In Westmeath’s case, for eight whole weeks till they emerge into the qualifiers at the start of July. The Lakesiders have only themselves to blame, however, by falling into the trap of thinking that all the hard work had been done in the opening 35 minutes of their championship opener against Longford at Pearse Park yesterday, where they went in at the break 1-10 to 0-5 in front.
Longford looked buggered at that point, as did my credibility as a tipster, but Luke Dempsey’s charges were a totally different proposition in the second half and they were, in the end, full value for their 2-13 to 1-13 success. Colm O’Rourke called it right at half-time when he said that Luke would have ordered them to shoot for goals in the second half but also presciently noted that they had the requisite ability to get such scores. While their first was more than a little fortunate – in soccer, the verb used when a goalie fails to claim a ball that’s rightly his is “to spill” – as Westmeath’s keeper made a total hames of (or, if you will, spilled) a Hail Mary ball sent into the square and corner-forward Brian Kavanagh was on hand to bat the rebound to the net. Game back on, as RTE’s Eamonn Horan – in those twee little match summaries he does on the sports news – would say. (Followed rapidly by something like “Luke’s men not beaten yet” or some such non-sequitur.)
If Kavanagh’s first goal was fortunate, his second was pure class. Centre-forward Paul Barden created it, laying off a perfect pass to Kavanagh whose finish was more akin to the Jug-Eared Assassin of the South-West. From then on, there was only going to be one winner and Longford duly obliged, tipping their neighbours into the abyss that is the qualifiers and setting up a Leinster quarter-final tie with Laois.
While the standard left plenty to be desired at times, this was a cracking match and Longford’s comeback from eight points down at the break (we were only six behind Kerry at half-time in the All-Ireland last year for Chrissakes) provided a stirring start to the Summer’s action.
Then I decided the garden needed some TLC so I had to wait till the evening version of the Sunday Game, wit Pett and De Leds, to see de highlights of what was quite a bizarre match between Down and Cavan. Five goals were scored and twice as many goal chances were missed but there seemed a genuine reluctance to shoot for points. Cavan could have won, Down should have won and probably will do so the next day but neither county will light up the Summer, if yesterday’s proceedings are anything to go by.
Meanwhile, over in the Bronx yesterday evening, Sligo recorded an utterly facile win over New York in an utterly pointless Connacht championship “match”. One which generated a stonking big carbon footprint and all. At least Sligo’s next outing, against the Rossies, won’t produce the same adverse environmental effect but it also won’t be quite as easy for them either.
I must say that I enjoyed Pett and De Leds on De Telly last night. On dis occasion, De Leds in question were Dara O Cinneide (a likeable soul, despite the damage he did to us in All-Irelands past), Anthony Tohill (surprisingly awake, perhaps the cattle prods were attached, only out of sight) and our very own Kevin McStay, who lost no time at all in doing the dirt on his native county – backing the Heron Chokers to win next Sunday – and then compounding this by repeating his belief that de Dubs will win Sam this year. Yeah, right and Joe Higgins will be the next Minister for Finance.
Pett pressed De Leds on who would win what dish ear and the answers he got were a bit all over the shop but eventually Dara and Anto plumped for Tyrone to win Sam while our Kev, as I’ve already said, opted for the Dubs. Pett was so amused by this that he got Kev to repeat his prediction which he did, with relish.
The other noteworthy point from last night’s programme – which Pett proudly announced at the outset – was that subtitles were available on Aertel. Yes, the same Aertel that can’t give results on the same day that the matches are played was apparently going to keep up in real-time with Pett’s high-tempo game. I didn’t put it to the test, though I should really have done so to try to decipher what Benny Coulter was saying when he got the MOTM award in the Down v Cavan game. Must remember this for next time.
That’s about it. However, I think yesterday’s meteorological events were highly appropriate and are worth a mention. A dirty big band of rain, which afflicted parts of Munster for the day, extended right across England where the final soporific action of the 2006/7 Premiership season was taking place. It pissed on all those pampered professionals all afternoon, while, back here, the opening shots in our own unique summer’s action were played out under more benign skies. Yes, folks, Summer is here, the Championship is back and, next Sunday in Salthill, it’ll be all hands to the pump.