Tag Archives: Armagh

Free to do whatever I choose

A thought began swirling around in my head after the Clare – Tipperary game which formed into a fully-fledged lightbulb after this weekend’s round of matches. Colin Ryan’s excellent performance from frees against Tipp was matched by one from Alan McCrabbe for Dublin yesterday. It seems that any team with pretensions to excellence in hurling has to have a player who can rattle over dead balls from anywhere inside the 65 metre line. Having someone with that talent is not a sufficient condition for success – Kieran Delahunty couldn’t save Waterford back in the 80’s – but it is surely a necessary one.

Which made the display of shooting in the game between Monaghan and Armagh in Clones on Saturday so shocking. Anything more a than a few metres either side of the posts seemed to go wide, and rarely by a small margin. Paul Finlay kept on missing, yet no one seemed willing to step up to replace him, which suggested that out of his fourteen teammates there was no plan B were to have a ‘mare.

If free taking in football has gone to pot, why? Jimmy Keaveney, another top free taker in his day, has observed that it more reliable to kick off the ground as kicking from the hand involves dropping the ball on to your foot. Maybe it’s a low percentage opportunity. It isn’t an easy thing to strike a football at the best of times, and investing the time and effort in training to perfect the skill like, say, Charlie Redmond used do isn’t worth the effort.

Whatever it is, the art of free taking, so marvellously displayed in the past by the likes of Larry Tompkins, Brian Stafford and Maurice Fitzgerald, seems to be dead in football just as it is all the rage in hurling.

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Free to do whatever I choose

A thought began swirling around in my head after the Clare – Tipperary game which formed into a fully-fledged lightbulb after this weekend’s round of matches. Colin Ryan’s excellent performance from frees against Tipp was matched by one from Alan McCrabbe for Dublin yesterday. It seems that any team with pretensions to excellence in hurling has to have a player who can rattle over dead balls from anywhere inside the 65 metre line. Having someone with that talent is not a sufficient condition for success – Kieran Delahunty couldn’t save Waterford back in the 80’s – but it is surely a necessary one.

Which made the display of shooting in the game between Monaghan and Armagh in Clones on Saturday so shocking. Anything more a than a few metres either side of the posts seemed to go wide, and rarely by a small margin. Paul Finlay kept on missing, yet no one seemed willing to step up to replace him, which suggested that out of his fourteen teammates there was no plan B were to have a ‘mare.

If free taking in football has gone to pot, why? Jimmy Keaveney, another top free taker in his day, has observed that it more reliable to kick off the ground as kicking from the hand involves dropping the ball on to your foot. Maybe it’s a low percentage opportunity. It isn’t an easy thing to strike a football at the best of times, and investing the time and effort in training to perfect the skill like, say, Charlie Redmond used do isn’t worth the effort.

Whatever it is, the art of free taking, so marvellously displayed in the past by the likes of Larry Tompkins, Brian Stafford and Maurice Fitzgerald, seems to be dead in football just as it is all the rage in hurling.

Free to do whatever I choose

A thought began swirling around in my head after the Clare – Tipperary game which formed into a fully-fledged lightbulb after this weekend’s round of matches. Colin Ryan’s excellent performance from frees against Tipp was matched by one from Alan McCrabbe for Dublin yesterday. It seems that any team with pretensions to excellence in hurling has to have a player who can rattle over dead balls from anywhere inside the 65 metre line. Having someone with that talent is not a sufficient condition for success – Kieran Delahunty couldn’t save Waterford back in the 80’s – but it is surely a necessary one.

Which made the display of shooting in the game between Monaghan and Armagh in Clones on Saturday so shocking. Anything more a than a few metres either side of the posts seemed to go wide, and rarely by a small margin. Paul Finlay kept on missing, yet no one seemed willing to step up to replace him, which suggested that out of his fourteen teammates there was no plan B were to have a ‘mare.

If free taking in football has gone to pot, why? Jimmy Keaveney, another top free taker in his day, has observed that it more reliable to kick off the ground as kicking from the hand involves dropping the ball on to your foot. Maybe it’s a low percentage opportunity. It isn’t an easy thing to strike a football at the best of times, and investing the time and effort in training to perfect the skill like, say, Charlie Redmond used do isn’t worth the effort.

Whatever it is, the art of free taking, so marvellously displayed in the past by the likes of Larry Tompkins, Brian Stafford and Maurice Fitzgerald, seems to be dead in football just as it is all the rage in hurling.

Be careful what you wish for

The question of whether the back door is harmful for the provincial champions is one constantly bandied about. Opponents of the back door will point in recent times to Armagh’s experience, champions of Ulster in four of the last five years and yet not even a final appearance to show for it in the main event. They’ve also seen Sam carried off by three back door teams, most gallingly seeing Tyrone do it in 2005 and 2008. So it will be interesting to see how they react to today’s football qualifier draw, which has seen Armagh draw the utter stinker of Monaghan away. And God knows what hand grenade awaits them in the next phase should they overcome Monaghan. With Tyrone looking forward to the winners of Cavan and Antrim, no prizes for guessing which is the happier county at the moment.

