THE SPORTING DIARY: 'Puke' football back to haunt us

THE SPORTING DIARY: 'Puke' football back to haunt us

The spotlight that was put on Derry Gaelic football with the video of Slaughtneil and Magherafelt in a club championship game at the weekend is something that we should all be concerned about.

Watching a Slaughtneil player toe-tapping the ball in the middle of the field and it being passed around that area for three or four minutes without a Magherafelt player coming to contest made a mockery of the game and the patrons who paid in to see it should have had a refund.

But we should not get all high and mighty about it here in Donegal. How far are we from witnessing something similar?

We had two points scored in the entire second half and added time of last year’s Donegal Senior Championship final, while on Sunday last one of the best football teams in the county, St. Eunan’s, managed only a point from the end of the first half until the end of the game.

This fear of losing is now of greater concern to managers than actually trying to win a game. The rules will have to be changed to outlaw this negative brand of football, which by all known statistics, does not result in winning anything.

Thankfully, there are enough managers out there who are strong enough to back their team to go out and do their best to win. Losing by a point or two after spending most of the game flooding the defence should be exposed for what it is. Club supporters will eventually make their feelings felt by staying away.

I was in Fintra on Sunday and was treated to an open game of football in very difficult conditions. Fair play to John Cunningham who put out a young Killybegs team to have a go at county champions, Kilcar. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think Razda would be enamoured about playing the game with 15 back in defence. He would expect all of his players to have a go and afterwards he praised them for not giving up. Indeed, only for the loss to injury of Eoghan Ban Gallagher at half-time, it could have been even closer at the end.

There was one bright spark on the Kilcar side - Andrew McClean was really on song and although it is early in the championship, Declan Bonner’s spotters will be putting a mark opposite McClean’s name as ‘one to watch’.

Elsewhere, it was good to hear that Kieran Gillespie was back to his best with Gaoth Dobhair, which is another good pointer for Declan Bonner, while Colm Shovlin was high in his praise of Red Daniel Gallagher and the form he has been showing throughout the summer for Naomh Ultan.

Hopefully, the playing conditions and weather will be more kinder this weekend and players will get another platform to show their wares, both for the club and the bigger picture.

By all accounts the big clash in O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny between St. Eunan’s and Gaoth Dobhair matched the stormy weather. However, incidents prior to matches are something that we can do without and if the Co. Board have to take action, then so be it. Championship can always bring up a few controversies, but they are best kept inside the white lines.

Referees come more into the spotlight at championship time and are blamed for every defeat. Supporters and managements might be better off at times with a little bit of introspection. Time to give the referee a little bit of respect. Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose (and sometimes draw). But it’s not the end of the world. Life will go on.

FOOTNOTE:

My colleague Diarmaid Doherty was at the St. Eunan’s-Gaoth Dobhair game and was impressed by the 12-page programme produced for the game by the St. Eunan’s PRO, Paul McGovern. The teams lined out by the numbers in the programme with Gaoth Dobhair only making one change to the team printed. It is something that other clubs could do on championship days, if only a folded A4 sheet with the teams and subs. If players played by the number allocated would be very helpful for patrons and would be showing them some respect too.

The St. Eunan’s programme contained some great stories of the rivalry between the clubs and was good value for €1.