Things change quickly in sport.
It’s not all that long ago that Tyrone were on the verge of withdrawing from the All-Ireland senior football championship after a Covid-19 outbreak meant that they couldn’t fulfil the original date for their semi-final against Kerry. At the time, there was a consensus that the game had to be put back so that the Kingdom could get a tune-up game ahead of the final against a Dublin side chasing a seventh straight Sam Maguire.
Everybody had forgotten that it’s rare that the ‘dream final’ emerges and, two epic extra-time semi-finals later, we had a novel pairing in the decider. Even then, though, it was a matchup where the narrative had been written in many quarters.
‘The Curse versus the Virus’ was the crude way one pub window dubbed the clash, but the feeling was that, finally, Mayo would overcome the years of hurt and final defeats to end the wait that had been ongoing since 1951.
As an aside, the notion of ‘the curse’ is an interesting (or fallacious) one: a search on the Irish News Archive for the period from 1952 up to the mid-1990s, when Mayo began regularly appearing in finals again, shows up precisely zero matches for any talk of a curse afflicting the county. It’s funny how these things are reverse-engineered to apply to counties who have endured long droughts.
Perhaps there were supernatural influences at play in preventing Mayo from taking advantage of their second-half goal scoring opportunities while Tyrone nailed two of their chances, but really it came down to better execution.
Curse talk insults both Mayo and Tyrone, who – as with the semi-final against Kerry – managed to come in somewhat under the radar and emerge victorious thanks to a display of sheer effort sprinkled with moments of class.
The win comes after they were dismissed as lightweight by many following a heavy defeat to Kerry in the league, it’s an incredible achievement to respond by going all the way.
There’s also the consideration that it was the first year in charge for Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher following Mickey Harte’s long reign.
Dooher has now been involved in all four of the county’s All-Ireland wins and joins Kevin Heffernan, Billy Morgan, Tony Hanahoe and Páidí Ó Sé in winning both as a captain and manager.
Tyrone are the epitome of a team in that they don’t have to rely on two or three star names to carry everybody else and their age-profile is far from an old one, but it’s indicative of how wedded we are to prior-held opinions that they are still the fourth favourites for the 2022 Sam Maguire behind Dublin, Kerry and Mayo.
Where now for Mayo? The players change – the starting 15 on Saturday included just four of the side that began the 2016 final against Dublin – but the finishing line remains just out of sight. And yet, after some rebuilding on the fly under James Horan, they are not an old side either and should have a fit-again Cillian O’Connor back for next year. Dublin and Kerry have been shown to have their flaws too, so who knows?
Galway triumph as camogie final mired by DRA intervention
There was some joy for the west in Croke Park at the weekend as Galway made it two All-Ireland senior camogie titles in three years with victory over Cork on Sunday.
Having fallen behind to a goal from Katrina Mackey, Cathal Murray’s team produced a strong response and Siobhán McGrath netted what proved to be a decisive goal for the Tribeswomen who ran out 1-15 to 1-12 winners in the end.
The build-up to the game was overshadowed by Cork’s attempts to overturn the suspension of Orla Cronin, who had been sent off in the semi-final win over Kilkenny – it wasn’t until late on Saturday night that the Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA) granted “an interim order staying the period of suspension pending a full tribunal hearing”.
Reading through the legalese, it appears that exoneration wasn’t granted but, with some apparent issues around the implementation of the disciplinary process, the suspension was postponed.
The bottom line for Cork was that Cronin got to play and it has to be said that pretty much any other team in that same situation would have explored whichever avenues were necessary to find a way to avoid losing a star player.
Just a few weeks back we saw a similar situation in the men’s game when Peter Casey of Limerick had his semi-final red card against Waterford overturned too, albeit without needing to clear as many obstacles.
While the DRA was set up as a last resort after other appeals bodies had been exhausted, it does appear taking a case that far appears to be like an open door, albeit an expensive one – if you pony up for the barristers, you’ll get the response you want.
Soon after footage emerged of the less-than-adequate changing areas used by the teams for Sunday’s women’s inter-provincial rugby games at Energia Park in Donnybrook, the IRFU and Leinster Rugby issued a statement.
The phrase “unacceptable error” appeared twice as an apology was offered for teams having to change beside rubbish bins. Obviously, amateur teams are still unable to use proper dressing rooms and it’s a case of making do with what’s available, but surely somebody spotted the adjacent surroundings while the temporary changing area was being set up.
Is it too cynical to wonder if the apology would have been forthcoming if the issue hadn’t been raised on social media? CL