Another good result for Donegal last Sunday in Derry. It’s never easy to play in the home ground of any team, but having to go to Derry, especially after the National League campaign and the negative results they have had in the last few years, it would have been expected that the Derry lads would dig deep and make it as hard for Donegal as humanly possible.
Maybe but for some poor shooting in front of goals, they might have put Declan Bonner’s men under a bit more pressure.
It was hard seeing Donegal losing this one, especially after the fine performance against Cavan. Players get a huge lift in confidence when they get things going early in the championship, and just like the Cavan game, Donegal were once again excellent in front of goal with Paddy McBrearty back to near his best with some brilliant points.
Leo McLoone showed why he was such a big miss last summer, both in front of goal but also in his general play. Ryan McHugh was again popping up in positions all over the field showing a great level of fitness and energy to open up the Derry defence at his ease.
Donegal started better this week and once Hugh McFadden broke from the midfield to score the first goal it would be fair to suggest that the writing was on the wall for Derry after that goal. But to be fair to the Derry lads they didn’t throw in the towel. They kept to what they have been training for since the New Year and continued the fight to the very end.
After seeing their performance you would have to ask the question what went so wrong that they will find themselves in Division Four of the National League next February?
At all times throughout the game Donegal looked comfortable. They were always in control; kick-outs were spot on and when they needed to slow the game down, Michael Murphy was there to dictate the pace.
If Derry had to press Donegal a bit harder you always felt that Donegal were fit to kick in to another gear. They always seemed to be able to answer Derry when they needed to.
If there was a talking point about the game it was the lack of support from the Derry GAA community. It would have been expected that Celtic Park would have been near capacity. Instead the Donegal support outnumbered their Derry counterparts.
I am sure Declan Bonner and his players appreciated that huge support and will hope it will only grow as the championship progresses but the question still remains why are the huge crowds that were evident in the National League suddenly not there?
It’s fair to say that it wasn’t only the Derry public that stayed away last Sunday. The crowds have not been attending a lot of the football championship games throughout the country. A couple of weeks ago only 1,500 people showed up to Tipperary and Waterford in Semple Stadium. I know football is not big in Waterford but Tipperary have been pushing hard this last few years and you would have expected a greater number to turn out and cheer them on.
Why? Are supporters fed up going to the earlier rounds of the championship because they know the long summer of games that are ahead? Has the game got too expensive for families to attend their counties’ champion run?
Many supporters were angry at the pricing structure where you were charged more at the gate on the day of the game than you were if you bought the tickets online or other outlets.
You would have to question why is it so expensive now to go to these games. It’s not as if they have to pay the players. When a family decides to go to a championship game it’s not only the price of the tickets that have to be taken into consideration; cost of travelling, food, programmes, the list goes on. Fine if you go to one or two matches but say your county plays six, maybe seven, games. It’s a heavy price to pay.
Why aren’t the GAA enticing supporters across the country that follow their county teams all around the year with better incentives in the early rounds of the championship to go to these games; fill the stadiums and make the atmosphere everything that it needs to be? Nothing worse than playing in a big stadium with a small crowd.
Surely the authorities realise that once the provincial finals and Super Eights come the stadia will be near capacity and the pricing of the ticket can reflect the interest in the game, but make it too expensive for families and young children to attend, who actually do they think is going to be going to these games in 10 or 15 years’ time. Forward thinking is hard to beat.
It was a good start for Gary McDaid and his U-20 side; far too strong for a poor Cavan side last Sunday. Such is the rush to get all the games sorted they have to play again this weekend with Derry the opponents in Omagh on Sunday morning at 11.45 am.
And here was I thinking that the fixture list was going to be sorted. Doesn’t say a lot about the importance of the competition or, for that matter, the lads who play in it. Madness.