GAA Football

'Derry county board should reinstate Damian Barton as soon as possible.'

Derry manager Damian Barton against Tyrone during the Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter final match at Celtic Park on Sunday. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin.

DERRY might not have been able to steal Tyrone’s Ulster title back in May but here we are at the business end of the season with the thunder well and truly robbed. Ha!

It was inevitable that a few alternative talking points would pop up this week in light of the average winning margin in All-Ireland quarter-finals growing to 10 points over the last three years.

We just didn’t maybe expect them to be so forthright. Once train-gate had settled down at the start of the week (though there’s more on that below), Damian Barton took centre-stage as he highlighted what he felt had gone wrong during his two-year term as manager.

Thanks to those who called in. 

‘Frank from Coalisland’ was one of a stream of callers but probably the only neutral among the pack, so he gets top billing with his brief thoughts.

“The Derry county board should take a step back and reinstate Damian Barton as soon as possible. For me, he’s the man that can help the Derry football team.”

‘South Derry Gael’ was not of the same mind.

“Granted, some of the things the county board did aren’t fair. But to say he only had 26 players this year is nonsense. He started off with 40 players and boys walked away. Maybe Damian needs to ask himself why they walked away. Maybe he needs to ask himself why the Coleraine boys weren’t there this year.

“And those games should not have been called off around the Mayo game. Those games were outside the 6-day rule for Qualifiers. Maybe he should check a few things before going to the press.”

‘Swatragh caller’ meanwhile, claimed some interesting figures were revealed at last year’s annual county convention.

“At county convention in 2016, it was revealed there was £1.89 of expenditure for every £1 of income. That cannot be sustained. Cost-cutting is not an option, it’s a necessity. Clubs are financing the county teams through levies and club championship gate receipts. Remember that one per cent of players play county football, but 100 per cent play club football.”

CO’K: If your figures are correct then yes, that is not sustainable. Derry spent just over £482,000 on their county teams in 2016, which was a tiny increase on the year before but, significantly, more than Tyrone. Club Derry income was up 33 per cent from 2015 to 2016, and expected to rise again this year. The development squads are not perfect but the county has produced two of the last three Ulster minor winning teams. As with most counties, trying to cut the cloth to compete with Mayo’s spend of €1.6m last year is proving divisive.

The day before Damian Barton let rip, his namesake and former comrade Cassidy made a series of measured points about the challenges facing Derry football.

‘Ché Guevara’ seemed more concerned with what he feels is an uninspiring list of potential candidates to replace Barton.

“Just reading today’s back page and the Damian Cassidy interview. It doesn’t give much hope for Derry with those names that have been put forward for the new manager. It seems like a lack of imagination. I think it’s time to go outside the county. Realistically the last time the county won an Ulster title was with an outside manager. It will take something like that.”

‘Eamon’ on Facebook was more positive towards Cassidy’s suggestion of divisional sides entering the senior club championship to give exposure to players from lower leagues.

“Have to agree a lot with this article. Changes have to be made in Derry and my own county Armagh. Armagh has to many clubs for a small county that weakens the standard of football. Amalgamate the clubs so that they can make your senior championship more competitive and expose your good players from smaller clubs to a better standard. Spillanes, Ogie Moran, Paul Galvin, Bomber Liston, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Declan and Darren O’Sullivan the list goes on all came from junior clubs in Kerry.”

CO’K: You’re only as strong as your weakest link and in Derry, junior football has been very weak for a long time. It has strengthened over the past four years but a restructure of the leagues is required to properly present the weaker clubs with an opportunity to progress.

‘Derry supporter’ had a plan that seems to get broken out at least once every time the Oak Leaf job becomes vacant.

“If Joe Brolly is so passionate about the game and Derry, there’s a vacancy there. Let’s see what he can do.”

 

DESPITE taking a pasting from Tyrone at the weekend, which will have stung no doubt, the vast majority of Armagh fans seemed happy with their lot this summer.

Certainly there seemed no hope of reaching the last eight when they lost to Down but they enjoyed one of those gripping Qualifier runs that doesn’t come around too often.

‘Middletown Gael’ feels that 2017 was the start of something special for the Orchard.

“I know we the boys had a bad day on Saturday but they have give us some great times this summer and although they will be hurting I want to remind them that the darkest days are just before the dawn. There is real potential in Armagh we have seen it this year and when they climb up the leagues Saturday will be a distant memory.”

‘John’ had a similar outlook while ‘Lurgan Orchardman’ says that he will now support the Red Hands in their quest for Sam Maguire.

“This Tyrone team I can respect and they will give any of the final three trouble. As for Armagh - they have done very well in this championship but now know the distance they have to travel. From the first 5 minutes of the game Tyrone’s pace, skill, physicality and tactics were at a different level. However Armagh had a 7-day turnaround from a tough game against Kildare. It would have been a fairer reflection if any of the mainstream media (including The Irish News) had remarked on Tyrone’s longer lead in.”

CO’K: It wouldn’t have mattered if Armagh had a fortnight or a month to recover, the gap was clearly evident.

And lastly, one caller rang to register her disgust at the behaviour of supporters from both Tyrone and Armagh on the train home from Dublin, while Down supporter ‘RedBhoy’ set aside his dislike his neighbours in Armagh to point the finger at Tyrone fans.

“This intimidating aggressive behaviour continuously and consistently shown by Tyrone fans at big games is going on many years now and is going on for far too long.

“They are giving the rest of Ulster supporters a terrible name down south. It was only this Monday morning, I read a comment from a young girl from Dublin working in one of the pubs near by Croke Park, mentioning how unmannerly and ignorant she found the Tyrone fans.

“I read another report of three young lads intimidating and verbally abusing a Bán Garda outside of Croke Park. Now it goes without saying that these are all second hand stories and at all matches most Tyrone supporters would be of the utmost conduct, but I have seen too many incidents myself to count.

“It is just high time that the normal football fans are the ones that need to do something about the ‘soccer hooligan’ types. Tyrone have a siege mentality this long and many a day and Mickey Harte rightly has used it to his advantage.

“However there is also a toxic side to it and it's a sad day when all the people in Ulster won't be behind Tyrone as they embark on another push to bring Sam back because of their aggressive, arrogant attitudes.”

CO’K: Every county has its eejits. We can’t tar the whole thing with the one brush.

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