Tag Archives: Down

Video nasty

For years I was sceptical about the efficacy or need for video reviews in Gaelic games and soccer. It may have worked fine in cricket, rugby and tennis but these are stop-start sports, a series of set-pieces with obvious gaps in which to pause and review the action. There’s no such luxury in the more frenetic sports. Besides, would video really eliminate gross injustices? When Stephane Henchoz handled Thierry Henry’s goalbound effort early in the 2001 FA Cup final, it wasn’t until much later in the evening on Match of the Day that footage was produced to show he had definitely handled it. If a decision was marginal, video wasn’t going to show anything that enlightening and the ref has to make a binary decision which inherently will displease someone. And if an infringement is blatant, they’ll get it right the first time. Contrary to popular opinion, the referee usually has the best view of the lot, mere metres away from the action. A little more faith that they’ll make the right call would lead to lot less angst.

Then 2010 happened, and such highbrow objections melted way in the face of a litany of refereeing clangers. The first one was in the World Cup, when even watching from several metres away on a flat screen it was clear that Frank Lampard’s header against Germany had crossed the line. Yet the referee and the linesman, both of whom had the benefit of their two eyes to see it in three dimensions, somehow contrived to miss it. Worse still was Carlos Tevez’s goal for Argentina against Mexico, helping the ball into the net from a blatantly offside position. In both cases you were left wondering what on earth the officials had thought they had seen. What parallel universe did they inhabit in which the ball had not crossed the line / Tevez was onside? A classic case of justice not only being done, but being seen to be believed.

This is all a prelude to the fiascos we have witnessed in Gaelic games this year. The eleventh of July should have been a day for referees to be quietly smug, as Johnny Ryan awarded the free that led to Tony Browne’s sensational equalising goal. The world and her husband were convinced that some gross injustice had been performed, until multiple replays finally yielded the holding of John Mullane’s hurley. A definite free, and one in the eye for those who think referees would be grateful for just one eye. Alas for the guild of officials Martin Sludden and his umpires were flushing any credit Johnny Ryan may have earned for the brotherhood down the pan with their inexplicable interpretation of Joe Sheridan’s goal. Add in Benny Coulter’s square ball goal for Down against Kildare and the notion that we can rely on referees to get the easy calls right and video won’t tell us much on the hard calls lies in as many pieces as Louth-to-win-Leinster betting slips.

The reactions of the respective authorities to these calamities has been revealing. Sepp Blatter has accepted the need to look at the issue again, saying “it is obvious that after the experience so far in this World Cup it would be a nonsense to not reopen the file of technology at the business meeting of the International FA Board in July.” It’s not often that the words ‘Blatter’ and ‘principle’ could be used in the same sentence, but my reading of Blatter’s objections to technology was one of *cough* principle, i.e. that soccer should be treated the same at all levels whether it’s a Junior League match in Ozier Park or the World Cup final in Soccer City. It’s an admirable position to take, but when the facts changed he expressed a willingness to change his mind. The same can not be said of Christy Cooney.

(As an aside, this shouldn’t be personal and I hope I’ve kept the invective against him to a minimum, but I’m finding it hard to warm to Christy Cooney. On just about every red button issue this summer – pitch invasions, various refereeing debacles, the staging of the Under-21 final at Tipperary’s home venue –  he’s managed to stand on the opposite side of the fence (pun unintended) as myself. When Seán Kelly took an activist position on the subject of opening Croke Park to soccer and rugby, many people objected that an Uachtaráin would take sides in the debate. This struck me as being wrong-headed on the basis that as the only nationally elected official in the association the President was exactly the man to take a position on a subject. Looking at Christy Cooney, it’s a case of ‘be careful what you wish for . . .’ )

Christy Cooney has decided technology is not the way to go. Why? There are myriad reasons such as the difficulty of deciding what should be subject to review or preserving the authority of referees, which are fair enough. But two comments really stick out. The first is that “our games are built on passion. Our games are about the continuous flow of the game. The last thing I want is a lot of stoppages. It doesn’t do anything to help us.” Putt ing aside the implication that a game like rugby lacks passion, why should this be a reason for not having video refs? When infuriated Louth fans spilled on to the pitch after the Leinster final they were certainly not lacking in passion, but this was clearly the bad type of passion which had to be eliminated at all costs. Then there is his observation that “in sport, you are lucky some days, unlucky on other days.” Imagine if Cork had experienced the same scenario as Louth did that day. The Cork man would ultimately shrug his shoulders. If it only happens to you once you’ll have 99 other chances soon enough. The same could not be said of the Louth man, who at the current rate will have to wait 5,940 years to get their 99 chances.

