It’s hard to know what to make of Marty Clarke’s outburst about the conditions at McHale Park on Saturday night and his observation – a rather transparent case of stating the bleedin’ obvious – that Mayo in February pales by comparison to Melbourne.
I guess, to be fair to the lad, once you get a whiff of that kind of life in your nostrils – and Clarke was clearly valued as an exciting prospect Down Under – coping with the reality of league football on a wet night in early February on this side of the planet is always going to make you yearn for what must seem like an idyllic existence over there. Marty won’t be the first person in history to dream about greener grass on the other side of the hill.
The odd thing, though, is that he’s now back a while from Australia and he played for Down for all of last year’s league campaign so it’s not as if he doesn’t know about the conditions a man is likely to encounter playing football at this time of year. And he would, I’m sure, have been aware that it pissed down rain right across the country for all of Friday night and a good bit of Saturday, which meant they was a good chance that you might encounter a puddle or two around McHale Park that evening. (If he’d travelled down via Ballymoe he’d have seen plenty of water, with the Suck having burst its banks leaving the road to Castlerea perilously close to being engulfed).
I think he’s right about the playing surface, which looked poor enough (and I see that Mark Ronaldson concurs with Marty on this point) but, again, this is early February after one of the harshest winters we’ve had in decades so it can’t be a huge surprise that the pitch was difficult to play on.
He also has a point where he bemoans the small attendance and, as one of the lads on gaaboard.com said, the crowd (which numbered a bit over 6,000) looked significantly smaller on television than it did being there on the night. It was, though, a far bigger crowd than you’d get if the match had been played the following afternoon and while Marty can sigh all he wants about playing in front of 60,000 punters, Saturday night’s encounter was never going to be a sell-out occasion.
The hard truth for Marty is that much of the league is played out in front of small crowds in conditions that aren’t exactly conducive to flowing football. That’s just the way it is and while we’d all love to be watching league football being played in weather like they have in Melbourne, that ain’t going to happen any time soon. Marty will, however, get to play in one glamour fixture in this year’s NFL campaign as the Mournemen are due to face the Dubs under the lights at Croke Park on 2nd April. That one may draw the 60,000 crowd that Marty aches for and his side will need him to be in top form that evening too in what should be an interesting tussle between the two nearly teams of 2010. There’ll be precious little time for mooning about Melbourne when that one comes around but, of course, that’s providing he hasn’t packed his bags and headed off back to the Antipodes by then.