Off The Fence

Off The Fence: "Who needs marquee forwards when you have a marquee team?"

Tyrone fans are in good voice in the aftermath of their team's demolition of Donegal

THERE are a lot of isms in the GAA these days, but none greater than reactionism.

This is the era where everything half decent is bloody unbelievable to the point where “you have to see what Joe Canning did, it’ll break the internet”.

Any team that loses a game is a disgrace to the jersey and the proud tradition of Cork / Kilkenny / Tyrone / Donegal / Meath / Derry (delete as applicable).

And so Tyrone spent three months prior to Sunday being told they’re a poor imitation of a team, and the last four days planning the homecoming for the third Monday in September.

Beyond some witticism, ‘Square Ball 57’ makes a fine perception about Tyrone’s perceived lack of perceived marquee forwards.

“I was going to write in to OTF to complain about the allocation of seats to season ticket holders, that is row C for both Derry & Donegal matches (more on that later), but if Tyrone can replicate that display last Sunday I will gladly sit on the step at Row A in future.

“Being close up was quite entertaining last Sunday seeing at close hand Rory Gallagher doing his audition for a Listermint advert, with the bottle, slurping, sloshing and spitting.

“Watching Rory's assistant Maxi running about the pitch reminded me of the wee dogs that used to run on to pitch during matches, and a brave player would manage to grab the offending canine by the scuff of the neck and hand it to a steward, funny you never see that now.

“Anyway the match itself, most pundits prior to the match were opting for the young boys of Donegal and the day that was in it, to just scrape through, including a renowned QC.

“Post match analysis, the young boys then became youngsters and their inexperience let them down. There was a lot of talk that Tyrone have no marquee forwards, but who needs marquee forwards when you have a marquee team? Twelve different scorers including the goalkeeper and most from play, not a bad return.”

Someone better tell Brian McGuigan to get back up home early on the Monday.

‘Tyrone fan’ just couldn’t resist a bit of a gloat in the style of Bjørge Lillelien, only slightly more reserved.

“Brolly, Hegarty et al - you boys took a hell of a beating!”

You can call Joe many things but calling him a Donegal man crosses the line. That’s not on.

‘Always a Tyrone fan’ was one of the season ticket holders that came on to complain about his vantage point in St Tiernach’s Park.

“A great day for Tyrone fans was spoiled by the unfair allocation of season tickets. I and a number of others had to move behind the goals to get a view. You’d think fans that got their season tickets in December would be appreciated and not abused. I hope the tickets for The Irish News competition were not our good tickets.”

Ideally all the season ticket holders would be accommodated in the best seats in the house. But the Gerry Arthurs Stand holds 2,400 people. Between Donegal and Tyrone, there were 2,500 season ticket holders. Then take in Derry and Antrim needing an allocation for the minor game, the players from the participating counties, the usual half-time games and extra seats needed to accommodate carers with the GAA for All teams that played at half-time, and it can’t all fit. And while Ulster Council sort the seating arrangements, Croke Park’s main sponsors (SuperValu etc) all have to be accommodated as well. That’s not to say there is no issue – but your beef is with the GAA promising something they cannot deliver within the stadia they have.

‘John from Silverbridge’, meanwhile, was torn between an afternoon in front of the TV and one out supporting his club.

“The club is not the bedrock of the association in Armagh [is it anywhere any more?]. Obviously the Armagh county board don't think an awful lot of club players and their supporters in the county, On Sunday past they had a complete round of fixtures at the same time as the Ulster semi-final between Donegal and Tyrone. Do they not think that club players and supporters might want to go to that game or even watch it on TV. No doubt members of the county board would not be at a club fixture themselves as they were probably in Clones with their free passes.”

It’s the same in every county. I had to leave the Ulster final two years ago at half-time to get home to play a club game. I’m thinking of starting a serious campaign for Saturday evening club football.

This week’s edition of OTF wouldn’t be complete without reference to Bloodgate, which is provided by ‘North Belfast Gael’.

Sligo’s Mark Breheny took a sore one on Saturday evening against Antrim, no doubt, but Niall Carew’s side took full use of the loophole in the blood replacement rule that allows for unlimited changes.

“If a player who comes off for a blood sub and does not come back on then surely it should become a permanent substitution rather than a temporary one.

“It seems that counties are using the rule to suit themselves and, although they are staying within the rulebook, it is the lack of morality surrounding it which concerns me as a county could technically (I know it's incredibly unlikely) replace their entire starting line-up.

“Heaven forbid we get to the stage where an incident similar to the infamous rugby Heineken Cup 'bloodgate' occurs where counties knowingly manipulate the rules with scant regard for any kind of sportsmanship; it's time for the GAA to limit a blood sub to a defined period, possibly maybe 10 mins, you'd think if you can't stop the flow of blood in that time then you may give up.

“And by the way, Mark Breheny came off because he was injured and could no longer play on, the fact that he was bleeding was a secondary issue."

Sligo aren’t the first to abuse the rule and they won’t be the last. I agree it should become a full sub but even that is open to abuse – what’s to stop the losing team starting a free-for-all with two minutes to go, bursting a few faces and leaving no time for the clean-up operation? One word of caution though: Making a blood replacement where this is no blood can lead to a 48-week suspension.

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