Video referees are inevitable at this stage – they’ve probably been inevitable for a lot longer than this, since the days when Hawkeye first showed a bale being nudged off the leg stump on live television, but it took England’s experience in the World Cup to make me see it. How long will it take the GAA top brass? When you’re lagging behind Sepp ‘tighter shorts’ Blatter in the innovation stakes, something is wrong.

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Tradition matters

Five matches isn’t a statistically significant sample, yet can anyone say with a straight face that there’s no pattern in Down’s record against Kerry? Yes, Kerry are on the way down (pun unintended) after a stellar decade, but that didn’t stop them going toe-to-toe with a Cork team that is supposedly on the way up and coming out ahead after 160 minutes of football. But could you imagine, say, Mayo dispatching even a declining Kingdom with such aplomb?

It’s that sense of comfort from history, or more pertinently lack of comfort, that will linger over the buildup to next Sunday. We have a decent recent record against Tipperary . . .

. . . and while the less said about our overall record against them the better, we have no reason to fear Tipperary in the way that, er, Kerry would fear Down. The fear comes from our semi-final performances . . .

. . . which have been woeful. Then again, our one win has been against Tipperary. Whatever happens, we should be taking inspiration from Down. Minnows of Ireland unite, you have nothing to lose but your mental chains.

Counties That I Don’t Hate – Down

(No 2 in a series of 2)

Picture it. Waterford. 1991. Since we had won our first ever title in 1929, we had managed to win something – anything – in every decade. Until the 1980’s, that is, when we had not only won nothing but had plumbed the depths of Division Three hurling and been massacred in our three Munster final appearances. We’d even had the privilege of watching the team implode live on national television in the 1989 final. Not a good time to be following the Déise.

The 80’s had been a grim time for the GAA. An All-Ireland hurling semi-final had been attended by a mere nine thousand souls (Galway – Cork in 1985) and the Ulster and Connacht football championships were utterly bankrupt – the champions of those provinces had not beaten a team from Leinster or Munster since Galway in 1973. It’s hard to sustain interest in a sport when there is so little competition among all teams in general and from your own in particular. Add in the thrill of Italia ’90, and people were asking in all seriousness where the GAA was to go from here.

The first step in the rehabilitation of the GAA came from Meath, or specifically the sensational clash between Meath and Dublin in the 1991 Leinster championship that captured the imagination of a nation. It was so all-consuming that even my mother sat down to watch the fourth and decisive match. I had developed a loathing of the Royal County in the preceding years, fuelled by paternal links with Cork and the cast of, er, characters that populated Sean Boylan’s team. Every match you’d watch hoping they’d trip up, every time they’d sail close to the wind, and every time they’d squeeze through. They were behind for most of the semi-final against Roscommon but with a mixture of grit, nerve and (I can admit this nearly 20 years on) talent, they were ahead at the finish. Another failure from the Connacht crew. It was galling, and all the more compelling for that.

Meanwhile in the other half of the draw, Kerry had sucker-punched a previously dominant Cork to come out of Munster. No one was thinking they were world beaters – the hiding they had taken in the 1990 final and the less-than-stellar manner in which they had disposed of Limerick saw to that – but they were still Kerry, right? Yes, they were and while Down had a cute record of never having lost to Kerry in the championship, they were still from Ulster and thus were going to fill their appointed role as the Munster team’s bitch. Even leading for much of the game did not change that. Had Tyrone not done the same in 1986?

Then it happened. It may not have played out exactly as I remember it, but the sentiment is what matters. A slick Down move saw Peter Withnall put clear through on Charlie Nelligan and he smashed the ball to the net with aplomb. Suddenly Down were in a winning position and they never faltered in the remaining time, belief that they would do it coursing through every action. Watching it at home, I was gobsmacked. A minnow could put it up to one of the kingpins of Gaelic games and succeed.

Five weeks later Down were back in Croke Park against the evil Meed, and it was clear they meant business. The sea of red and black that rippled across Hill 16 was utterly inspirational, one Tricolour-wielding fool only slightly marring the beauty. Down duly shot down Meath, even withstanding one of those famous zombie-like comebacks. For the first time in my lifetime, a team who had no expectation at the start of the year to winning the All-Ireland had won the All-Ireland.

A year later another county would unexpectedly taste success.  I genuinely don’t think this is a coincidence. Could Donegal and Derry have won Sam Maguire if Down had not shown them the way? And why should such a transmission of belief stop at the Ulster border? Since then, I’ve always had a soft spot for Down. They showed the rest of the GAA world that it could be done. And more importantly, they showed me that it could be done, something has sustained me to this day.

