Come on in Joe, the water’s only lovely

Well, at least we’re not the only so-called big guns cast into the wilderness. Joe Kernan’s Armagh joined us in the bear pit yesterday when they surrendered their Ulster title up in Ballybofey. It was, from Armagh’s perspective at least, an unfortunate and more than a little controversial defeat, with Donegal’s last-gasp winning goal having a strong whiff of a square ball about it. Our Kev and Anto Tohill certainly thought as much on last night’s Sunday Game. Armagh had largely controlled what had been up till then a very defence-oriented contest (swarm welcomes being the order of the day) and looked to have got the better of the disappointing league champions until Devenney’s late goal secured a one-point win for the home side. Donegal now face Tyrone and they’ll need a bit more pep in their step if they’re to avoid the bear pit then. Armagh meanwhile are . . . well, in the same boat as ourselves and they’re definitely not the guys we want to meet on July 7th.

Over in Ruislip, the Connacht championship rumbled on without us, with Leitrim having a four-point margin to spare over London. Just to make sure that they wouldn’t embarrass the visitors by beating them, London managed to get two of their lads sent off but still ran them close enough. Galway won’t have to work too hard to get past Leitrim in the semi-final, by the looks of it.

Elsewhere, Micko has already succeeded in fulfilling his promise to Wicklow that he’d deliver them more championship football this Summer than the two outings (1 x Leinster championship, 1 x qualifiers) that they normally get. Yesterday, the Garden county drew for the second successive Sunday with Louth (this time after extra time and all) in the first round of the Leinster championship and, as a result, Micko’s lads are now guaranteed to have had at least four championship matches this Summer. The Maestro strikes again! Mind you, if they lose to Louth at the third time of asking, they still get fecked unceremoniously into the Tommy Cooper (sorry, Murphy) cup without having a crack at the qualifiers first, whereas Louth – who are not, unlike Wicklow, members of the Division 4 underclass – get to join us and other more exalted lads in Sam’s last-chance saloon.

That was all the big ball action but there was a bit of merriment in the hurling down in Thurles where a full-blown schemozzle broke out just after the teams came haring simultaneously out onto the pitch. One of the most endearing aspects of the GAA is that, well over a hundred years after the Association was founded, they still have the capacity to fuck things up royally on big days such as this. I mean what amadan GAA apparatchik instructed the two teams to come out onto the field at the same time, bearing in mind that (a) hurling teams dash out the tunnel at high speed, (b) they’re armed with timber when doing so and (c) the tunnel in question isn’t all that wide? Out they came, the inevitable collision happened and then, once out in the open, a total free-for-all erupted, with all manner of beltin‘ and batin‘ and general bowsiness. This being hurling, I don’t think even a black book was waved in admonishment afterwards.

But the best bit came on the Sunday Game last night, when Pett put on his stern face and started reading out various texts and emails from viewers tut-tutting about what he termed as the “absolute tuggery” that had been witnessed down in Thurles. Corkonian panellist Donal O’Grady disagreed with the notion that the Semple Stadium donnybrook had, in fact, been a bona fide example of thuggery at all. He then went on to define said activity in quite technical terms, i.e. giving someone a sly belt over the head with the hurley from behind or such like. You learn something new every day, I suppose.

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