Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Details of league fixtures

As promised, here are the details of our 2008 league fixtures. The full fixture list is now also available on the GAA's website.

Our campaign is as follows:

Round 1 (2nd February): away v Derry, this will be a Saturday night match under the lights at Celtic Park, throw-in 7 pm.
Round 2 (17th February): home v Donegal, 2.30 pm throw-in.
Round 3 (1st March): away v Laois - another Saturday nighter, throw-in 7pm.
Round 4 (16th March): home v Kerry, 2.30 pm throw-in.
Round 5 (30th March): away v Kildare, 2.30 pm throw-in.
Round 6 (6th April): home v Galway, 2.30 pm throw-in.
Round 7 (13th April): away v Tyrone, 2.30 pm throw-in.

A few interesting clashes to look forward to, I think. Being Dublin-based, I'm already eyeing the away matches with Laois and Kildare as bankers to get to, also the home one against Kerry, as it's on the day before Paddy's Day. But the opener away to Derry? I'm not sure I could face that long haul up and down again, just for a bloody league game but, then again, three months from now I might feel differently.

Meanwhile, Hogan Stand is reporting that the GAA have also published their "Master Plan" for next year's football championship. If they have, its not yet on their own website but that would be too much like hard work I suppose. All the dates for the 2008 qualifiers are listed (now why should that interest us?) plus the make-up of the All-Ireland series, which confirms that its the Connacht v Munster champions in the semis
(or whoever beats them in the quarters) this year.

The end is the beginning

I'm still trying to find the full fixture list for next year's NFL but according to this morning's Indo, we 're set to start our Division 1 campaign up in Celtic Park against Derry. At least directions to the ground shouldn't prove to be a problem. Once the GAA gets its arse into gear and publishes the full fixtures list I'll post the relevant details here.

Monday, October 29, 2007

2008 NFL fixtures released

. . . but I can't find the sodding details anywhere. I'm just back from Mayo and I popped out to get some curried chips (as one does), when I heard on the radio (NewsTalk to be precise) that the fixtures for next year's league have been announced. Well, the GAA's PR Department hasn't exactly broken sweat in terms of getting the info out to the wider world: a quick perusal of the usual websites has just drawn a blank. No doubt they've given the details to the papers so all should be revealed in the morning. What I can say is that the action gets underway on Sunday 2nd February - that's only 96 days away folks!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Into the dark

The clocks go back tomorrow night and, in doing so, the last vestiges of evening daylight go with them. Soon the grass won't need cutting anymore and the long march to the shortest day of the year becomes more akin to a headlong dash, with each day that little bit shorter.

With all this darkness, there'll be bugger all in the way of football action to talk about, although Croke Park is being lit up tomorrow night (fittingly, for the night that's in it) for the interprovincial finals and then Ballina will attract some attention next month in the Connacht club championship. But the inter-county season is now well and truly over for the year and will remain in the deep freeze till January, when the FBD League finally gives us something to chew on once more.

That's still over two months away so, no more than the lawn, this blog won't need the same level of maintenance as it has done so far this year (though, admittedly, things have tailed off significantly since August). If time permits, I might try to fill the gap with some Winter-sitting-around-the-fire type of reminiscences about all those All-Irelands that slipped through our fingers since 1989. Sorta like the Five Sorrowful Mysteries, only more painful. And only if the mood on these long dark nights takes me . . .

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wait goes on for Connacht

There was no joy for Connacht up in Ballybofey last night when they beaten 1-15 to 2-9 by Ulster in the Railway Cup semi-final (match report here). 2-2 to 0-2 up after just seven minutes (one of those goals coming from Andy Moran), a goal up at half-time, they lost in the end by the same margin. Oh well, that's what you get for fielding too many Sheepstealers and the like.

On the positive side, it looks like Andy had a good game last night, contributing 1-1 to Connacht's total. Keith Higgins, lining out at left-half back - his new position on the Mayo team? - got a point as well. I wonder how Ronan got on? It's good to see him getting some game time and, with Ballina taking their place in the Connacht club championship, he might get a few more hard games under his belt before the inter-county action starts up again.