Counties That I Don’t Hate – Down

(No 2 in a series of 2)

Picture it. Waterford. 1991. Since we had won our first ever title in 1929, we had managed to win something – anything – in every decade. Until the 1980’s, that is, when we had not only won nothing but had plumbed the depths of Division Three hurling and been massacred in our three Munster final appearances. We’d even had the privilege of watching the team implode live on national television in the 1989 final. Not a good time to be following the Déise.

The 80’s had been a grim time for the GAA. An All-Ireland hurling semi-final had been attended by a mere nine thousand souls (Galway – Cork in 1985) and the Ulster and Connacht football championships were utterly bankrupt – the champions of those provinces had not beaten a team from Leinster or Munster since Galway in 1973. It’s hard to sustain interest in a sport when there is so little competition among all teams in general and from your own in particular. Add in the thrill of Italia ’90, and people were asking in all seriousness where the GAA was to go from here.

The first step in the rehabilitation of the GAA came from Meath, or specifically the sensational clash between Meath and Dublin in the 1991 Leinster championship that captured the imagination of a nation. It was so all-consuming that even my mother sat down to watch the fourth and decisive match. I had developed a loathing of the Royal County in the preceding years, fuelled by paternal links with Cork and the cast of, er, characters that populated Sean Boylan’s team. Every match you’d watch hoping they’d trip up, every time they’d sail close to the wind, and every time they’d squeeze through. They were behind for most of the semi-final against Roscommon but with a mixture of grit, nerve and (I can admit this nearly 20 years on) talent, they were ahead at the finish. Another failure from the Connacht crew. It was galling, and all the more compelling for that.

Meanwhile in the other half of the draw, Kerry had sucker-punched a previously dominant Cork to come out of Munster. No one was thinking they were world beaters – the hiding they had taken in the 1990 final and the less-than-stellar manner in which they had disposed of Limerick saw to that – but they were still Kerry, right? Yes, they were and while Down had a cute record of never having lost to Kerry in the championship, they were still from Ulster and thus were going to fill their appointed role as the Munster team’s bitch. Even leading for much of the game did not change that. Had Tyrone not done the same in 1986?

Then it happened. It may not have played out exactly as I remember it, but the sentiment is what matters. A slick Down move saw Peter Withnall put clear through on Charlie Nelligan and he smashed the ball to the net with aplomb. Suddenly Down were in a winning position and they never faltered in the remaining time, belief that they would do it coursing through every action. Watching it at home, I was gobsmacked. A minnow could put it up to one of the kingpins of Gaelic games and succeed.

Five weeks later Down were back in Croke Park against the evil Meed, and it was clear they meant business. The sea of red and black that rippled across Hill 16 was utterly inspirational, one Tricolour-wielding fool only slightly marring the beauty. Down duly shot down Meath, even withstanding one of those famous zombie-like comebacks. For the first time in my lifetime, a team who had no expectation at the start of the year to winning the All-Ireland had won the All-Ireland.

A year later another county would unexpectedly taste success.  I genuinely don’t think this is a coincidence. Could Donegal and Derry have won Sam Maguire if Down had not shown them the way? And why should such a transmission of belief stop at the Ulster border? Since then, I’ve always had a soft spot for Down. They showed the rest of the GAA world that it could be done. And more importantly, they showed me that it could be done, something has sustained me to this day.

Counties That I Don’t Hate – Down

(No 2 in a series of 2)

Picture it. Waterford. 1991. Since we had won our first ever title in 1929, we had managed to win something – anything – in every decade. Until the 1980’s, that is, when we had not only won nothing but had plumbed the depths of Division Three hurling and been massacred in our three Munster final appearances. We’d even had the privilege of watching the team implode live on national television in the 1989 final. Not a good time to be following the Déise.

The 80’s had been a grim time for the GAA. An All-Ireland hurling semi-final had been attended by a mere nine thousand souls (Galway – Cork in 1985) and the Ulster and Connacht football championships were utterly bankrupt – the champions of those provinces had not beaten a team from Leinster or Munster since Galway in 1973. It’s hard to sustain interest in a sport when there is so little competition among all teams in general and from your own in particular. Add in the thrill of Italia ’90, and people were asking in all seriousness where the GAA was to go from here.

The first step in the rehabilitation of the GAA came from Meath, or specifically the sensational clash between Meath and Dublin in the 1991 Leinster championship that captured the imagination of a nation. It was so all-consuming that even my mother sat down to watch the fourth and decisive match. I had developed a loathing of the Royal County in the preceding years, fuelled by paternal links with Cork and the cast of, er, characters that populated Sean Boylan’s team. Every match you’d watch hoping they’d trip up, every time they’d sail close to the wind, and every time they’d squeeze through. They were behind for most of the semi-final against Roscommon but with a mixture of grit, nerve and (I can admit this nearly 20 years on) talent, they were ahead at the finish. Another failure from the Connacht crew. It was galling, and all the more compelling for that.

