For the third Ulster championship game in-a-row Donegal overran their opponents at their ease. Last Sunday’s game against Down was done and dusted after 20 minutes. Donegal were totally dominant from the minute the ball was thrown in and never relinquished until the final whistle was blown.
Declan Bonner must be delighted by the performance of his players. They showed huge hunger, desire and played the game at a high level of intensity that Down or indeed Cavan or Derry could not live with.
Their fitness levels in the last quarter were astounding to say the least for amateur players; they never slackened for the entire duration of the game and were still prepared to do whatever it took even though the game was long over as a contest.
It’s hard to pick individuals out of what was one the finest team performances by a Donegal team for a good few years. Yes Murphy once again was excellent along with Paddy McBrearty, Jamie Brennan and Ryan McHugh. Leo McLoone was stuck in everything good that Donegal were doing. Eoghan Ban Gallagher’s driving runs from the backline set up a lot of scores for the front men and Hugh Mcfadden did a lot of unseen but necessary work for the team.
Frank McGlynn again showed his great hunger for the game with another top drawer performance; class act that just seems to be able to do the right thing when it’s needed most.
Down will have better days. Their inexperience in dealing with what Donegal threw at them from the off was evident especially after the dismissal of Neil McGee. They continued to kick long ball into a 50-50 situation instead of using the numerical advantage. Their kick out strategy, which is a must even at club level, was dire. The ‘keeper was unable to find even the easiest of passes, not always his fault as the outfield players were too static at times to take the ball.
Down as a county have struggled to adapt to some of the more modern elements of Gaelic football. They continue to use small speedy forwards, they kick a lot of ball into space but on Sunday it was easy swept up by the Donegal sweeper, which was mad when you think Donegal had only 14 on the field. Other sides that will come our way will not be as naïve.
The Hurling championship has certainly caught the attention of everyone this year. The new format for both the Leinster and Munster championships has raised the popularity of the games to new levels. They have received most of the air time, which when you consider all the one sided football games this year, it mightn’t have been a bad idea to push the hurling into the number one slot.
One of the favourites for the McCarthy Cup would have been Tipperary, but they find themselves out of the championship in the second week of June. Considering the success of Tipp hurling over the last few years, champions in 2016, this would not have been expected and their manager Michael Ryan gave an in-depth interview after last weekend’s defeat by Clare in Ennis. He suggested it was a mistake to do as much as they had during the National League and if the same format was going to be in place for the Munster championship for the years to come, they would be revisiting how they treat the National League as a competition. Also he went on to suggest that playing rounds of the club championship in April was not a help to the preparation for the Munster championship.
Tipperary had to play four weeks in-a-row, high intensity games with huge stakes to play for. Hurling is a unique game and those that play have an unquestionable desire; they go for everything and playing at that level four weeks in-a-row certainly took its toll on the Tipperary players.
It does ask the question, should amateur players be asked to do it? Should they be expected to play at that level week after week and continue to work, study and get on with their lives? Will there come a point if the format is for more and more county games continues that players are once again going to ask the question about payment? Would anyone begrudge those lads, who have busted themselves for the last six or seven Sundays in front of huge crowds, some sort of payment? Will the Super Eights do the same for the footballers?
Is this the plan from on high, Champions League style fixtures with the top sides playing each other in front of big crowds and will it lead to the change of attitude around remuneration of players?
In the news this last couple of weeks has been the insistence that county players who are in receipt of national grants give their permission to be tested day or night at their home address. Many pundits and commentators have suggested they should be available to be tested just as our Olympic athletes and every other sports person are subject to. The Gaelic Players’ Association are, it’s been suggested, dragging their heels on the issue. I wouldn’t blame them.
The issue around county players or indeed club players being drug tested is not the problem. The rules clearly state you can’t take performance enhancing drugs to benefit you or your team during a game. No argument there. I doubt if there is a player in the country or those representing them have an issue with that. But should they be accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year? Because if they agree to what is proposed that is what is going to happen.
With that assumption we are saying to those playing county hurling or football that you have to be available at the drop of a hat. You are unable to take anything that is on a banned list, even if it’s for a common cold.
How long do people figure that players will either pull out altogether or want something bigger than the few hundred euro that is on offer?
More and more the game is being pushed towards full-time commitment, if it’s not there already. Players are being asked to make more and more unrealistic sacrifices and at some point the penny is going to drop and players will demand compensation.
We are past the stage of slowing the pace of where the game is going with the introduction of more and more games and pay-per-view television.
The next stage is not that far away. Clubs are no longer important to those that run the games as a business and players, as soon as they become part of any county squad, seem to be the property of that team and are only released back to the club when the manager decrees it. Change is evident whether we like it or not.