But, for poor old Connacht, the wait goes on. Already 38 (not 28) years without interprovincial success, it'll be at least another one before they win it. That's if it's not canned in the meantime, along with the minor and U21 grades.

Friday, October 19, 2007

To hell or to Connacht (again)

I've only in the last few minutes cottoned onto the fact that Our Man in the Oireachtas has, as well as his burdensome political and footballing duties within the county, responsibility for the fortunes of the Connacht interprovincial side. In this role, he has announced his panel for tomorrow evening's semi-final up in Ballybofey against Ulster. Only three Mayo lads - Keith Higgins, Ronan McGarritty and Andy Moran - are included in the 26-strong panel (full details here), compared to seven places for Galway, six each for Roscommon and Sligo and four for Leitrim.

Maybe Johnno is doing the routine of the teacher (he was a teacher in a previous life, after all) giving his own offspring a harder time than the other lads in the class just to show that there's no favouritism. Or maybe our lads aren't too bothered about the quest to end Connacht's 28-year wait for Railway Cup honours. I dunno but it just seems a bit odd that our representation is lower than that of the other four counties. Still, the best of luck to them - it's an incredible statistic that Connacht have failed to win the interprovincial title since 1969 and if Johnno manages to engineer the slaying of that particular dragon, it might prove a good omen for other dragon-slaying duties closer to home in 2008. (See: fresh shoots of delusional thinking starting to appear already!)

The football All-Stars were also announced tonight (details here), with Kerry taking the majority of the fifteen places. However, the Kingdom got only six places while beaten semi-finalists Dublin were ridiculously over-rewarded with four spots. Cluxton and Cahill probably deserved theirs but Alan Brogan and Ciaran Whelan - who were both posted missing when it really counted against Kerry - certainly didn't. All-Ireland finalists Cork - who only got Graham Canty on the team (how the fuck can Whelan have got the nod ahead of Nicholas Murphy?) - can consider themselves hard done by, as can Monaghan who only got Tommie Freeman on the side.

While Derry's two awards - Kevin McCloy at full-back and Paddy Bradley at full-forward - may be welcome (especially the mercurial Bradley, whose talents we saw in full bloom back in July), they have to be seen in the context of the poor treatment handed out to Cork and Monaghan, not to mention Connacht champions Sligo, who failed to get anyone on the team.

I'm almost certain that this extremely odd and ill-considered All-Star side is the first one that doesn't have a single representative from Connacht. Now, regardless of Johnno's own motivational skills, if that little nugget doesn't provide sufficient incentive to the lads up in Ballybofey tomorrow night, I don't know what will.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Johnno looking ahead

The Deputy has spoken about the draw for next year's championship. It's what you'd expect - bigging Sligo, saying how tough the match will be but also conceding that it'll be better than this year, in that the match will be on in June in Castlebar. He also gives a bit of info about what he's up to with the panel and what the plans are for the coming months of darkness.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Here we go again?

We all know about the disagreements that took place between Johnno and the County Board during his First Coming as bainisteoir, which ultimately led to his First Going. Let's hope then that today's story in the Indo - which trumpets a looming "Mayo rift" between The Deputy and county secretary Sean Feeney - is just one of those closed season attempts to generate some controversy where none exists. It sounds like it is but it goes without saying that the last thing we need now is a Second Going.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

It's Sligo in June

The draws for next year's provincial championships were made, live on de telly like, this evening and we've got a far kinder one than we did in dish ear's campaign. In 2008 we're straight into the semis where we'll play the winners of the Sligo v London preliminary round. This means - unless the Exiles can pull off a shock of the kind that plucky little Luxembourg managed yesterday in Belarus - we'll be playing Sligo in McHale Park sometime in June. That sure sounds a hell of a lot more enticing than taking on Galway in poxy old Pearse Stadium in May, with the added bonus that - Bertie's current travails notwithstanding - there's little danger of there being an election on a few days later either.

The other half of the draw sees the Herrin Chokers opening against the Sheepstealers, with the winner of that one facing Leitrim (or New York if . . . well, nothing).

