Off The Fence: In defence of Damian Barton
YOUR feelings on Damian Barton’s Derry reign probably depend on how highly you rate consistency.
The Oak Leafers had good days under the Newbridge man. They won down in Cavan in a thriller. They went to within two minutes of what would have been a first All-Ireland quarter-final in ten years. They had Mayo half-beaten in Castlebar.
All of that despite a crippling turnover of players.
But they were also relegated to Division Three with the fourth worst defensive record in Ireland this year, and had shown no real sign of rectifying that in the long-term.
They were beaten by 11 points at home by Tyrone last year and beaten by the exact same margin this year. Consistency, but not as you’d want it.
‘Dan’ is very much on Damian’s side. Very much. We considered taking his full email and putting ‘Kicking Out’ in the strap in the hope that someone might read that column for once, but decided to just try and squeeze him in here instead.
“Damian Barton has been treated very, very poorly and I feel embarrassed as a proud Derry man, that we're treating one of our own like this.
“Damian's first year in charge was naturally a settling in period. One would see it as progression and most definitely a learning curve moving forward for management and players alike.
“Year two saw a big turnover in players and identified players who had no passion to play for their county. This was a positive [it was?] and Derry could then look forward and plan with players who were committed to the jersey and inspired to represent a proud footballing county.
“Everyone in the country and even the county of Derry were conceding defeat to Mayo. Damian stood up and inspired his players. He firmly believed they could take down the beaten All-Ireland finalists from the year before and they so nearly did and in the process inspired Derry fans about what we might expect for the next year or two. We went to Castlebar and we rattled them, we nearly left with a victory.
“It was clear to me that watching from the stands, I was watching a team that, for the first time all year, had been training with each other with no disruptions and who were confident in their ability. I switch on Facebook on Tuesday night only to see that Damian has parted company with Derry. I could not believe it.
“I'm ashamed to say that Derry’s greater powers have not seemed to recognise that and it genuinely hurts as a lifelong supporter of the Oak Leafs. If Damian is pushed away, I will feel so hurt as a Derry native.
“He has had his hands tied for two years now and he has been kicked out the door to be fed to the dogs. I feel ashamed and embarrassed. This is spoken from the heart of a true Derry native and a lifelong supporter, I hope you can understand my frustration.”
CO’K: Damian’s reign included Championship results that his predecessors failed to achieve. In Castlebar you saw a team with nothing left to lose throw everything at a Mayo side that missed 25 scoring chances and were generally terrible. Derry’s drop in standing through the National League and their woeful defensive record over two years made the county board’s decision somewhat inevitable.
Meanwhile, Armagh go on. They looked out of it after losing to Down but two wins later and they are dreaming of the last eight again.
A big crowd travelled to Mullingar to see them edge past Westmeath, including ‘Dermot’ who wasn’t impressed with the black cards for Jamie Clarke and James Morgan.
“The black card was brought in to stop cynical play as in stopping a goal scoring opportunity. People go to matches to watch talent like Jamie Clarke and for him to get a black card for a tussle off the ball away out the field when there was no goalscoring incident involved was a disgrace. Guys train all year and travel half the country to be sent off after 30 seconds when the ref should have used common sense and just had a word with both players involved. Same with James Morgan didn’t think it was a black card. To lose two of our best players could have cost us in the end from a referee who should be using some common sense. The black card is a joke. It has to go please.”
CO’K: I didn’t see the James Morgan incident, but did see Jamie Clarke’s on The Sunday Game highlights. He can have absolutely no complaint. It was a bodycheck. The rules apply to him the same way they apply to any corner-back. The black card should be kept for the bodycheck only, none of the rest of the offences merit the end of a player’s afternoon.