As we know from last year, being in an All-Ireland semi-final replay doesn’t give much time to pause for breath. There’s still loads going on and being said about Sunday’s drawn match but Saturday evening’s replay is coming rapidly into view so it’s a case of picking and choosing what to focus on in these frantic days in between.
The obvious place to start is with tickets. As has already been flagged in the comments, the Bring a Friend option for season ticket holders came and went in less than half an hour this morning. In my case, the two emails (the first saying the option was open, the second saying it was sold out) arrived into my inbox at the same time but luckily The Brother had tipped me off and so I managed to get my two additional tickets before the shutters came down. Many of you won’t, I know, have been so lucky.
The whole ticket situation already has an air of chaos about it. First there was the downright unfairness of releasing tickets for sale online right after the game while our supporters were still on the road home. Then there was the issue about the tickets.ie site crashing repeatedly on Sunday night and again yesterday.
It wasn’t long yesterday either before the first signs of touting appeared, with tickets being sold on Done Deal and elsewhere for well above face value. And now it’s emerged that this low-life behaviour was facilitated directly by the GAA itself with the official Croke Park ticket office on Dorset Street placing no limit on the number of tickets that could be bought over the counter. Little wonder there were queues round the corner yesterday morning.
Ticket distribution via the clubs still has to happen, of course, but the best anyone can hope for on that score is the same allocation as for last Sunday, if even that. The way things stand, it looks as if getting a ticket for Sunday’s hurling final will be a far easier proposition than it will be for Saturday evening’s replay.
Dublin’s discipline (or the lack of it) is also in focus today. Colm Keys has a good piece in this morning’s Irish Independent (here) on the issue and John Fogarty in the Irish Examiner looks at the lack of discipline in the match in general, by providing a blow-by-blow (pun intended) account of what happened last Sunday and what frees were given (or not as the case may have been).
There are two issues with this. The first relates to Jim Gavin’s Janus-like hypocrisy about how his team plays. Two years ago, Gavin claimed he “would be loathe to think anyone would say Dublin are cynical” and that he’d “take a step back if that was the case”. He also said (think Jonny Cooper and Philly McMahon while you digest this one) that his players have “a duty of care” when playing in the Dublin jersey. The article containing these quotes is here.
All that pious guff from 2013 has, of course, been repeatedly shown to be pure nonsense. But perhaps what’s more worrying (and I’m moving into the health and safety area here) is that Gavin appears to be feigning disbelief at what everyone can see with their own eyes. After Sunday’s game he decried the number of frees given against his team (saying that “for them to get 1-8 from frees is a lot”) and also stated the following:
We are practicing the art of tackling very hard in our sessions. We believe we are doing it the right way but it’s just one of those things that we are going through at the moment. Hopefully we’ll come out on the right side of it.
Art, is it? There was nothing balletic about how Jonny Cooper raked his boot down Diarmuid O’Connor’s leg and I fail to see the artistic merit in much of what Philly McMahon was up to either or indeed the other half-dozen Dublin players who spent most of the day hanging out of our lads’ jerseys.Tackling? Give me a break. The plain truth is that their approach was one based on incessant fouling with at least two of their players – Cooper and McMahon – completely out of control for large stretches of the game.
This brings me to the second point, which is learning the lessons of that ugly evening down in Limerick last year. The cordite was in the air that day too and when a weak-willed incompetent ref who lost complete control of the game was added to the mix, that match became a case of anything goes. I’d have a real fear that, unless Eddie Kinsella has a firm hand on the game from the outset, Saturday’s replay could descend into the same kind of frenzied battle. Balancing self-preservation and the need to maintain discipline – something we succeeded in doing fairly well the last day – will be even more important on Saturday evening.
It won’t be just our players who’ll need to steel themselves either. The Upper Cusack last Sunday wasn’t a very pleasant place to be, especially with two kids, and I’m not expecting it to be any more convivial the next day. For any Dublin person reading this, I’d ask you to flip the image to one of having to travel to Castlebar to go to a match where you’re hugely outnumbered in a playing arena holding more than 80,000 people and where every decision that goes against the home team, most of these for obvious fouls, is met with a stream of invective and a chorus of booing and whistling.
Which brings us back to the tickets issue and all that. Last Sunday I’d say we were outnumbered 70:30 in Croke Park, not because we’re bad supporters but just because of the demographics, logistics and so forth. If anything, the balance will tip more in Dublin’s favour the next day – for anyone up here, the match is just a few hours out of the day while for our supporters it’s the whole day gone (and all the expense this entails) – and having an even louder mob baying them on won’t exactly discourage Jim Gavin and his whiter-than-white charges from showing more about what their esprit de corps truly entails. As I’ve already said, Eddie Kinsella needs to crack down hard and early the next day if we’re to have any chance of seeing anything resembling a proper football match.
There’s plenty of other stuff in the papers today, I know, but I’ll have to gallop through it as I’m out of time right now. Here’s a quick round-up.
Irish Examiner – John Fogarty on why Diarmuid Connolly’s ban should be upheld (though I’m expecting it won’t), Sylvester Hennessy on the key stats from the last day.
Irish Times (usual caution re pay-wall) – Jim McGuinness’s column.
There’s the Mayo News too, I know, but no time for that right now.
Get behind the lads ahead of the replay: go to the Mayo GAA website (here) and click ‘Play Now’ to contribute to the cause via the Mayo GAA Players Training and Welfare Fund Lotto.