Details of the the full draw are available here. Roll on 2008!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tommy Breheny's exit from Sligo

For the second year in a row, the reigning Connacht champions have parted company with their bainisteoir. This time, however, there's no dark mutterings about anyone being "butchered and slaughtered" with Sligo's Tommy Breheny proffering the more prosaic excuse in the Times of work and family commitments for his decision to quit while he's ahead. (Mind you, there wasn't much choice involved in Mickey Moran's departure this time last year, as I recall). As is de rigeur in Connacht, a number of Mayoman - Liam McHale, John Casey and David Brady (isn't he still a Mayo player?) - have been fingered, according to the same report in the Times, for a spot of exile activity on the Sligo bench. The smart money, however, appears to be on Donegal's Charlie Mulgrew, who recently finished up a creditable spell as Fermanagh boss.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ronan and the possible demise of minor and U21s

This ever-advancing darkness isn't, I find, conducive to thinking about stuff relating to Gaelic football, less still to writing about it. Hence the lack of activity here, which is likely to remain the case till things crank up again early in the New Year. But there are the odd few nuggets, two to be precise, knocking around which deserve a mention. Just in case the headline above causes any confusion, I'm referring to two separate stories and am not suggesting that Ronan (McGarritty, that is) has had any part in the plans to chop the minor and U21 championships. Not that I know of anyway.

Okay, Ronan first. There was an interview with him in yesterday's Times (sub req'd) to coincide with the launch of this year's Railway Cup competition (sorry, the M Donnelly Interprovincials), which covered his recent cancer scare and where he spoke briefly about the county side. 'Bright' and 'right' was how he summed up where we're at - we have, he reckons, the players and the management, all we're missing I suppose is the Sam. Were it only that simple. It will, however, be good to have Ronan back next year: his absence really cost us dish ear and it would be just fantastic to see him turn in the kind of performance he had against Galway in McHale Park in 2006 against the same opposition at the same venue next year. That would be both bright and right, I reckon.

The Times also reports today that the GAA's task force on burnout has come up with the proposal that the current minor and U21 grades be scrapped for an experimental two-year period in favour of a new U19 level. In one sense, this isn't a bad idea as an U19 level could produce a very watchable championship but I'm not convinced that inter-county minor and U21 is the problem as regards burnout.

For the majority of counties, both campaigns are short and condensed into a few weeks (the Connacht championship doesn't take over two months to complete, unlike its senior equivalent) and another difference from senior is that you tend to get a good spread of counties coming through to the All-Ireland series. This latter reason is also a fairly strong argument against scrapping the two existing underage levels: All-Ireland football titles aren't all that well spread out at the minute and it's likely there would be a further contraction were we to move from three to two grades. Somehow I doubt if this proposal will find favour with the GAA's nomenklatura.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Adding insult to injury

Poor old Billy Morgan. Not only does he have to suffer the indignity, once again, of seeing his charges getting their holes well and truly kicked by Kerry - this time in front of the entire nation in the All-Ireland final - but now the Croke Park People's Court have hit him with a 24-week touchline ban. And all, according to Sean Moran in today's Irish Times (sub required), for a bit of verbals on the sideline with linesman Martin Duffy. Morgan apparently pointed out that Cork jerseys were being pulled with impunity and, when Duffy responded to this statement (though we're not told in what terms), Morgan said he then retorted that "it was a pity that he couldn't spot Cork jerseys being pulled in Killarney either". Morgan then conceded that he got "quite angry" and said that "another exchange" ensued. We're not told what the content of this one was but one can only assume that it included a few items that Billy might want to draw the parish priest's attention to when next in the confessional.

However, the fact that the linesman was one Martin Duffy is more than a little relevant to Billy's apparent sideline explosion. Duffy was the ref who didn't see Derek Kavanagh getting yanked back by the jersey in the closing stages of this year's Munster final and his decision then not to award the Rebels a penalty (Sir Alex refers to such incidents as "a stonewall penalty decision") at that juncture effectively gifted the Munster title to the Kingdom.

Now, I know, Billy has a bit of previous when it comes to getting a mite OTT on the sideline but, then again, don't we all from time to time? Considering (a) the individual involved and his track record earlier in the campaign and (b) the fact that Cork were getting clocked while all this was going on, the People's Court could, IMHO, have gone a tad easier on a man who has, after all, given a lifetime's service to the GAA.