GAA Football

Off The Fence readers enter war of words debate between Antrim and Armagh

Conor Johnston fires past Armagh goalkeeper Simon Doherty during Sunday's Ulster Senior Hurling Championship final at Owenbeg. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Neil Loughran

YOU need to be careful what you say around here.

Loose lips can sink ships after all and on Sunday the Armagh hurlers’ vessel, buoyant after downing their red and black rivals the week previous, was torpedoed out of the water by the Saffron submarine.

With 22 points the difference at Owenbeg, the 2017 version of the Ulster final may not live long in the memory – but the talk about the talk after has certainly got people talking.

In the lead-up to Sunday’s provincial showpiece, Armagh forward Cahal Carvill looked forward to pitting his wits against the Saffrons again having fallen short during the National League.

But one line uttered by the Middletown man in particular lit a fire under the backsides of the Antrim players.

“We played against them earlier on in the year,” said Carvill. “I came up against my old foe Ciaran Johnston and I think I got the better of him that day and, you know, I look forward to going into battle with him again.”

Antrim’s Conor Johnston – brother of Ciaran - led the scoring, bagging 3-5, and he didn’t hold back after the game, claiming that the Saffrons had been irked by Carvill’s comments to such an extent that they wanted to make Armagh pay.

So Johnston and his team-mates were riled by what Cahal Carvill said and now, in classic Off The Fence style, one reader has been riled by Johnston getting riled.

Still with me? Take it away my anonymous friend.

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“I’VE just read the comments from the Antrim player in the paper about teaching Armagh a lesson,” said our caller.

“He may be a good hurler, but he’s obviously not a very good sportsman to be coming out with the like of that. It’s a very ungracious thing to say in victory.

“Just wait until Antrim are taught a lesson by a team like Tipperary and see what he says then.”

[BOLD] You might have to wait a few years before Antrim get the chance to be taught a lesson by Tipp. [BOLD]

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AN email bearing the subject matter ‘Don’t make Antrim mad’ also took a tongue-in-cheek look at the whole episode, before referencing Davy Fitz’s spectacular sideline sprint and subsequent knee-cap shouldering of someone three times his size.

“It’s taken me a few days to settle down,” writes ‘Hulk’, as we’ll call him or her.

“Well after them Antrim boys got mad at some Armagh boy saying that he played him rightly early in the year then he came out and gave us a good auld hammering. Terra so it is.

“Wonder what would he have done on thon Davy boy on Sunday?”

[BOLD] Laughed?

The whole episode is a bit of a storm in a teacup really (Carvill-Johnston that is, Davy’s antics speak for themselves). It just goes to show the printed word still holds some power, with teams – particularly those going for a 16th title in-a-row – grasping for any motivational tool going.

I was there when a smiling Cahal Carvill name-checked Ciaran Johnston and didn’t think much of it at the time, but things can often come across worse when they appear in black and white. [BOLD]

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MOVING on, and we’re back to ‘The Gooch’ – well, sort of.

It may be a couple of weeks now since Colm Cooper hung up the boots but another caller has used his retirement as a vehicle to consider how past greats might fare in the modern day.

I suspect his view might not be universally popular.

“There’s been a good deal of talk this last while about Cooper and [Ryan] McMenamin, the rights and wrongs of all this, but the bottom line is this – one is a legend. Full stop. [BOLD] (I’m sure ‘Ricey’ appreciates your support) [BOLD]

“Another point I’d like to make, there’s been a lot of talk about Peter Canavan, great player that he was, Oisin McConville, great player that he was, Stevie McDonnell, great player he was too – none of those three men ever played against a blanket defence like happens today.

“Jamie Clarke is as good a player as any of those three, or indeed in Ireland at this time, but as soon as he gets the ball in his hand he is swarmed around without room to move.,

“That’s the way the game has gone, but you shouldn’t compare the likes of Peter Canavan, Oisin McConville and McDonnell to players who are playing against the blanket defence where it’s a completely different game.

“Good as those men were in their day, they had room to move and were given room to move.”

[BOLD] Ah the glory days of single sweepers and just the nine men behind the ball instead of 14. It would bring a tear to the eye.

Comparing eras is always a dangerous game, but come on – Peter Canavan? Stevie McDonnell? Oisin? There’s a not a county team in the country that wouldn’t be better for having any of those three men in their pomp.

It’s also worth remembering that defenders got away with a hell of a lot more back in the day. [BOLD]

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SPEAKING of Tyrone forwards racking up big scores, a hat tip is due to Lee Brennan after he scored 3-14 in Trillick’s win over Strabane at the weekend.

It has led to suggestions that Brennan deserved more than the three minutes of National League action he saw.

Others, meanwhile, have joked – and got a laugh from me at least - that his exploits could well earn him a starting spot in the Tyrone half-back line against Derry.

“We've a forward on the Tyrone panel who scores that in a club game, but can't get a game for the Tyrone seniors?” said ‘Sean’ on Facebook.

[BOLD] Mickey Harte doesn’t exactly have a dearth of attacking options at the minute, so Brennan could yet get his chance during the summer [BOLD]

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