There I was, just getting used to the heat (it’s kinda hot here), the food (this is Italy: need I elaborate further?) and the drinks (which have been going down pretty smoothly) and not even Limerick’s brave failure to land the Munster football title nor the Kerrymen’s poxy draw against Longford could upset the sense of something approaching serenity that was settling over me yesterday afternoon. But that was before the texts began to arrive about what had happened to Ronan.
By the sounds of it, he’s played all the football for Mayo in 2009 that he’s going to play. He certainly won’t be ready for the Connacht final, it’s doubtful he’ll be ready for what could be a helter-skelter series of games just after and, even if we make it all the way to the final, it’s likely he’d be struggling to be fit by then as well. No: we need to accept that it’ll be the 2010 NFL before Ronan takes the field for Mayo again and, after his stand-out performance the last day against Roscommon, this is truly a crying shame.
It would be easy, in the circumstances, to rail against playing club championship matches in the middle of the inter-county championship season but I don’t think that any such rant would be justified. The club championship has to be played some time and having the players involved in this kind of action is arguably as beneficial as playing endless inter-county challenge matches. Sure, injuries can occur but, then again, Trevor Howley got clocked in a meaningless kick-around with Meath last year so the club championship can’t really be blamed for the act of thuggery perpetrated yesterday on Ronan.
There’s little point in saying much about the incident itself (there’s plenty of reasoned discussion about it on gaaboard.com), except perhaps to dwell on two things. The first is that I sincerely hope the County Board deal swiftly and effectively with the individual who did this: apparently the match was videoed and so the evidence could be there. If it is and the Board don’t act rapidly to ensure that the perpetrator’s season is ended, in the same way that his cowardly fist ended Ronan’s, then it would be a major dereliction of duty on their part. The second is that, from what I gather, John Maughan appears to have gone a bit overboard in the defence of his man: perhaps it mightn’t be too big of him to admit this before the week is out.
From the perspective of the county team, though, we simply have to move on and see what kind of alternative plans we can come up with for Sunday week. Ronan will be a huge loss, for sure, as there were high hopes that he would command the skies at Salthill on Sunday week in the way that he did to such telling effect at McHale Park in the 2006 decider. In his absence, we got cleaned out at midfield (by Joe bloody Bergin too) in that awful 2007 Salthill encounter, where, in the first twenty minutes of that game, we didn’t win a single ball at midfield and failed to get it into the forward line at all.
With Ronan gone, we need a ball winner in midfield and, for my money, that man has to be Pat Harte. A Heaney-Harte midfield is probably our best option now and I reckon it would make more sense to hand Ronan’s jersey to a seasoned campaigner like Harte (who, as well as being a Stephenite, has a thing to prove to the patrons of Pearse Stadium, given what happened to him there in ’07) than it would to give it to an out-of-sorts Tom Parsons. That leaves a hole in the half-forwards but the man to fill it is surely BJP.
We can still win this Connacht title without Ronan. Sure, we’d win it a hell of a lot easier if we had him in the team but we don’t and we have to plan accordingly. It’s a huge setback, make no mistake, and the fact that, from a county perspective, it’s self-inflicted makes it more difficult to accept. But accept it we must and recognise that this is what we’ve got a big panel of players for. So, chins up, hombres, we can still win on the 19th. In fact, we owe it to Ronan to do so.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, a rather large beer is called for. Caio!