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Ulster opener comes under fire

Austin O'Callaghan | 10:17 UK time, Monday, 16 May 2011

Donegal and Antrim were in a no-win situation at Ballybofey. As the only Championship match on Sunday, the level of analysis was predictably going to be more intense with every nook and cranny of the game explored and dissected.

There is unlikely to be another provincial match this summer which will be stripped down to the bone to such an extent.

Donegal's Ryan Bradley in action against Kevin Brady of Antrim

Donegal's Ryan Bradley gets to the ball before Antrim opponent Kevin Brady in the Ulster Championship match at Ballybofey

Just about everybody I spoke to on the way out of McCumhaill Park was scathing of the quality of football. The game was poor - not even the Donegal and Antrim teams are arguing with that.

Watch Liam Bradley's post-match interview on this website. He summed it up best by admitting he would not have been willing to pay into see it.

But what were we expecting from this match in the first place?

Did we truly believe it was going to be a scintillating 70 minutes of football? It was the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship. I'm a little taken aback by the level of criticism.

Analysts and supporters seem to be leaping to conclusions about modern football based on this match.

I agree it illustrated several of the less attractive aspects of the game. To borrow a basketball phrase - defence is king.

But it is too soon to be making any generalisations. I prefer to wait until the four quarter-finals in Ulster are played. By then, the picture is a lot clearer.

The weather in Ballybofey was awful (my suit should be dry by Wednesday) and the atmosphere was so muted that there were stages I could actually here sections of the crowd chatting amongst themselves - oblivious to the action happening on the pitch below.

There is now a growing case for thinking more carefully about which game should open the Championship. Do the schedulers have to blindly lead off with the preliminary round game each year?

On our programme, Martin McHugh had one suggestion for Croke Park on how to start the Championship summer with a bigger bang: "Take the Armagh-Down Ulster game to headquarters with, say, Laois v Offaly and have big double-bill championship Sunday in Dublin to get things going."

While there are probably some logistical issues with such a proposal, it does make sense to make a bigger push to capture the public's attention in a competitive sports market like Ireland.

This Sunday, Derry and Fermanagh will size each other up. The big difference is that it is one of eight football and hurling championship matches this weekend.

One thing I can promise you. Even if it proves to be a worse match than Donegal v Antrim, the Celtic Park game will not be subject to same level of scrutiny across the media.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Did not want to see you bowled out for a duck Austin, to borrow a term from the summer sport of our regal visitors this week. I that the lack of response on your blog can be summed up in 3 reasons.

    1. It was a terrible game, Antrim played like a beaten side, much of what was admired about their game has gone and Bradley may be on borrowed time. Donegal meanwhile are still finding their feet but will get better. We never really expected fireworks did we?

    2.The removal of the Gaa forum on this website. I know that the key phrase is cutbacks but website administrators don’t earn a fortune.

    3. Completely overshadowed by the visit of the royals to Croke Park. All GAA fans sat with baited breath when Prince Philip was handed the hurl to see if he would ask one of those questions which would be really better off staying in his head, but he didn’t. As I watched the coverage I noticed the Tyrone jersey hanging behind the Queen had the previous sponsor Rocwell on it, was Target considered too sensitive?

    Look forward to more blogs.

 

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