Thursday 19 September 2019

Hard to find positives in negative approach

Weird Wide World of Sport

Rory Brennan of Tyrone is tackled by Anthony Thompson of Donegal during the Ulster final
Rory Brennan of Tyrone is tackled by Anthony Thompson of Donegal during the Ulster final

Dave Devereux

I slumped on to the sofa on Sunday afternoon to watch the Ulster football final with the same sort of trepidation as when sitting in the dentist's chair to get a filling.

What I've seen of Gaelic football in the northern province, or any province for that matter, of late didn't exactly raise the hopes for an enthralling contest.

Sadly, the last ten minutes apart, it lived up to expectations and my fears of a hard to watch game were firmly founded.

In fairness the Ulster championship is the only provincial competition that's competitive. Galway may have wrested the Connacht crown away from Mayo this year but we will see a return to the norm next year no doubt.

There's no denying that the atmosphere and colour in Clones was fantastic as the clock ticked down to match time, but there was always the suspicion that the football wouldn't match the occasion.

The first-half was as bad as it gets - the quality was dreadful, but more surprisingly it lacked the intensity you'd expect from an Ulster showpiece and the pace was more pedestrian than a Sunday afternoon on Grafton Street.

There were more wides on show than watching a drunken bowler on a cricket pitch and more wild shots than a raucous stag do in Westport.

Neither team looked interested in getting within an ass's roar of goal - it was like some higher being had placed an impenetrable force field on the 40.

If you switched over to the action from The Open at Royal Troon you wouldn't see as many below par performances.

Even referee David Coldrick was caught up in the malaise with some questionable decisions, and if he gets a Christmas card from Mickey Harte it will certainly be of the black variety.

The first-half wides tally greatly exceeded the number of scores with blanket defences reducing both sides to short handpasses and hopeful shots at the posts from distance.

Given the conditions the lack of quality was all the more bewildering - the play was condensed into an area not much bigger than the matchday programme and there was more shite on show than in a field full of Friesians, with the odd moment of magic from Ryan McHugh and Odhrán Mac Niallais preventing us from being swamped in a quagmire of cow dung.

Thankfully, sitting through the dross was almost worth it when Tyrone eventually threw off the shackles and the much-hyped final, that turned out to be more of a cringeworthy rom-com than a blockbuster thriller, at least had a rip-roaring finish before the final credits rolled.

Speaking of rolling, after a quiet first-half Seán Cavanagh certainly rolled back the years after the interval and drove his side on to victory.

Tyrone were certainly in need of inspiration, given that with the watch reading 53 minutes their top scorer was goalkeeper Niall Morgan with two points.

It's so frustrating watching teams that contain obviously talented players that aren't allowed to express themselves due to the overbearing fear of losing.

Mercifully as the game headed towards injury time it finally blossomed, with all the excitement reserved for the frantic finish.

With scores hard to come by it looked like Michael Murphy's free with less than two minutes remaining could well have won it for Donegal, but seconds later Daniel McCurry equalised.

Again Donegal got their noses in front when Christy Toye split the posts, but cometh the hour, cometh the man and Seán Cavanagh drew Tyrone level in injury time.

When Michael Murphy stood over a 50-metre free deep into time added on Donegal could have snatched it but his effort drifted wide and we were then treated to a peach of a point from Peter Harte at the other end.

Kieran McGeary added the insurance point as the game finished in a welter of excitement, but high-octane and all as it was, it couldn't paper over the cracks of an atrocious first hour.

Having said that, although Dublin try to play football the right way, there's no joy to be garnered from watching them wallop Westmeath, or anyone else in the province for that matter either.

Next time I might just watch Oireachtas Report on the RTE Player.

You're probably more likely to see something positive coming out of Dáil Eireann than the Ulster football championship. And that's saying something!

Wexford People