Off The Fence

Off The Fence: Paranoia, suspicion, outrage, misplaced optimism, over-the-top criticism... Off The Fence is back

'MOR' wasn't happy at being asked to pay £9 into Sunday's Dr McKenna Cup opener against Queen's

WELCOME to the first Off The Fence of 2017 – the rebirth of the readers’ column where you, yes you, no… not you, yer man with the bright red face jabbing his finger in that other fella’s face, have carte blanche to vent your spleen and let rip about whatever sporting issue is grinding your gears.

Feel you could do a better job of managing your county team than the current man in charge? Think that lazy number 11 you watched from the sidelines on Sunday needs told a few home truths?

Want to be the man or woman who hands out that dose of reality while hiding behind a pseudonym so the person in question has to guess (and they will) who their secret criticis? No problem! You’ve come to the right place. Throw those stones from behind a rock, we don’t mind!

Even if you don’t feel comfortable leaving a voicemail, sending an email or posting on social media, stay strong in the knowledge that plenty of others will.

So for those have been starved of their weekly diet of paranoia, suspicion, outrage, misplaced optimism, over-the-top criticism and the occasional praiseworthy comment, welcome back.

FIRST up is an email from ‘MOR’ who is not happy with the price of entry into Dr McKenna Cup games – or the ID check from ticket sellers in Downpatrick on Sunday.

Take it away…

“I am just wondering is the Ulster Council on the same planet as us ordinary folk charging £9 into basically challenge games,” said ‘MOR’.

“A fiver would be ample going to Downpatrick to watch a Down team that’s looking for players and trying to gather up a team. Should they not be trying to get a decent crowd rather than charging the same people that go every week?

“And to the guys in the van selling tickets, would someone tell them to grow up arguing if a lad is U16 or a student. That van man knows who he is - he was nearly looking for DNA.”

A worthy opening comment in 2017 ‘MOR’. Perhaps some form of strip search should be introduced in future? Or dental records?

I’m inclined to agree regarding the price of tickets - £9 is plenty for the National League, but a bit much for the McKenna Cup when GAA punters everywhere are still coming to terms with their Christmas outlay.

WE’RE warming up rightly here, and next to have their say is an anonymous emailer who has all kinds of concerns about the Derry hurlers enlisting two new recruits from Dublin.

It was confirmed last week that brothers Naoise and Cian Waldron, whose mother is from the Loup, had decided to declare for the Oak Leafs under new boss Collie McGurk.

It should be noted that the Waldrons currently play their club hurling for reigning Leinster champions Cuala – yes, that’s the same Cuala who play, yes, Slaughtneil from, yes, Derry in the All-Ireland club semi-final in, yes, February.

Anybody else’s Spidey sense tingling? Our contributor - who may or may not be (but definitely is) from Slaughtneil - has gone all Jessica Fletcher by providing his own conspiracy theory.

“Am I the only one that can’t understand the recent developments in Derry hurling?” asks our emailer.

“We are now bringing in Johnny foreigners under the Jack Charlton rule. Okay I can understand it if we had no hurlers but we have six very strong clubs in senior and a number of other decent players scattered across the county.

“Does no-one else find it ironic that the first time in a million years that a Derry club stands proudly at the top of the club tree in Ulster that we are now away looking for Dubs to help us?

“Maybe it’s because it is my own club that sits top of the pile and the two players in question are coming from the team we are about to play in the All-Ireland semi-final that I am most annoyed at.

“Are the management having a laugh? Do they think these Dub lads won’t come up and find out all about our team and players?

“I feel this is equally strange in its timing and circumstances. The icing on the cake surely has to be that the two men in charge of running the Derry team are also responsible for the development of hurling in the province - can they seriously stand over leaving two Derry/Ulster lads off a team or a panel in order to bring in two Dubs?”

You’ve given this a bit of thought, haven’t you? It’s an interesting point you raise, one that certainly hadn’t occurred to me, and I’m not sure it’s fair to heap that level of suspicion upon either the Waldrons or the Derry management.

The Slaughtneil players surely aren’t involved with the Derry panel at this stage because of the aforementioned All-Ireland semi-final, so information for the brothers to bring back to mission control could be short on the ground.

Collie McGurk only came in before Christmas and is obviously casting the net far and wide to see what players are available for Derry, as the county hurlers haven’t always been able to call upon all the players they would want. Is that not fair enough? 

MOVING away from hurling, ‘Pete from Fermanagh’ (hold on, Pete, is that you?) has got in touch to voice his concern that the fielding of U21 teams could soon spell the end of Gaelic football’s pre-season competitions.

He said: “Having seen the results of both Donegal and Kerry at the weekend after fielding a full team of U21 players, coupled with the fact that both will probably perform well in the league series, I have to say that I'd be fearful that more teams will adopt this stance next year which could, in essence, put the final nail in the McKenna/O’Byrne/McGrath cups.

“On a side note, I was in Clones on Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed a hard-hitting, high-quality, competitive match which, on the contrary, had many players on show who I would also expect to see starting for both Fermanagh and Monaghan come the Championship preliminary round in May.”

Only you can decide who starts for the Ernemen that day ‘Pete’ 

AND finally, ‘Dermot Spollen’ brings us a bit of post-Christmas positivity to bat away those January blues. You see, ‘Dermot’ isn’t just excited about Kieran McGeeney’s Armagh this year, he’s really excited.

‘Dermot’ said: “I’m really excited (told you) with Armagh this year.

“We have the O Fiaich Cup already won and, although a small trophy, it will still give lads a boost pre-season.

“It’s the return of Dyas, Jamie Clarke, Tony Kernan, Ethan Rafferty, James Morgan and the like which makes me think Armagh can go places this season. I hope Geezer picks his strongest hand for each game and I wish all the boys and management well.

“We in Armagh are behind you Geezer.”

Good man ‘Dermot’. I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but you do know they lost to Derry at the weekend? Just sayin’... 

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