It’s been a hectic few days since we got back to the land of the perma-frost, with work rearing its ugly head almost the minute we collapsed through the front door, but I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things. Can I interest anyone in some silage, by the way? I cut the grass yesterday evening and I’ve got so much of the bloody stuff that I think I’ll get the lads with the baler in later on to complete the job.
Later on last night, I finally got to sit down and watch a full re-run of the Connacht final. I haven’t got a huge amount to add to what you’ve all been saying about the game over the last few days – and I’d concur in the main with An Spailpín’s take on it – but I was, I must admit, happier about the match having actually seen what happened. (Well, information about any topic is generally a good thing).
It sure was a battle, with both teams doing everything to nullify the other by packing their defences, pulling and dragging and blocking runners and all that kind of fun and games. To be fair to the ref, it must have been no picnic to officiate and, when you look at some of the dire refereeing performances we’ve had to put up with in recent years, I don’t think Cormac Reilly did all that much to feature in that particular rogue’s gallery.
The disallowed goal was an important decision but it was, in truth, a call that could have gone either way. The wider problem is, of course, the way in which this rule is applied: if Cillian’s handpass was a foul then so too were at least fifty others that were executed on the day. There was one in particular for Sligo – when Adrian Marren was fed for a first-half point – that was for all the world like the kind lateral handpass you’d see in rugby. Personally, I think every kind of handpass bar using the closed fist should be outlawed but Congress, in their infinite wisdom, have given us this dog’s dinner of a rule instead and refs are left with the impossible task of ruling what’s in and what’s out.
The other thing that struck me was in relation to the corner forwards where I felt we didn’t do as badly as so many seem to think. Enda Varley had a very frustrating day but I’d put this down to a combination of hospital passes into him combined with the suffocating nature of the Sligo defence. If he had been given any kind of decent ball inside, he’d surely have hit the target a few times but every time he was fed the ball he was swallowed up by a ruck of black shirts. Jason Doherty, meanwhile, did plenty of useful link work further out from goal – in the process setting up a number of clear scoring chances – and never really acted as an out-and-out corner-forward. I’d say there’s a good chance we’ll go with the same formation again in the quarter-final, though I’d agree that Cillian would be better suited to the inside line.
Our failure to take those easy point-scoring chances late in the first half clearly made the job harder for us to complete. A few of the goal attempts were just hopelessly naïve – did Barry Moran really think that his shot from that distance was going to reach the target? – but the great thing was that once Sligo had achieved their initial aim of dragging us into a scrap, we were more than happy to give as good as we got in the ensuing battle and then had enough in the tank to edge away from them in the closing stages.
So, with the Nestor Cup once more in the bag all we can do now is sit back, enjoy the cat-fighting in the qualifiers – I’m really looking forward to tomorrow evening’s do-or-die clash down in Killarney – and wait for the quarter-final draw. Given the Round 3 and 4 qualifier pairings, that’ll potentially pitch us against Kerry or Tyrone (I’m leaning slightly towards the former in that one), Kildare (assuming they make it through but one assumes The Fourth Best Team in the Country will be able to do this), Meath (assuming they lose to Dublin which I think is likely, though only after a right battle) or Down (assuming Donegal win, which I think they will).
I wouldn’t really have any preference out of that lot or indeed anyone else who might spring from the qualifier pot – we could, on our day, potentially beat any of them but then again any of them could just as easily put a halt to our gallop. That’s the beauty and brutality of knockout championship football, I guess.
PS: You may have noticed that the pictures on the slideshow have been updated – my thanks to Mayo Mick, from whose treasure trove of photos I’ve taken the selection I’ve used both in this piece and in the slideshow above. The one of Andy hoisting the cup is courtesy of The Brother.