Meanwhile in the other half of the draw, Kerry had sucker-punched a previously dominant Cork to come out of Munster. No one was thinking they were world beaters – the hiding they had taken in the 1990 final and the less-than-stellar manner in which they had disposed of Limerick saw to that – but they were still Kerry, right? Yes, they were and while Down had a cute record of never having lost to Kerry in the championship, they were still from Ulster and thus were going to fill their appointed role as the Munster team’s bitch. Even leading for much of the game did not change that. Had Tyrone not done the same in 1986?

Then it happened. It may not have played out exactly as I remember it, but the sentiment is what matters. A slick Down move saw Peter Withnall put clear through on Charlie Nelligan and he smashed the ball to the net with aplomb. Suddenly Down were in a winning position and they never faltered in the remaining time, belief that they would do it coursing through every action. Watching it at home, I was gobsmacked. A minnow could put it up to one of the kingpins of Gaelic games and succeed.

Five weeks later Down were back in Croke Park against the evil Meed, and it was clear they meant business. The sea of red and black that rippled across Hill 16 was utterly inspirational, one Tricolour-wielding fool only slightly marring the beauty. Down duly shot down Meath, even withstanding one of those famous zombie-like comebacks. For the first time in my lifetime, a team who had no expectation at the start of the year to winning the All-Ireland had won the All-Ireland.

A year later another county would unexpectedly taste success.  I genuinely don’t think this is a coincidence. Could Donegal and Derry have won Sam Maguire if Down had not shown them the way? And why should such a transmission of belief stop at the Ulster border? Since then, I’ve always had a soft spot for Down. They showed the rest of the GAA world that it could be done. And more importantly, they showed me that it could be done, something has sustained me to this day.

Waterford 5-14 (29) Down 0-4 (4)

Oh dear. I thought crucifixion was illegal in this day and age. Obviously not because we were shown one this day in Fraher Field. It’s easy to see why the Romans went for it though, because I thoroughly enjoyed the occasion.

No amount of explanations about missing players and the conditions can explain away this carnage. Down had the first attack of the game. And that’s it really. Dan Shanahan – who was bloody awful otherwise – scored a goal early on from a clever Michael Molumphy pass and the show was on the road.

Conditions were extremely blustery so playing against the wind goals were always more likely. Paul Flynn certainly thought so and got an absolute peach late in the half. Emmett Trainor, who is the son of a friend of a friend, got Down’s only score of the half. They had ten wides, most of them utter horror stories.

Down had to get better in the second half. Allied with Waterford getting much worse they scored the opening three points of the half. Much gnashing of teeth in the substantial crowd was quietened by a simple Molumphy point and normal service was resumed. Paul Flynn knocked in his second goal then Growler Daly somehow managed to divert a dropping Fergal Hartley ball into the net. Waterford got a string of neat points as target practice developed.

Bizarre moment of the match came about five minutes from the end. A low Hartley drive went under the crossbar, struck the underside of the net and was cleared by Down. Incredibly the goal was not given. Fortunately at this stage we were so far in front that everyone was able to have a quiet chuckle and file it away for future bitching about referees (“do you remember that time against Down…?”). Paul Flynn completed his hat-trick in injury-time and that was that. Best for Waterford were Paul Flynn, Peter Queally and Dave Bennett. I won’t patronise Down by saying who was best for them. Let us hope they really are better than this for their own sakes.

Waterford: Brendan Landers, Tom Feeney, Sean Cullinane, Brian Flannery (capt.), Stephen Frampton, Fergal Hartley, Brian Greene (James O’Connor), Tony Browne (0-1), Peter Queally (0-1), Billy O’Sullivan (Sean Daly; 1-0), Michael Molumphy (0-1), Ken McGrath (0-2, Anton Lannon; 0-1), Dan Shanahan (1-0), Paul Flynn (3-1), Dave Bennett (0-7)

Down: Noel Sharvin, J. Browne, Martin Mallon, S. Wilson, R. McGratton, P. McCabe, S. Murray, Noel Sands, J. McCarthy, Emmett Trainor (0-1), Ger McGrattan (0-1), G. Savage, G. Gordon, Jason McCrickard (0-2), Anthony Tinnelly (M. Braniff)

HT: Waterford 2-3 Down 0-1

Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath)

Post Scriptum: We still have not got the hang of being the team to beat. When Down scored their first point it was greeted by a round of applause. When they scored the opening three points of the second half a ripple of disquiet swept through the ground. Did we really think there was a chance they might come back? Yes, we did.