GAA Football


MY favourite memory of this year's All-Ireland Senior Football Championship was Pat Spillane appearing on the highlights show of The Sunday Game after Kerry had beaten Donegal at their own game. There's always a nice equilibrium about the highlights show, unlike the manic 'live' coverage screened earlier that day where Joe Brolly and Spillane usually argue the bit out.

But when Spillane showed up for the evening slot, Kevin McStay et al must have rolled their eyes.

Spillane was like an incendiary device being rolled under the pundits' table. Worse, Kerry had just won the All-Ireland.

There was every possibility the carefully crafted clips packages distilled by McStay and co earlier that day were going to be ruined by the giddy Kerryman.

And so Des let Spillane off the leash. Spillane re-wrote history by dismissing the "puke football" Kerry played in beating Donegal. "Eamonn Fitzmaurice," Spillane began, "has a Plan A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K..."

By the time Pat had reached Plan N, Des and McStay were slouched over, snoozing out of camera shot.

SPILLANE'S revisionism wasn't lost on some of our contributors. 'Cross Man' writes: "I know there are some odd opinions submitted about Gaelic Football, but I thought last week's contributors to Off The Fence concerning Kerry's victory over Donegal hit the nail firmly on the head. "I too thought that the game was a dreadful spectacle and couldn't wait to hear what the analysts on The Sunday Game had to say, and in particular Pat Spillane." 'Cross Man adds: "I naively thought that Pat would be forthright enough to reaffirm that it was unadulterated 'puke football', totally against the Kerry tradition, but necessary to overcome a strong defensive-minded opponent. "Instead Pat sat in the studio as through he had just witnessed the game of the century brandishing a barracuda grin and purring like the Queen on hearing that the Scots had voted against independence. "Perhaps RTE should stick to analysts that stay true to what they preach and let Pat seek out a new set of viewers to hoodwink."

* EVEN after more than a week has passed since the All-Ireland final, 'Thomas' was equally livid with the standard of RTE punditry. "On reflection," 'Thomas' writes, "it was fortuitous that Colm McFadden failed to score and thus avoided the embarrassment of a replay between two poor sides that inevitably would not attract an audience. "Whilst accepting that both sides were patently bereft of skill, the rules do not lend themselves to free-flowing football. "A question often posed by new overseas viewers centres around the tackle, ie; where a player in possession is savaged by three opponents, one usually lying on the ball carrier and the other two clearly assaulting the prone opponent. "Now you might as well guess what will the outcome be. "Surprise, surprise, a free is awarded to the three assailants. Kerry used this to the maximum as they did in the games with Mayo. "A cynical tactic that promotes 'puke football'. A possible solution is to award a free to the player in possession should a second or third join in the unsightly fracas.

"Kevin McStay, in his analysis, was about to highlight this unwanted cyncism when Spillane intervened. "He assured us that Eamon Fitzmaurice, the Kerry manager, had a multiplicity of plans and was not restricted to Plan A. "If Plan A was the best of the alphabetical list quoted I am relieved he did not resort to B, C, or D. "Plan A was a 'puke' plan... And I'm surprised Joe Brolly did not pick up on the linesman's vain attempts to highlight Aidan O'Mahony's cynical barging of Michael Murphy, totally ignored by the referee. "Joe's childish crusade against Tyrone is quiet nauseating. Like the other pundits, he made no reference to Barry John Keane kicking the ball away when time was running out for Donegal. To sum up, this was one of the worst finals I can remember and hope to forget soon." "Savaged", "assaulting". Slightly emotive language, perhaps?

* IT'S always nice to take a bit of time out when compiling Off The Fence. 'Betty' takes us way off course when she rang and left this message about the beautiful complexion of Kilkenny manager Brian Cody. "Never mind Brian Cody's brilliance," glowed 'Betty'. "What about his beautiful skin?"

Erm, okay Betty... Moving swiftly on.

* NOW back to the cut and thrust of Off The Fence. 'SB of North Belfast' was irked by the north/south divide in the GAA. "As another Championship season ends it has never been so glaringly obvious that TWO Gaelic Athletic Associations now effectively exist, North and South, with different standards and rules being applied by Croke Park and the southern media for each jurisdiction," emails 'SB'. "Anyone lifting Sunday's Dublin newspapers could be forgiven for thinking that Kerry won their All-Ireland last week against Donegal dancing pirouettes whilst playing harps and eating food from the Gods. "So fawning and worshipping was the coverage of the Kerrymen that you might have forgotten that they played some of the most dour, cynical football ever seen in Croke Park. "In many southern quarters Eamon Fitzmaurice was lauded as a 'creative and tactical genius' and roundly praised for adapting his game against 'those dirty Ulster hordes'. "At a stroke these same elements that have spent a decade lambasting Tyrone and Armagh proved that their coverage of Ulster sides was not about their style or gameplan but simple geography and naked partitionism. "Simply put," continues 'SB', "there is a substantial element in the GAA and southern media who 'don't want a Nordie about the place' and who will forgive and excuse ANY tactics used by 'their' teams to defeat Ulster sides. "Anyone who thinks this is an over-reaction should look at the silence following the Kerry/Mayo brawl and compare it to the vilification Armagh and Cavan received after their Ulster Championship game. "Croke Park couldn't wait to teach these Ulster hordes a lesson while the southern media went into their usual mock indignation and false outrage overdrive. "To be fair to him, Joe Brolly is the only major contributor in the southern media who highlighted the nauseating double standards at play - but then again look at the abuse he gets south of the border for being an 'uppity Nordie'. "Hypocrisy, how are you?"

* NEVER one to refuse some praise, 'Cork native' gave the sports department a huge pat on the back for its All-Ireland final coverage: "I'd like to congratulate the Irish News for the way in which you covered the All-Ireland final from every angle. "I don't think there was a lot between the two teams. It was really a lucky goal for Kerry. I still think Donegal are a good team and I hope Jim McGuinness sticks with them. "But if he doesn't he should go to my native Cork and prepare the team there. They badly need an outside trainer. I think they've the six best forwards in the country."

Thanks for the praise. Gratefully received. But surely Brian Cuthbert deserves more patience in his role.

* AND the last word goes to 'Rasharkin Gael' who says Ruairi Og, Cushendall are the team to beat this season. "Regarding the Ulster Club Hurling Championship, the Slaughtneil players and management will be quietly confident of creating history and becoming the first Oak Leaf club to triumph in Ulster. "Portaferry, I'm sure, will be waiting in the long grass. Cushendall are the team to beat having already taken care of Loughgiel and Dunloy whilst not at their best. It says a lot about the quality of the Ruairi Ogs.

As for the intermediate, it's a two-horse race between Carrickmore and Rossa."

Yes, that's all fine and dandy, sir, but who has the best skin complexion out of these competitors. Ask Betty...

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