GAA Football

Donegal v Monaghan McKenna Cup match called off after pitch deemed unplayable

Declan Bonner was denied the chance to run the rule over his squad with the postponement of the clash with Monaghan Picture by Michael O'Donnell
Neil Loughran in Clones

Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Section C: Monaghan v Donegal (postponed)

YOU had to feel for the hardy souls who left Donegal early yesterday morning eager to catch a glimpse of Declan Bonner’s new-look Tir Chonaill, only to find themselves heading back to the Hills well ahead of schedule.

Some were there in time to welcome the team bus into a sleepy Clones not long after midday while others drifted in closer to the scheduled throw-in time of 2pm – making it, but only just.

They needn’t have bothered. At 2.07pm, the official announcement came through that Donegal v Monaghan had completed an unwelcome hat-trick of called off games, following on from the postponements of Armagh-Donegal and Down-Ulster University.

“It’s disappointing, especially from the supporters’ point of view, but sure listen it’s in the hands of the Gods,” said Donegal boss Declan Bonner, whose men at least got to do a training session on two-thirds of the pitch leaving Clones.

“What can we do? I think the referee made the right decision, it was probably just a bit late in the day.”

The problem lay in one corner of the pitch – an isolated area of shade covered in a sheet of frost while the rest of the playing surface lapped up the winter sun, and throw-in time was initially put back until 2.15pm.

“We’re hoping that the sun will eventually come round and maybe thaw out that area,” offered one official.

Inside the press box, meanwhile, there were scenes more readily associated with an arctic expedition, journalists with hats and hoods gamely battling to avoid falling drops of water as the Clones ice caps clinging to the steel roof began to melt.

My seat had a wedge of ice stuck to it that could’ve housed a family of polar bears – the sense of giddy anticipation at the prospect of it melting mid-match almost too much to comprehend.

“You’ll get piles if you sit there too long,” warned one colleague. Welcome to 2018.

The more warm-breathed humans that entered the confines, the more rapid the fall from above. Eventually laptops and soggy notebooks were hastily stowed away while handfuls of blue roll, secured en masse from the toilets below, got to work on the ceiling.

Ranulph Fiennes would have been proud.

As the scheduled start time neared, speculation began to mount that there would be no game at all – 2.30pm was given as the new start time.

Suddenly, every movement of players, managers or officials out on the field was subject to the most intense scrutiny.

“It’s off… that boy there just waved his hands.”

“Who?”

“Him there.”

“Who’s that?”

“I don’t know.”

Donegal captain Michael Murphy came up to talk to some of the Tir Chonaill backroom staff but was unable to shed any light, either on the offending corner of the pitch or of the chances of a game of football taking place.

The saga finally came to an end seven minutes after the hour when referee Noel Mooney, following much deliberation and consultation with both counties, confirmed the game would not go ahead – with the likelihood that the refixture will take place this Sunday.

“It wasn’t looking good from early on but we were hoping,” said Ulster Council vice-president Oliver Galligan.

“The referee came early to look at the pitch, and he asked the two managers to have a look as well, do a warm-up and see what they thought. He [the referee] wasn’t that fussy about playing the game.

“The pitch is hard all over but particularly up in the top left corner. It’s a very severe frost. The referee can’t take the chance that a player would get injured so he just had to pull it.”

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