NO matter where you stand on concussion gate, it’s hard to not feel sorry for the player at the centre of it, Armagh’s Jarly Og Burns. Newspapers, radio and social media have been awash with discussions about whether or not he has been suffering from the affects of concussion. Regardless of that debate, the player has been in the spotlight constantly for a week and a half now. This is a young lad that has played three senior championship games for his county. His performances have been excellent, but he has had to learn quickly about the scrutiny that accompanies the inter-county scene even if no fingers are being pointed directly at him. Let’s hope he gets back to full fitness and we can go back to reading about his midfield exploits.
In Ulster, Monaghan are one of the big three, yet they regularly have trouble seeing off their provincial neighbours. For the past three championships they have been turned over by opposition deemed the underdogs. In 2017 it was Down, in 2018 it was Fermanagh, and this year it was Cavan, albeit the Breffni men played in Division One in 2019. Yet Monaghan are a team that can bounce back from those defeats. Last year they qualified for the ‘Super Eights’ after a fine run in the backdoor. But that run came at the expense of non-Ulster sides, Waterford, Leitrim and Laois. So, my point is, Monaghan will not want to have seen an Ulster name drawn against them in Monday’s Qualifier draw. Ulster is too much of a hot bed of action for them. The derby days add too much pressure, and their game against Fermanagh last weekend was too close for comfort. It was the mistake by the Erne ‘keeper that gifted them a more comfortable margin of victory than it might have been.
SOME counties are going to do very nicely out of the rule that allows home draws for those divsion three and four teams who are drawn against Division one or two sides. For example Down play Mayo in Pairc Esler as the Mourne men are Division Three. The frustration of missing out promotion might be slightly softened by that turn of events, and playing Mayo in the Newry environs will be a help. Antrim have the joy of hosting Kildare at Corrigan Park. This is a Kildare team who reached the ‘Super 8s’ last year, and who fought a battled argument about home advantage when playing Dublin. They cannot complain if they don’t find the cosy (or cramped if you prefer) environs of St John’s ground. Paddy McBride Tweeted ‘Whiterock or nowhere’ this week when the draw was made. They clearly see an advantage in taking a big team like that into West Belfast to put the fear of God into them. I don’t see Corrigan Park as an intimidating venue, but I can see how it might be construed as such. It is not manicured like Owenbeg, or well established like Pairc Esler. It’s rough and ready, a streetball venue. And ironically for a county that some pundits argued ‘needed Casement for it to be successful’ perhaps not having a fancy venue may play in their favour.
LEINSTER Council chairman Jim Bolger doesn’t seem particularly worried about dropping attendances in the province, stating ahead of the Dublin v Kildare semi-final that “if you get bored watching good footballers playing at the top of their game then I don’t know what we’d do then to not be bored.” His blasé attitude towards Dublin’s total and absolute domination of the province under Jim Gavin is disappointing considering the competition is basically a total farce at this stage. Dublin have reached the final with a winning margin of 20.5 points a game and while I don’t necessarily advocate that the county be split, something should be done to level the playing field. Too late now, probably.
I REPORTED on a classic inter-county match at the weekend, and there wasn’t a size five O’Neill’s ball in sight. Armagh’s Nicky Rackard Cup semi-final win over Tyrone was a thriller from start to finish with the final scoreline of 2-19 to 1-23 some indication of the quality on show. However, there was barely a 100 people at the match, but everyone who did make the trip to Inniskeen certainly got full value for money. It’s hard to know who’s at fault for the miserly attendances but it’d be nice if Armagh fans came out in force to support their team in the final at Croke Park next weekend.
HOW has Paddy Tally performed as Down manager thus far? That may draw debate in the Mourne county but one thing that all have to agree on is that he makes great use of his bench. Throughout he made early changes and they paid off on a number of occasions with Ryan Johnston and Donal O’Hare making great impressions in the win against Sligo while Jerome Johnston was the match-winner against Westmeath. Cory Quinn also grabbed two goals from the bench against Offaly and the same player was at it again against Tipperary last weekend. Tally gave him the nod after 37 minutes and he grabbed three crucial points. Fellow substitutes Paul Devlin and Barry O’Hagan also scored after coming on.