Before today’s action you’d be forgiven for failing to know that the Championship was back with us (though the weather would be a bit of a giveaway). However, with two of the main contenders in Ulster facing off in Ballybofey this afternoon, where Derry edged past Donegal, and with Meath sensationally losing their way down in Carlow against Wexford, it really felt like the first real Championship Sunday of the summer. I mean, there’s no better sign that the Championship is back on than when you start to see potential provincial champions join the queue for the qualifiers, where a nice long wait of several weeks lies ahead of such unfortunates. After last year, we know all about such a fate.
Donegal can’t really have any complaints about their loss today, though had Marty Duffy (or any of the other dozy officials on duty in Ballybofey) seen Fergal Doherty’s clear strike on one of the Donegal lads with twenty minutes to go, it could have been a different story. I was fairly disappointed with Derry too – they didn’t look much like Ulster champions or All-Ireland contenders on today’s wasteful and, at times, quite ponderous performance and smarter teams than Donegal will be able to blunt Paddy Bradley’s influence more effectively.
But the main story of the day was Wexford’s absolutely extraordinary comeback against Meath down at Dr Cullen Park in Carlow. I can’t recall a comeback of this magnitude ever before in a Gaelic football Championship match (hurling, sure but not in football): Meath were 2-12 to 0-8 up with 20 minutes left, looking home and hosed. They would have been too, had Joe Sheridan’s perfectly good goal not been disallowed but once Wexford got the bit between their teeth, the way they blasted Meath out of it was quite a sight to behold. Corner forward Ciaran Lyng’s points were as impressive as they were important and their two goals – the second from PJ Banville (a relative of John’s, surely?) – came at just the time they were needed. Then, right on cue, two fabulous Matty Forde points secured a win for the Yella Bellies that will live long in the memory.
I can’t sign off without mentioning once again the set on The Sunday Game. That odd stuff on the screen behind Pett’s head is back again, I see, and, really, what the fuck is the crack with those retro-style couches? But I suppose, like the wonderful sound of Michael O Muircheartaigh on the radio and the early ejection of big guns from the provincial championships, strange-looking sets on The Sunday Game have long been part of the Irish summer.