A day of two games
LAST SUNDAY the finalists for the Senior football championship were decided in Wexford Park.
In a disappointing first game, Fethard overcame a Sarsfields team which started with an impressive opening 15 minutes, but then faded badly after the concession of two goals against the run of play.
Once Fethard got in front they defended heroically and smothered any attacks their opponents tried to create. Darren and Garreth Foley were influential throughout, but the main threat came from John Tubritt who proved to be a handful all day. He performed particularly well considering the absence of ace marksman Kevin Rowe, who is a massive loss to the side. In the end Fethard deserved their victory and finished comfortable winners.
The second game was more entertaining as a spectacle, with some magnificent scores being created by both sides. St. Martin's always looked likely winners as they held the lead for most of the game, and had some talented players in the forward line. An unlikely hero was Richard Devereux, who plundered some great scores, while Jamie Carty, the county Minor captain, was also impressive at corner-forward. Seventeen points is a fine return and they will prove formidable opponents for Fethard in the final.
On Saturday the David Murphy-trained St. Joseph's had a great win in the Junior final, returning to the Intermediate grade for the first time since their re-formation. In his first managerial role he had his team well prepared and well coached. Who knows, we could be looking at a player with a distinguished county career eventually taking over as a county manager?
On the subject of county managers, last week our former coach Jason Ryan was appointed to the top job in charge of Kildare Senior footballers. This is a shrewd appointment by the Lilywhites, as it will go a long way towards appeasing the rebellion within the players' group over the sacking of Kieran McGeeney. When Glenn Ryan withdrew from the race it was really a no-brainer, as Jason will offer continuity after his involvement last year.
The players know how passionate, meticulous and organised he is and will certainly respond. It is also a shrewd move by Jason himself. Kildare have invested heavily in their under-age structures over the past ten years and are now starting to reap the benefits. They are current Leinster champions at Minor and Under-21, so there talent seeping through.
The one thing he will be praying for though, is that within the group of young players Kildare have developed there are a couple of prolific forwards ready to step up to Senior level. The lack of forward power is the achilles heel of Kildare football, but Jason will know that better than most and I am sure he is already working on fixing it. We will watch with great interest how his team develops.
With the International Rules matches taking place over the next two Saturdays, the same problem with club fixtures has cropped up. Yet again the players are the ones to suffer as some of them will be denied the chance to represent their country, which is a rare opportunity for G.A.A. players. Of course, club commitments take priority in any player's mind, as the one medal they all want to win is a Senior championship with their own club. Donegal have refused to move their county final to this Friday night to accommodate Michael Murphy, the Irish captain, instead insisting the game goes ahead on Sunday, the day after the first test match.
I am a fan of the International Rules series and I have gone to it each time it was played in Croke Park. I want to see the best players in the country wearing the Irish jersey. Although the Aussies don't seem to be taking it as serious this time, the G.A.A. has done a great job at marketing the games each time and they have been rewarded with large attendances.
The best Irish players should be made available to play and that means a more accommodating approach by some County Boards. I understand that provincial championships will start shortly and some fixtures cannot be changed, but that is not the case across the country.