A Bit of a Rant

Apologies in advance.  A ball hasn’t been kicked, hand passed or thrown in and yet the blood pressure is already too high for my own good.  Bad enough that this game was being talked about before the quarter finals had been played, a fact that appears to have irked Jim McGuinness, but some of what is being said is pissing me off no end.

This is being billed as a clash of styles with the winner ‘proving’ that their brand of football is superior and should be the model for every team at every age level in the future.  It’s essentially been building since that (in)famous day in 2011, but there are wider issues here.  I feel a rant coming on.

The idea that there is a ‘right way’ to play football at this level is utter shite to me.  The right way to play is playing to win.  This isn’t under 10s where everyone gets a medal and it isn’t club football where you play because of a deep loyalty to your community or a desire to keep fit, this is intercounty where winning is everything.  Players don’t give what they are required to give so that we can ooh and ah, they commit so that we can have pride in our county.  I have no time for the notion that ‘sports = entertainment’ – if you want that sort of game, go to the College Football game the day before (‘The Croke Park Classic’ if you don’t mind) and enjoy the half time show and marching band or just watch the WWE.  One thing that sticks in my mind from 2011 is the Dublin supporters (well, not all of them of course) booing us for, well, playing the game as we saw fit.  Were they not entertained?

Equally, I can’t stand watching teams that turn up just to play.  Have a plan.  Have a system.  Tackle hard.  Show a bit of intensity.  Give me a game where two teams slug it out and the winner earns it and the loser can feel they have given their all.  I don’t care what the score is or how many foot passes there are.  ‘Puke football’ to me is where a team doesn’t compete to the best of their ability.  Or at team that can’t execute the basics like passing and shooting.  I have no time for any fool that rants about defensive football, or worse again, ‘Ulster football’.   The game was ruined long before either of these phenomena emerged.

Now, here’s a shocking revelation.  I like watching this Dublin team play.  They have very talented players and just as importantly, tremendous athletes.  Now, that’s all well and good when they are sailing through Leinster or facing off against a Kerry team that tried to beat them using cuteness and skill but ultimately fell short due to a lack of athletes, but when they have been faced with a team like Mayo or Donegal, they find it considerably more difficult to express themselves.  But it’s not just talent and athleticism; they play with a high level of intensity.  Their full court press is awesome to watch.

In the same way as I admire Jim McGuinness for what he has done for Donegal, I have great time for Jim Gavin for what he has done for Dublin – he is winning games and inspiring their supporters.  One of the key differences is that Dublin were already on an upward trajectory when Jim Gavin took over whereas Donegal were in dire straits.  Still, you could argue Jim McGuinness had much less to lose whereas Jim Gavin was taking over a team that had just won an All Ireland.  Both men have done an excellent job for their respective counties.

On the flip side of all this love for the Dubs, there are now memes doing the rounds mentioning 1992.  What happened 22 years ago matters a hell of a lot less than what happened in 2011 but sure carry on regardless. Clowns.   Back in 1992, there wasn’t really the concept of ‘Ulster football’ that exists today.  Despite Down winning the All Ireland the year before, the Golden Era for Ulster teams in the All Ireland hadn’t really become apparent (Down in 1991 and 1994, Donegal in 1992, Derry in 1993 and Tyrone came oh so close in 1995) and so Donegal were definitely flying in under the radar, especially after a none too convincing semi final win over Mayo.  The chances of this Dublin team underestimating us or appearing any way arrogant are virtually nil.  Same way as we haven’t underestimated any championship opposition.  It’s what well managed teams don’t do.  We might shock them with our intensity, but that’s only because they haven’t faced a true test in the championship to date.  But they will know where they are at – of that I am pretty sure.

There are also a lot of tired arguments circulating about how to deal with the dominance of the Dubs, their massive resources and their unfair advantage of playing so many of their games in Croke Park.  Dublin may be dominant in Leinster, but they are far from it at national level.  Now, maybe in five years time, I’ll think differently.  For now, Dublin are not in the same league as the Kerry footballers of the 70s and 80s or the Kilkenny hurlers of the last decade.  Heck, even Tyrone were as dominant at underage and senior level in the previous decade.   Nothing was done to dampen the dominance of those teams, so why should there be anything done about Dublin?  The only case I can think of is that Dublin is now one of the few places to find work in this broken and bankrupted country and so the population will continue to grow while rural communities stagnate.  But that’s a much bigger problem.   It could just be that they have a very talented and hard working group of players at present.  There’s no guarantee that they will be able to replace the likes of Cluxton, MDMA, Flynn and Connolly with players of similar talent.

The money argument is harder for me to have an opinion on.  I don’t truly know how much money is funnelled to each county and from where.  Sure, the Dubs have a lucrative sponsorship deal with AIG, and we know how much funding they receive from the GAA central fund, but that’s all that’s fit to print really.  They are one of the few counties that are competing at the highest level in both codes, which surely means that not all resources are being pumped into football, e.g. the hurling manager Anthony Daly is an ‘outsider’ whereas Jim Gavin is Dublin based.  Perhaps other counties may have to work harder to raise funds – I saw a tweet last night from Carndonagh GAA club where they had raised just over EUR 2,000 for the Donegal Training Fund from a bucket collection – fair play to them, and to all the clubs that undertake such excellent work.  Are such initiatives common in Dublin also?  The biggest issue I have in terms of the resources available to the Dubs is that there will be a ‘national’ centre of excellence developed in Blanchardstown.  Who will get most use of that facility?

Then we have the Croke Park argument?  Blame the greed of the Leinster Council, not the Dubs.  Most of the true blues I have spoken too love the idea of championship away days.  It is an advantage to them playing there so often, there’s no denying that.  But they are merely playing the hand they are dealt.  Maybe the rest of Leinster wouldn’t be so wretched if they took the Dubs out of their comfort zone every so often, eh? 

And then Jim McGuinness came out with his ‘Abramovich’ quote.  In fairness, he was asked a question and he answered it, but his response was certainly going to provoke a reaction. Whether this was purely innocent choice of words or was deliberately designed to take attention away from, say, Karl Lacey’s fitness or Colm McFadden’s form is a moot point.  But, it’s going to be used as a rod to beat us severely over the next couple of weeks.

I’ll be back during the week with a more conventional preview of the game – you know, a few random stats, a bit of emotional guff and a prediction.  But I just wanted to get a few things off my chest in the meantime.

 In saying all of the above, that new AIG ad makes it just a bit easier to dislike the sight of that blue jersey.

Until Victory, Always.

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