Off The Fence: Where the mountains of Mourne weep down to the sea
'Sentimental from Down' gets OTF off to a gloomy start this morning.
Written before former Down manager Eamonn Burns stepped down earlier this week, his tone is gloomy, but yet impressively scientific in his prediction as to how long it will take a Down man to once again climb either the steps of the Gerry Arthurs or the Hogan Stands to hoist silverware into the air.
"Basically, I'm just realising that it will be a quarter of a century before Down win an Ulster title or indeed an All-Ireland, given their exit from the championship the other evening.
"And I know they're doing their best but I would just like to ask the county board something. I remember being at Celtic Park – Derry were playing Down in the championship of 2013.
And I remember the local papers – there was a 'developing the next generation vision for Down Gaelic football'.
"And there was a series of consultations with schools and county players, and supporters and parents right across the county and indeed in Belfast.
"And I wonder what became of that vision, was it ever published, or what were the goals that it had set itself?
"Because we're in limbo now. 25 years is a long time in Down football.
"People talk about the Down swagger, there's no swagger any more, there's only what I would see as nearly apathy because nobody even seems to get emotive any more about the circumstances.
"So, all I'm saying to Off The Fence is – maybe you could try and get answers as to where this great Down vision that was consulted on in 2013, what ever became of it?''
Mr Sharvin from Downpatrick took the time to write us a letter. Yes, people still occasionally do such things.
He made the point that people who rock up on the morning of matches should not be able to get better tickets than those more committed souls, such as himself. Seem fair enough?
"I am writing to complain about the way Croke Park is treating season ticket holders when it comes to championship time. Last year we were in this open stand at Clones and this year, we're at the 21 metre line on both sides of the ground.
I know that people I brought to Clones bought tickets on Sunday, June 17 at 10.30am in the Super Valu in the Ballymote Centre and got tickets in the centre of the covered stand, while Croke [Park] issued tickets to season ticket holders to both corners of the covered stand.
It shows Croke Park has no loyalty to season ticket holders when it comes to championship time.
In my opinion, the fans who are willing to buy season tickets and sit out in the cold nights and days should be treated better by Croke Park and should be in the centre of the covered stand in all championship games."
Thomas John Vincent Sharvin,
An anonymous caller was anxious to ensure that we, and everyone else would know that, what I can only assume is his club, are most definitely not located in the land of the O'Neill. (Maybe the name threw us). Not in Tyrone now. Got that? Good.
"I just see a wee advertisement about the best coaching initiative in The Irish News and I would just like to make a wee correction on that. And it involves O'Neill's GFC An Port Mor, and it's down here as county Tyrone.
O'Neill's GFC An Port Mor is a county Armagh club, so I was wondering could you correct that for us.
That's county Armagh, not county Tyrone. Thank you very much."
Now for a couple of real digs at The Irish News (you have missed those, haven't you; go on admit it.) and what these two anonymous chaps feel is our manifest bias towards Tyrone in our sports pages.
"I'm looking at The Irish News here – Tuesday's," said the first man.
"Yous are writing about Tyrone. A full back page is taken up – Mickey Harte and his cohorts.
"Here we are again; Thursday – Tyrone again on the back page. Down have got a match this week, try writing about Down. Every week – Tyrone, Tyrone.
"Give Down a shout," he urged, as the line went abruptly dead.
The next guy has re-christened this august publication, such is his ire.
Doesn't he know that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.
You wouldn't catch Off The Fence at that kind of craic.
"I've just had a read through the sports pages of The Irish News," he explained amicably enough, before firing off the following broadside.
"I have to say, even by its normal standards, the ‘Tyrone Irish News' has really and truly gone to town today in the amount of coverage it has given to the Tyrone match, compared to say, for example the coverage of the Armagh match and to a lesser extent the Monaghan match.
"The Tyrone match was just a qualifier like the other matches.
Jesus, you would think Tyrone - the coverage of their match and Mickey Harte and all of that – you'd think they had won the bloody All-Ireland.
"But then of course nothing surprises me any more about the Tyrone Irish News."