dublin were bigger offenders, making changes (the inclusion of Paul Mannion) and not even telling the person on the public address. Donegal introduced No. 26 (worn by Michael Carroll) but in the programme No. 26 was Paul Brennan, and the PA announced him as Brennan. Having witnessed how professional the IRFU handled the games on Friday night and Saturday, the GAA at a high level need to address this shambolic treatment of spectators.