This debate also has its hurling counterpart, and the fate of Clare should provide a sharp counterpoint. The same people who think the back door is an easier router to the McCarthy Cup would no doubt be suggesting that Clare would be pleased to lose to Tipperary today. Having given a fine performance that would have shaken off any post-League blues, they could now look forward to a serene trip through the qualifiers. Then out come the one team that seem to be able to routinely put it up to Kilkenny. At least they’ll have home advantage, but Tipp have a Munster final to look forward to and still have their get-out-of-jail-free card.

Things could be worse for Clare. There are more middling-to-bad teams in the football qualifiers than good ones, so the odds should have been in Waterford’s favour to have a decent draw. Despite their recent decline, Meath are not ideal opponents, especially away from home. After being put in the same half of the draw in Munster as Kerry and Cork, Waterford might ponder that if it weren’t for bad luck they’d have no luck at all.

The shock of the new

The senior county championship is entering the final furlongs and thanks to a truly astonishing work of Wiki-scholarship by ManFromDelmonte, those of us who take it all a bit casual can keep track of it. With Ballygunner’s defeat at the hands of Tallow and Mount Sion long gone after a woeful performance in the group stage, we have five teams left who between them have won the princely total of 12 championships. There doesn’t seem to be any causation between the competitiveness of a county championship and success at inter county level – Crossmaglen Rangers’ dominance in Armagh, for example, doesn’t seem to have harmed their county’s standing – but it’s nice to see the wealth being shared now and again.

30½ v 1½

One of the more prominent themes about Waterford’s challenge to Kilkenny’s hegemony is that every other county will be rooting for the Déise boys come the first Sunday in September. This theme was challenged by a poster at KilkennyCats.com, suggesting all manner of reasons why people would be rooting for Goliath over David, and listing person or persons unknown who not only subscribe to this view but seem to form a majority of those canvassed.

One is tempted to suggest that this is evidence that you can get any answer you want if you phrase the question correctly. Ask anyone whether they’d rather see cool, clean, culchie hero Henry Shefflin come out on top against a terrace-baiting, jersey-kissing, townie yahoo like John Mullane, and even a few Waterford folk might plump for King Henry.

There are legitimate reasons why someone from a non-participating county might want Kilkenny to win. In the same way that people might root for Michael Schumacher in his pomp or Tiger Woods when he can walk, so people might root for Kilkenny. To see the excellent excel can be a great thrill to the passionate neutral. In addition, it would be naive to think that Waterford haven’t acquired a contingent of detractors over the years. The aforementioned terrace-baiting and jersey-kissing grates with some, the soccer tinge to much of the crowd annoys others. Clare people can’t forgive or forget what happened in 1998. Tipperary people must view Waterford as the single biggest barrier to success having lost five times to us in recent times. Whether you think any the above are reasonable reasons to want to see Waterford fail, they still exist.

For all of that, it seems unlikely that anything other than a small rump of malcontents (© Dessie Farrell) wish Waterford ill next Sunday. I base this not on a belief that any animus to Waterford can be washed away by a flood of Déise tears or any other romantic deus ex machina. It’s that looking back through my own observations on minnows come good over the years, people in the GAA always root for them – to begin with. The examples in the last two decades are legion, but I’ll limit myself to one example – Armagh in 2002. With the relative infancy of the internet leading to sad ignorance on how to handle people online, I imagined to get embroiled in a long-running feud on the GAA Discussion Board with a rather nasty character from Armagh. I swore before their matches with Dublin and Kerry that I would not cheer for them, but in the end found myself swept up in the euphoria of their release from eternal failure. I would be certain that people up and down the land would feel similar given the relatively trivial nature of their respective desires for Waterford to lose.

That doesn’t mean you have to cheer for the minnow in perpetuity. Minnows either become puffed up by their own self importance, thus no longer qualifying as ‘minnows’, or they get mown down by the next generation working their way up. Thus on both counts did I feel justified in cackling with delight when Wexford downed the Orchardmen a few weeks back.

It will be 31 v 1 next Sunday. Here’s to being on the other side of the equation in the not-too-distant future.

The Waterford 31er’s

There were some real hidings in Gaelic games today, with Laois falling back to earth after their win last weekend over the hated Biffs as Galway put 6-26 past them with only 0-8 in reply, while Armagh hockeyed Roscommon by 22 points in the National Football League. The latter result was doubly startling because on hearing it first I assumed it was in hurling. A victory like that is of truly gargantuan proportions in football, but it would have been bad even in hurling. With that in mind, I asked my brother whether I am the only person who always makes a mental note of whether the losers in such mismatches managed to lose by even more than Waterford did in the 1982 Munster final. It seems I am not the only only one. Truly the scars never heal.