It’s definitely time to haul the lawnmower out of the shed and see if it’s still working because yesterday the official launch of the U21 championship took place at Croke Park. Before you get unduly alarmed, I don’t intend to toddle off down Philipsburgh Avenue towards Croker with my trusty Honda in tow, it’s just that championship season = grass-cutting season, though, surveying it now, the grass still looks a bit on the mangy side. Are you sure you want to start the U21 action so soon, lads?
They do, apparently, and sponsors Cadbury have already dusted off their bespoke website for the tournament (though I do wish they’d removed that annoying video that loads every time you visit the home page). The Leinster championship gets underway this coming weekend but we don’t start the defence of our Connacht title until the 22nd of March when we play Leitrim in Castlebar (throw-in 2.30 pm). You won’t find that fixture – or, indeed, many of the other fixtures – on the Cadbury site yet: the girls in Morketing at Cadbury still need to get their shit together on it. The divil’s in the detail, girls!
The U21 championship is, of course, one that evokes reasonably warm and happy memories for us. With our four All-Irelands, we’re joint third (along with Tyrone) in the roll of honour, behind Cork on ten and Kerry (boo!) on nine. We’ve also dominated Connacht of late, winning the provincial title for the past two years and last year we utterly destroyed a highly-fancied Roscommon in the decider. That coruscating performance evoked memories in my mind of their 1983 peers, who thumped the Sheepstealers by 2-19 to 1-6 in that year’s Connacht final on the way to winning the All-Ireland later in the year. Last year, however, we came unstuck in the All-Ireland semi-final, losing 0-11 to 0-6 to Laois in a scrappy game marred by a particularly poor refereeing performance by some tosser from Tyrone.
I’m not sure what our chances at U21 are like this year. We’ve had a very barren spell at minor of late – the last Connacht title we won at this grade was back in 2001 – while Roscommon and Galway have won the last two minor All-Irelands. Although a few of our 2006 U21 All-Ireland team are still eligible to play U21 this year, what’s been happening at minor would suggest that our conveyor belt is less laden down with new talent than those of our main rivals in Connacht. Given this, it’ll be interesting to see how far we get in the U21 this year.
I can’t sign off without mentioning Cork (yet again). Their county PRO, Bob Ryan, was on ah um Dessie [pregnant silence] Cahill’s eh ah um radio show on RTE yesterday evening bleating on about sportsmanship (or, more precisely, the lack of it) and the forfeiture of those league points. What planet is this guy on? You’d think, listening to him, that this sorry mess had been created by the other counties whose league fixtures were affected by the Cork saga: they really do believe that the world revolves around them.
Mind you, the loss of the league points has resulted in collateral damage, as John Maughan has correctly pointed out, and he’s right to be fuming about it. They should really have just fucked them out of the league altogether: that would have meant that the distortions created by awarding the points to the likes of Meath and Dublin would have been avoided and it would have had the added benefit of teaching everyone in Cork – players and county board alike – that there’s a very high price to be paid for conducting this kind of street theatre. But this is Cork, of course, so that couldn’t happen or else Frank Murphy would have been on the case with his odd hairdo and his Rule Book.