FFS - WTF do people expect from the GAA football quarter-finals?
I’M not sure where Ireland ranks on the list of ‘the world’s most dissatisfied nations’ - and factoring in the very existence of Northern Ireland undoubtedly only increases the dissatisfaction of many.
Like definitions of ‘poverty’ which include the lack of a foreign holiday – by which standard I was on the breadline for a few years there – the criteria for such surveys are very influential.
In other words, if you set the bar very high it can be easy to perceive ‘failure’.
Yet in the name of whichever God you pray to, whatever your politics are, there’s no dobut we’re an awful bunch of moaners here, on this island, aren’t we? There’s nothing that would actually make many (some) people happy because they’re only happy when they’re griping about something.
And the moaningest minnies of all are in the GAA.
It includes many of the type of people who would complain if you handed them a bag of free money – because they had to carry it home.
In fact, when I see those three letters ‘GAA’, three (or is it two?) more come to mind. FFS. Or another three: WTF?
Apparently the new football format has been a failure – simply because it hasn’t been as good as a fantastic new-look hurling championship, generally accepted as having been the most exciting incarnation of that championship for at least 20 years.
The ‘so-called Super Eights’ supposedly haven’t lived up to their title (even though that’s not actually what the GAA call it; it’s still the All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals).
What did people expect? Seriously?
Thrill-a-mongous games a-plenty?
There’s far too much time, money, effort, and – yes – coaching put into football for anyone sensible to genuinely expect free-flowing games between the top teams.
The reality is that you only get such matches between lesser sides, counties that are not in serious contention for the Sam Maguire Cup.
If you really think it can be otherwise then you’re heading towards Tony Davis territory, aka Cloud Cuckoo Land, from which area of limited oxygen supply the then RTE pundit declared after the tremendous 2005 All-Ireland semi-final between Tyrone and Armagh that he preferred to watch the Tommy Murphy Cup Final between Tipperary and Wexford which had preceded it.
There was actually only one more score in the Tipp-Wexford game, but if you didn’t enjoy Tyrone-Armagh you didn’t have a pulse. Or a brain. Or were from Armagh (or Derry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, and all those other places that don’t like Tyrone).
I repeat, what do people expect? Seriously?
Dublin, arguably the best team ever, suddenly being dragged back down into the back and given a good beating?
As my da would say, a blind man on a galloping horse could see that the Dubs would stroll into the All-Ireland semi-finals; they’ve been doing it all this decade.
Besides, if Dublin weren’t there, how many, many people would be dissatisfied?
I accept that Tyrone also being there annoys the life out of many, many people but, as one of my sporting heroes, John McEnroe would say: ‘Suck. It. Up.’
Monaghan-Kildare, Kildare-Galway, Tyrone-Dublin, Monaghan-Kerry, and Donegal-Tyrone have all been closely-fought, entertaining matches. Those last two were great IMNSHO. One could also argue that Galway-Kerry was closely-fought and that Dublin-Donegal and Kerry-Kildare were entertaining.
Yet even if you only accept those first five, that’s still almost half of the 12 matches in the ‘good to great’ category.
And that’s far more entertainment than we’ve had from All-Ireland football quarter-finals in recent seasons.
Don’t believe me?
There was only one really competitive quarter-final last year (the Mayo-Roscommon draw), one in 2016 (Mayo-Tyrone), and another in 2015 (Tyrone-Monaghan).
Sure there were two (Mayo-Cork and Donegal-Armagh) in 2014, arguably three (Kerry-Galway) but that means there’ve been as many good football games at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage this year as in the previous four seasons put together. OK, there have been more matches, but to listen to some people you’d think there’s only been one good one again.
And who did everyone want to be involved in the semi-finals (apart from their own county obviously)?
Anyone who follows GAA but who isn’t excited and happy about Monaghan being in the All-Ireland Football semi-finals either has a heart of stone or is from Cavan, or both.
Galway are there for the first time in 17 years. Seventeen. SEVENTEEN.
That’s Galway. Third on the All-Ireland SFC roll of honour, behind only Kerry and Dublin; and apart from those two, only Cork have been in more All-Ireland senior finals. Yet the Tribesmen have under-achieved since the last time football got a new format, and have failed to make the last four since 2001 despite winning five Connacht championships between then and now.
So a sleeping giant has awoken and people are cribbing because they lost a game they didn’t need to win (or even draw) against one of the four best teams in the country?
And another blooming thing, we do have the best four teams in the country in the semi-finals - shouldn’t that be celebrated?
Yet, somewhat strangely, this is also arguably the most unexpected set of semi-finalists for 14 years, since Fermanagh and Derry joined Mayo and Kerry in the 2004 last four.
The All-Ireland SFC semi-finals for the past five seasons have largely been about
Dublin, Mayo, Kerry, and Tyrone; factor in Donegal and the only other county involved in the last four since 2010 has been Tipperary two years ago.
And people are bored?
This time around neither Mayo nor Kerry are involved in the last four. So there’s a 50 per cent change in the make-up of the semi-finalists, including a county there for the first time in 30 years, another for the first time since 2001, and some (many) people are still whining?
Give me strength.
Yes, perhaps the format is a bit ‘arse about face’, with a league after a knock-out, followed by more knock-out, but it’s better than what we’ve had recently.
Yes, the stronger are getting stronger and the weaker are getting weaker, but that’s not the fault of the so-called ‘Super Eights’, rather it’s due in large part to the shift from the A and B format in the National Football League a decade ago.
The atmospheres in Clones for Monaghan-Kerry and Ballybofey for Donegal-Tyrone were electric.
We’ll be cooking with gas when Monaghan and Tyrone meet in Croke Park on Sunday, and Dublin-Galway will be intriguing too.